Change Management in Oman’s Telecommunication Sector

Introduction

The ultimate aims of Change Management organizations are Successful planning, execution, measurement, and preservation of a change in the initiatives of the organization and improvement of their current ability for managing change (William, 1986). This paper evaluates change management in the Telecommunications sector Omantel in the Sultanate of Oman. This evaluation focuses on the perception, feelings, and attitudes of the employees of the company towards the change process.

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Information about the impact that the privatization of Omantel has had on the perceptions, feelings, and attitudes of its employees is scanty. This is evidence that research on this topic has not covered this area sufficiently. The results of this study will attempt to fill this gap, and contribute to the body of findings that exist on the same. In addition, it will provide useful information that will act as a guide for future privatization exercises in the telecommunication industry and other sectors of the economy.

The results of this study will also be very useful to the management of Omantel as well as its Human Resource Department, as this data can be used as a basis for intervention and program design. The information can also be used to guide efforts to involve employees in processes that bring change to the company. Moreover, this study is relevant to the practice of management in an international setting, where cultural factors are always present. This study will contribute to the growing body of research on change management and also lend insight as to how change is introduced and implemented in Oman, a Middle Eastern country where work ethics demand obedience and respect for authority.

Background

Organizations are reflections of the present social, economic and political landscape of a country. For example, the legal frameworks within which business enterprises operate reflect the policies of the state towards trade and business (Allen, 2007). Privatization of government-owned corporations indicates a liberalization of the government’s economic and trade policies. Change is inevitable in business practices. Businesses have to evolve and adapt to changes in the market in which they operate, and the global economic climate. Change in the organizational structure, management, and use of technology may be necessary if a company is to remain relevant in the market and maintain its competitiveness (Daniela, 2012). Management changes may also be indicators of an organization’s shift towards better measures of effectiveness, progress, and prosperity (Paton & McCalman, 2008).

By definition, change means discarding the old and embracing the new, and the new may not always be accepted and appreciated by the employees. As with any process involving transition and transformation, change in the structure and strategies of an organization is often met with negativity and apprehension (Padmakumar, 2012). Even if the change is for the greater good of the company, there will always be those who will remain anxious about its consequences. Organizational change is brought about by several factors; this could be from mergers and acquisitions, a government take-over, or the privatization of the organization (Parlea-Buzatu, 2011).

Anxiety and apprehension to some extent is the natural reaction to change, as our body responds to external stimuli both physically and psychologically. Anxiety over the change process does not stem from the transformation of the organization or the change in management, but the fact that the employees have to leave their old ways of doing things (Ram & Prabhakar, 2011). It is the learning of new tasks, new protocols, and new operating procedures that threaten employees. The employees feel threatened from myriad perspectives. For example, some employees will feel that organizational change in the company threatens their position or jeopardizes their career progression. For others, their wages and benefits may be a source of significant concern. Changes such as privatization may also have significant effects on their employment contracts. These anxieties and fears over the change process often inform and contribute to their perceptions, feelings, and attitudes towards the change process (Turner, et al., 2009).

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This response or reaction to change is welcomed by the agents of change as an opportunity to make the employees aware of the undertakings taking place in the organization. It is the time when questions could be answered when professional thirsts could be quenched when fears and doubts could be placated, and when employees are engaged as advocates of the process of change as they now possess the knowledge and information that they can share with other employees who face the same challenges (Turner, et al., 2009).

Various factors influence the responses and perceptions of employees to changes in the organization. Employees may either resist or embrace changes, depending on various factors. These include their emotional attachment to things they associate with the old order, their involvement or non-involvement in the change process, access to information on the proposed changes, adequate preparation to adapt to the changes, and additional training among other factors (Turner, et al., 2009).

It is important to take note that change can be an exciting prospect and a positive experience for the organization, so this message should be communicated to all relevant members of the organization. How well the transition of the company has been, from its previous state to the state achieved after the change, can be measured by the extent to which the employees embrace and live up to the objectives and goals of the new company (Turner, et al., 2009). Thus, in any process of change, the focal point should always be the employees. This chapter provides an overview of what the study is about and its relevance to the practice of management.

Omantel

Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel), established in 1987, is the largest telecommunications company in the Sultanate of Oman. Omantel is 70% government-owned. In April 2008, it acquired a 65% share in World Call Pakistan. The company’s vision is to be a highly innovative telecommunications company providing high-quality telecommunications services at reasonable prices to satisfy the needs of its valued customers (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Sultanate of Oman, 2005).

Omantel (as both Omantel and Oman Mobile) has over the years, providing its customers with telecommunication solutions. These customers include businesses, companies, individuals, and other institutions. Its aim as a telecommunications supplier has always been to connect Oman with the rest of the world (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Sultanate of Oman, 2005). Its focus extends to the remote areas of Oman, with the view of connecting these remote villages with other parts of the world. The company has offered constant support for Oman’s economic development, growth, and progress (System Architect 2004).

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The company was privatized to cope with the emerging trends in the telecommunication industry, enhance its capacity to adapt to changes in the global telecommunication industry. The Sultanate of Oman had made commitments to the World Trade Organization to liberalize the Telecom sector by 2003. The privatization of Omantel was to fulfill this pledge, though this process was delayed due to various factors. These included disinterest by global players in the industry, and the economic meltdown in global economies (Al Bawaba, 2002).

Omantel’s privatization brought about myriad changes. The organization was restructured from a government-owned company to a private company. This structural change affected job descriptions of the employees, communication channels, job qualifications and requirements, salary scales, and the organizational structure (Ram & Prabhakar, 2011). The privatization affected all levels of employees. The involvement of Omantel’s employees in the privatization process was limited. The employees felt alienated from the changes affecting their jobs, and this significantly affected the level of satisfaction among them (Ram & Prabhakar, 2011).

A study of change management and the perception of the employees about the change in the organization proves to be invaluable to the management in terms of cultivating the management-employee relationship (Yu, 2009). The process of change management may consist of creative marketing to facilitate communication among the audience experiencing change, but also at the same time deep social understanding regarding group dynamics and leadership styles in the organization (Mitchell & Christina, 2008).

Project Focus

This study analyses the changes in Omantel after its privatization. The researcher focuses on how these organizational changes have affected the employees, to determine their perceptions, attitudes, and feelings on the change process. The focus of this study is twofold; Omantel and the changes it has undergone since the inception of the decree for the privatization of the company. The telecommunication industry as a whole has experienced significant changes since the inception of the privatization decree (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Sultanate of Oman, 2005). Even after privatization, Omantel still operates as one of the monopolies that provide telecommunication services.

Changes in the company affect its entire functioning, so a proper change management process is necessary (Jones, 2008). The research will examine human resource and management aspects such as; communication channels, wages, organizational hierarchy, and involvement of the employees in change processes. Focusing on these areas will provide a depiction of the employees’ perceptions of the change process.

Change management has always featured in studies on human resource practices and organizations but somehow, inquiry into its functions and nature has been significantly neglected (Aycan, 2007). Transition and change are different. New technology, team roles, bosses, and policies make change situational. Transition, on the other hand, involves psychological processes that people undergo to accept new situations (Cynthia, 2012). Thus, within the context of change management, this study will examine Omantel’s management actions. The focus will be on how these actions address the changes in the company brought about by privatization, and the reactions and perceptions of the employees towards the change.

In doing so, the chances of success and integration of the employees to the new Omantel can be predicted. In totality, this project would also determine whether the change management concept as espoused by western authors and practitioners is also true to the organizational climate in Oman. Authors such as Schuler (2002) argue that efforts to effect change in an organization can fail or succeed based on communication. This study will test the validity of such statements.

The researcher formulated the following hypotheses, that are to be tested in this research:

  1. The way privatization of an organization is conducted informs the attitudes and perceptions of employees of the organization.
  2. The active involvement of employees in the change process eases the adjustment process and makes the changes more acceptable to the employees.
  3. Employees oppose changes in an organization if their fears and anxieties are not addressed.

To test this hypothesis, the following research questions were formulated.

Research Questions

This research seeks to answer the following research questions:

  1. How was the privatization of Omantel conducted?
  2. How did the structural and organizational changes brought by the privatization of the company affect the perceptions, feelings, and attitudes of the employees?

The following research objectives were formulated to assist the researcher in answering the research questions.

Research objectives

The objectives of the research include:

  1. To establish how the privatization of Omantel was conducted. To achieve this objective, the researcher will examine the process of change, how a change of ownership occurred, and the players involved.
  2. To establish the organizational and structural changes brought about by Omantel’s privatization. For this purpose, the researcher will examine changes in communication within the company, job descriptions, salary scales, changes in employees’ contractual terms, and other structural changes.
  3. To determine how the changes affected employees of the company. This will entail examining the effects of the privatization exercise on the rights, duties, and status of the company’s employees.
  4. To establish whether the employees were involved in the change process. If they were, the researcher will also seek to establish their role or involvement in the process. For example, were their opinions sought?
  5. To find out if the company took any steps to prepare the employees for the changes that were bound to occur after the privatization of the company. The researcher will examine activities such as undergoing counseling, re-training, and discussions among others.
  6. To establish if the company took any measures to assist the employees to adjust to the changes, take up new roles, and work well under the new system of management. For example, was information about the changes readily available to them, and were their fears addressed?
  7. To establish the anxieties that the employees had over the change process. The researcher will examine their fears over job security, changes in terms of service, changes in salary scales, and job descriptions among others.
  8. To identify the reactions of the employees to the changes brought by the privatization of the company. This will be done by examining their feelings and attitudes to the change process. The research will also look at actions they may have taken against the company, such as instituting suits against it to enforce various rights.

Ethical concerns

Every researcher is ethically bound to engage in ethical decision-making regarding his/her research (Elaine, 2010). Myriad ethical concerns arise when conducting a study and the researcher, must adhere to accepted ethical standards and practices (Miguel, 2011, & Rommel & Robert, 2009). Ethical issues that may arise from this research are likely to revolve around the ethical acquisition and use of information gathered for the study. The researcher intends to give credit to authors of original ideas, and use the information gathered only for the study. The researcher will not acquire or use any confidential information in an unauthorized way. If certain permissions are required before accessing any company or personal information, the researcher will adhere to the conditions attached to such access. The respondents will also be assured of the confidentiality of the information collected from the. They will also be assured that the information they give will not be used for any other purpose than that stated when collecting it. Personal information will also not be made public without the authority of the respondent.

Methodology

The proposed study of Omantel will focus on the reactions of employees to the changes brought about by the privatization of the company. The information needed for the study is about the experiences that the employees had or are having as a result of the management changes. To collect this information from them, the researcher will carry out qualitative research. The employees will be interviewed, and self-administered questionnaires will also be administered. Employees will be interviewed individually by the researcher, and the interviews will be conducted both face-to-face, on the phone, and online (via chat and video call) where the circumstances demand it. The questions in the questionnaires will be structured in a way that extracts answers from the employees about the change process and their reactions to it.

Analysis of the data collected will be done in two ways. The researcher will carry out both inferential and descriptive data analysis. The results of the research will be analyzed to find out how many people or the percentage of employees reacted in a particular way. The descriptive analysis will summarize this information and group the respondents in their respective categories depending on the type of reactions they exhibit. The researcher will make inferences from the information described above, to relate the findings to other privatizations in the telecommunications industry in Oman. The inferential analysis will assist in generalizing the results of the study and applying them to other case studies. It will also enable the researcher and other interested parties to forecast the reactions of employees if similar privatizations are carried out in telecommunications or other industries.

Design

The case study design will be used by the researcher to research the telecommunication industry in Oman. The organization selected for the case study is Omantel. Carrying out a case study will enable the researcher to have an in-depth study of the effects of privatization of the telecommunications industry in Oman on the organizations’ employees. The study of Omantel will provide a true picture of the reactions of employees, and the effect of privatization on their perceptions and attitudes.

The participants in the study are employees or former employees of Omantel. For one to qualify as a participant, he/she must have been in the employ of the company during the transition/privatization. The sample to be selected for this study will consist of 100 respondents. The female employees will constitute 35%, while male employees will form 65%. Current employees of the organization but who were not in its employ during the change process are not eligible to participate in this study. This is because the researcher will study the experiences of employees during this period, and such employees did not experience the process.

This study is likely to be faced with various limitations. For example, the data collected and the results of the study may not be accurately generalized to the whole telecommunications industry, or other industries in Oman. This is because only a single organization is studied, and this may not be a very strong basis for the reliability of the information collected. The information will be collected from employees. Employees in an organization, especially those not in management positions do not have access to a lot of important information about the company. This may lead to gaps in the information collected, and a lot of vital information may end up being absent from the findings. The information collected through questionnaires and interviews may also be unreliable to a certain extent. The respondents, especially former employees of the organization may be biased towards a certain position and, therefore, may end up giving false, mistaken, or misguiding information.

The researcher is likely to face several challenges when conducting the research. For example, some employees may be unwilling to talk about their experiences for various reasons. The researcher will, therefore, have to find ways of convincing them to participate in the study. It may also turn out to be difficult to locate some employees who have already left the organization. The challenge may lie in getting their addresses or phone numbers, or locating their physical locations.

Twelve months is the estimated time within which the researcher expects to carry out the study, collect information, analyze it, and write the paper. The first four months of this period will be spent collecting information from the respondents. Interviews will be conducted, and questionnaires administered within the first four months. For the next three months, the researcher will be analyzing the information collected and preparing to write the research paper. The last five months will be spent on the writing of the research paper and making corrections to the draft. During this period, the researcher will take part in discussions with members of the learning set to compare notes on progress. These sessions will be useful in identifying mistakes in the conduct of the study, and also get guidance and support from the members of the set. These meetings will be held as agreed by the members.

Expected Outcome

The results of the study are expected to prove or disprove the researcher’s hypothesis. It is expected that the analysis of the information collected from the employees will; show that the way privatization of an organization is conducted informs the attitudes and perceptions of employees of the organization or that it does not, show that the active involvement of employees in the change process does or does not ease the transition process, and also show that employees oppose or do not oppose changes in the organization if their fears and anxieties are met.

Resources required

Resources will be required to carry out this study. These will be in monetary terms, and scholarly materials. Money will be required to cover travel expenses, access to scholarly materials, printing and typing costs, phone calls, and allowances for requiring who may require or ask for them. Money will also be required to meet miscellaneous costs that may not have been anticipated. The total cost of the study is estimated to be $5,000.

References

Al Bawaba. (2002). Regulatory Body to Accelerate Privatization of Oman Tel. Web.

Allen, J. et al. (2007). Uncertainty During Organizational Change: Managing Perceptions Through Communication. Journal of Change Management. 7(2), 187-210

Aycan, Z. et al. (2007). Cultural Orientations and Preferences for HRM Policies and Practices: The Case of Oman. The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 18(1), 11-32.

Cynthia, W. (2012). Employees’ Reaction to Organizational Change. OD Practitioner. 44(2), 23-28.

Daniela, P. (2012). On the Process of Implementing Change within Organizations. Contemporary Readings in Law & Social Justice.3(2), 212-217.

Elaine, D., Martin, M. & Mitchell, C. (2010). Research Ethics in a Business School Context: The Establishment of a Review Committee and the Primary Issues of Concern. Journal of Academic Ethics. 8(1), 43-66.

Jones, L. et al. (2008). Employee Perceptions of Organizational Change: Impact of Hierarchical Level. Leadership and Organization Development Journal. 29(4), 294-316.

Miguel, A. (2011). The Reconciliation Project: Separation and Integration in Business Ethics Research. Journal of Business Ethics. 99(1), 19-36.

Mitchell, B. & Christina, C. (2008). Organizational Change Cynicism: The Role of Employee Involvement. Human Resource Management. 47(4), 667-686.

Padmakumar, R. (2012). Post Privatization Job Satisfaction among Employees. International Journal of Academic Research in Business & Social Sciences. 2(1), 118-127.

Parlea-Buzatu, D. (2011). On the Process of Implementing Change Within Organizations. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice. 3(2), 212-217.

Paton, R. & McCalman, J. (2008). Change Management: A Guide to Effective Implementation. 3rdEdn. London: Sage Publications.

Ram, P. & Prabhakar, G. (2011). Privatizing Monopolies in the Telecom Sector – Lessons from the Employee Job Satisfaction Perspective. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 1(6), 79-88.

Rommel, S. & Robert, F. (2009). Business Ethics and the Brain. Business Ethics Quarterly. 19(1), 1-36.

Schuler, A. (2002). Change Management Communication. Web.

System Architect. (2004). Gulf Talent. Web.

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Sultanate of Oman. (2005). Annual Report. Web. 

Turner, et al. (2009). Towards a Global Definition of Best Practice in Change Management. International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management. 9(8). Web.

William, T. (1986). Impacts of Privatization upon Career Public Employees. Public Administration Quarterly. 10(1), 50-59.

Yu, M. (2009). Employees’ Perception of Organizational Change: The Mediating Effects of Stress Management Strategies. Public Personnel Management. 38(1), 17-35.

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