Business Manual Initiative

Supporting Anticipation & Management of Change


Description of the Initiative

The MEA always emphasized the importance of investing in the skills of entrepreneurs and employees particularly in the area of innovation and transformation.

When COVID-19 struck, businesses came to an abrupt halt and employers had to rethink their strategies. The MEA observed rapid changes in response to extraordinary circumstances, characterized by a reactive approach. Many companies made quick changes out of necessity, often without proper planning or communication.

During this chaotic period, companies were scrambling to comply with new restrictions and protocols whilst seeking to alter their business models to safeguard their relevance, competitiveness, sustainability and resilience. All the while, the MEA provided regular support to members through various channels including its Handbook.

While some entrepreneurs managed to adapt successfully, many reported issues. Even those who were better skilled acknowledged they could have achieved better results if they had involved their entire organization in the change process. This situation prompted the MEA to seek external resources to conduct comprehensive research and offer solutions and support based on professional research and shared best practices. The first step was to identify the pain points experienced by entrepreneurs and common issues to serve as learning opportunities for the general enhancement of entrepreneurial skills.

The subsequent milestone involved designing solutions and strategies to strengthen businesses’ abilities and skills to adapt and manage change effectively. This research included surveys with nearly 400 respondents, divided between entrepreneurs and workers, with the latter group facilitated by GWU as a project partner. The findings from these surveys were further validated through three national round-table events, involving over 40 companies.

To ensure the applicability of the research on a European scale, the MEA collaborated with partners like SGI Europe and organized a Brussels Workshop. SGI gathered expertise from EU-based social partners and entities like BusinessEurope, ETUC and other national employer organizations affiliated to SGI.

The research revealed several key findings, such as the importance of sound planning and communication between management and employees for successful business transformation. This finding was supported by the employee survey, which indicated improved attitudes toward work when transformation processes were properly planned and communicated.

The research also explored employee behaviour in response to transformation measures, highlighting that workers, welcome change, especially when they were actively involved and properly trained. However, workplaces and processes sometimes became more complex after poorly engineered changes, which included excessive digitalization or inadequate training.

The insights from the surveys, along with shared knowledge and best practices, were carefully analysed and validated. These findings were incorporated into a practical toolkit for businesses, representing the tangible outcome from this project. The manual was translated into other European languages, serving as a skills-enhancing tool for entrepreneurs to guide them during their transformation and upgrading processes.

During the Final Conference of the project, titled “Regeneration Plan for Workplaces,” MEA affirmed that this initiative successfully created a Europe-wide framework for enhancing entrepreneurial skills. Employer organizations across Europe are now equipped to skill their members and their employees to approach change with a more positive and proactive mindset.

Results of the Initiative

Amongst the most tangible outcomes and results of the initiative are the Change Management Business Manual and the project communication channels namely the dedicated website ( and social media pages.

The Manual and online communication channels together have made sure that the project reached its intended targets – entrepreneurs and their employees. The social media pages, website and events organised by the MEA combined together to maximise the reach-out of the project amongst the target audiences. The Manual which was printed and distributed to the business community as well as uploaded on the website is available for download and to act as a reference guide for the enhancement of change management skills amongst entrepreneurs in Malta and the rest of Europe. Such is the importance given by the European Commission as the Granting Authority to the Manual and its belief in the Manual’s transferability, in fact, that the MEA was obliged to offer it in the three principal languages of the EU to maximise its reach and benefit across the whole EU population.

Amongst the key strengths and intangible outcomes of this project was the capacity building and new knowledge it contributed to MEA and its partners. The project’s emphasis on gathering new expertise and best practice experiences in encouraging the exchange of information and development of good practices between national and European entities. This wealth of knowledge was incorporated into the Manual and will therefore be passed on to all interested entrepreneurs in Malta and the rest of Europe, particularly those in the sectors of focus, namely Hospitality, Tourism and Travel, Wholesale, Retail, and other Commercial Services and Professional Services.

The knowledge amassed as part of the project has enhanced the capacity of the MEA and is now incorporated into its Business As Usual (BAU). It will be used on a day-to-day basis to guide entrepreneurs and enhance their skills in operating in the post-COVID world and adapting to new/improved business models, building strong sustainable strategies and the capabilities required by companies to be resilient to shocks. The new skills imparted to entrepreneurs could serve as means to save jobs in times of crisis or generate new and/or different ones. On the other hand, the new skills gained by employees who use the Manual could render them more employable because they are more dynamic and relevant to industry needs in a post-pandemic scenario.

A further complementarity of the project is that it has now also been added as a new separate chapter to MEA’s existing HR Handbook that focuses on several topics dealing with employment and the workplace.

The project and the Manual also generated new useful content for a dedicated episode in the series of MEA TV programmes aired on TVM+ and aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skills of employers and employees – in this case on the anticipation and management of change.

Innovation of the Initiative

As already stated, this project was conceptualised during COVID (2020) when the MEA was noting a fast acceleration in the pace of change which was dictated by challenging conditions characterized by restrictions and heightened uncertainty. Companies were changing out of sheer necessity. It was do or die and in this situation there was very little support they could rely on except consultants which were in short supply and dealing with the exceptional circumstances themselves. The situation was such that the security of jobs in the sectors of focus for this project (Hospitality, Tourism and Travel, Wholesale, Retail, and other Commercial Services and Professional Services) depended on the temporary wage-subsidy scheme introduced by Government.

Change was being implemented reactively rather than proactively and through this project the MEA aimed to reverse this in order to secure businesses and livelihoods in the longer term.

Entrepreneurs were reporting issues and the MEA sought to provide long-term support.
It teamed up with its European affiliation – SGI Europe – and the GWU to apply for EU funds for the purposes of performing ground-breaking research into the bottlenecks in business transformation. This research would then form the basis to build a Change Management Business Manual which would be the first of its kind in Malta. The Manual was intended to enhance the skills of the entrepreneur in facing situations of change and transformation in a business. Change that is necessitated by the so-called “twin transitions” (Digitalisation & Decarbonisation) in ensuring that a business remains relevant, competitive, sustainable and resilient.

The Manual is designed to address weak skills in planning and communication which often lead to serious bottlenecks that impede transformation projects from taking-off the ground. Unless the entrepreneur is highly skilled at implementing transformation, the employer, the employee or both could be deprived from reaping the full benefit of change.

For this reason, one main objective of this project was to formulate and present tangible methodologies and recommendations for management to amplify their interaction with employees, emphasising strategic planning, best practice change management approaches as well effective communication and training. The MEA believes that more skilful entrepreneurs is conducive to more and better jobs for the Maltese economy.

The tangible recommendations were collated in the Change Management Business Manual with a view to serve as a guide and learning instrument for all entrepreneurs to up their game when it comes to business transformation. The Manual gives clear guidance to managers and employers on how to ensure that employees are well-informed, adequately trained, and motivated to facilitate any transformation or change process.

To date this practical and comprehensive Manual is the first and only one of its kind available for entrepreneurs as it is built on extensive primary and secondary research conducted over a strong sample of peer entrepreneurs, which research was validated at a European level through the contribution of the international partners.

Above all, the novelty of this project was in the aim of the MEA to transform change from a reactive to a proactive and informed process!