Organizational change refers to any alterations to an organization’s labor force (people’s attitudes, behaviors, expectations and perceptions), structure (authority relationships, job descriptions and coordination strategies) or technological state (in terms of work methods, processes and equipment used). Such changes are inevitable as organizations are prone to various forces, in both the internal and external environment. These forces influence the needs of the organization to change and evolve into a better, more sustainable and profitable company. External forces include competition from other organizations, government laws and regulations and technological advancements while internal forces are accounted for by employee attitudes and the structure of the organization (Robbins, Decenzo, & Coutler, 2011).
These forces keep organizations on their toes by forcing them to adapt to very dynamic environments thus the concept of organizational change that helps management to deal with the adaptation processes. One of the ways through which organizations cope with change is through catalysts of change such as managers and change implementation consultants/specialists who manage the process and reduce any negative impact it may have on the company.
A sector that constantly experiences organizational change is the healthcare industry. These changes are more often than, not in the form of technological advances such as robot doctors that monitor patients, radio frequency tags to track employees and smart beds that read patient vitals and electronically transfer them to their charts among others. Such change is very advantageous as it improves on the quality of health services and care management offered despite its high conversion costs. A good example of organizational change is the introduction of digital records management.
Hospitals and clinics have embraced health information technology by implementing Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems such as the EPIC systems where all the patient information is recorded and stored in a network of computers. EMR systems allow for more efficiency (access to data is made easy as it is stored on databases, not dust filing rooms and it can also be accessed remotely), increased accuracy (fewer errors as there is no more dealing with illegible physician handwriting), minimized patient discomfort, easier diagnosis (through online access to medical journals) and faster documentation (information is typed, scanned of transferred to the computer) among other benefits.
EMR systems come with a lot of change, change that mostly affects the employees causing tension and resistance which in turn affects the productivity of physicians, nurses and other care givers for the worse (Poole & Van De Ven, 2004). One of the reasons why employees resist the implementation of EMR systems, despite its benefits, is negative attitudes. The fear of that the computers will replace them as they are more efficient and not prone to human errors causes an aversion to the systems. The idea of redundancy greatly affects the productivity of the employees. Another reason for the resistance of electronic record management systems is caused by the challenge of new technology especially among the older employees whose job description is affected by its implementation. Employees will also resist EMR systems where they are not accommodated by the management in its introduction. Managers sometimes impose such drastic change on their subordinates without any consideration for how it may affect them. Such lack of appreciation negatively affects how the employees feel about the organization.
Health facilities have employed various strategies in an effort to manage employee resistance to EMR systems. These strategies introduce change to the employees in the most comfortable way possible so as to minimize any resistance that may be encountered. One of the strategies is an emphasis on the pre-training and training of employees. Pre-training involves the inclusion of the employees in the conversion process from the beginning. This means proper communication from the managers to the subordinates about the EMR system adoption and the ways, in which it will affect them. It also means encouragement and recognition of feedback even where it may be negative. Pre-training should be followed by the appropriate training and ICT education of employees by EMR specialists and computer experts; this makes them more at ease when dealing with the change as they will have the needed skills. Managers also introduce the electronic records management systems in steps i.e. department by department so as to minimize the impact of the implementation. Employees are calmer when dealing with gradual change rather than instantaneous change that magnify the unknown nature of EMR systems (Burke, 2010).
The human resources department is integral in organizational change management strategy as it manages the human aspects of the organization. It can assist management control the impact of organizational change by recruiting open minded individuals that are open to change. People who are open to change can work alongside managers and act as catalysts of change within the organization by spreading their enthusiasm about new prospects such as the introduction of electronic records management systems to a health facilities. The human resource department can also motivate employees to embrace change though routine retreats and trainings that energize and empower employees to deal with change.
Burke, W. W. (2010). Organization Change: Theory and Practice. New York: Sage Publications.
Poole, M. S., & Van De Ven, A. H. (2004). Handbook of organizationl change and innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Robbins, S. P., Decenzo, D. A., & Coutler, M. (2011). Fundamentals of Management: Essential concepts and applications. Chicago: Pearson Inc.