Restructuring measures - defined as major change processes that affect companies' organisational structures and processes - happen in most companies and are being carried out at ever shorter intervals. It is consequently vital to companies' success and often their continued existence for them to cope successfully with the demands of change. The background to this situation is the increased pressure from the markets and of competition in a globalised economy. Apart from opening up opportunities to put in place better, more productive processes, however, restructuring also provokes resistance and causes losses due to organisational friction. The volume and intensity of the work to be done frequently increase during these phases - and with them the strains to which employees are subjected. The uncertainties associated with restructuring and the new working conditions that are created frequently entail changes in attitudes to work, greater stress and health problems among employees.
Alongside a company's executive management, the key actors in the implementation of reorganisation measures are leaders and employee representatives. On the one hand, it is their job to drive ahead change processes and make a success of them; on the other hand, they are also responsible for ensuring employees are not placed under excessive strain. There is, however, a lack of further training in the workplace that prepares these individuals for this important task.
Project F 2340 was intended to help close this gap: a training module for leaders and works council members was developed, piloted and evaluated as a means of supporting restructuring measures.
A two-day workplace training course was developed on the basis of a qualitative needs analysis, run as a pilot for a partner company that was going through restructuring itself and accompanied with an extensive evaluation process. The evaluation looked at the benefits to participants, the continuing implementation process and in particular the indirect effects the content had on the health of the participants themselves and the staff in their organisational units. The course and the content it covered were assessed very positively in the evaluation. As so often with workplace interventions, though, there was friction during the subsequent process that undermined the sustainability of the course’s impact. Nevertheless, it was possible for slight improvements to be detected thanks to the course's indirect effects on workers' health and well-being.
The results of the summative evaluation and further analyses based on the project data were consistent with other findings from the literature, as well as the "Mental health in the working world" project. It was shown that operational-level managers alone are not in a position to positively influence employees’ health and well-being. Rather, this requires concerted efforts at all levels of an organisation, especially the strategic level. The conclusions that have been reached and the recommendations derived from them take account of this insight. The strategic approach to the issue pursued by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) in future and relevant follow-up projects will also be informed by the need to bear all organisational levels in mind.
The main features of the project were as follows:
The following interesting aspects of the project confirmed and complemented the results from previous projects (HIRES, HIRES public, RENEWALS, F 2305, F 2353) about possible ways of influencing managers’ approach to employee well-being and health in change situations. The references in brackets refer to the relevant sections of the project report:
The results of the "Mental health in the working world" project (F 2353) on the necessity of multi-level analyses and the significance of both middle management AND senior executives were substantiated (see the sections on the summative evaluation and sections 5.2 and 5.3):