Many companies are now taking on the difficult task of implementing organizational changes as they prepare for the “next normal” by introducing new key roles and evaluating the relevance of others.
When it comes to this type of restructuring, human resources teams have a pivotal role to play – perhaps THE most important role. Restructuring is extremely hard on employees and is proven to impact productivity, which hurts the bottom line of the business. Taking care of your people through corporate transformation can determine an organization’s short-term outcome and may have implications on long-term profitability.
To effectively support employees through organizational transformation, HR and people leaders benefit from understanding the sources of strain.
People do not like change. It’s human nature to have an adverse reaction to changes of ANY kind. In his book, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, Jonah Berger explains that human beings do not like change, and will resist change even if it benefits them. For instance, recruiting new team members can be difficult for your current employees who may not have control over who is being recruited, much less who they will be reporting to.
Employees’ wellbeing is linked to control over their outcome. Research shows that our wellbeing is highly variable and positively correlated to our sense of control over our outcome. Certainly, when restructuring includes layoffs, employees will naturally be concerned that the changes will impact their livelihood, creating a sense of job insecurity. The more employers can do to empower their employees, the better.
Below are six proven strategies for effectively managing people through organizational transformation, so that productivity does not falter to the extent that it impacts business performance:
Once initial announcements have been made, make sure your people leaders are available for 1:1’s, and run mini-focus groups among your employees to get a better sense of how they feel, and how you can help. We know there can be a big difference between what people say and do and how they really Work with a professional moderator, or facilitators who understand the value of projection exercises and other techniques to get the most value from this situation. Getting external support for 1:1 interviews or focus groups allows employees to speak more freely than they might with management. This feedback will help your HR and communications teams better understand how to alleviate stress.
- COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
Regular touchpoints with employees are critical to helping them remain focused on the business. Leverage any insights from research or informal 1:1s to understand HOW to communicate, and what points will resonate. Rather than only updating your people about WHAT is happening, tell them WHY, and aim to unify the team under one common goal. Present the facts, explaining the importance of evolving the business. Jonah Berger talks about creating a common ground.
- BE MINDFUL WHEN ONBOARDING
When possible, companies should recruit AFTER employees affected by layoffs have exited the business. Cognitively, our first interactions with a new employer are important, because this is a highly receptive period. We want our new employees to imprint positively. Psychologists will tell us we only have one chance to get it right. Imagine coming into a business, and only a week later several of your colleagues are laid off. It sets the wrong tone and puts new employees in a very awkward situation with their colleagues.
- PLAN LAYOFFS THOUGHTFULLY
Taking a ‘soft gloves’ or working notice approach, rather than an ‘amputation approach’ to layoffs has benefits for employees and for business. By offering working notice, organizations allow their employees time to transition, to say goodbye, and to plan for their future. Doing so will make everyone feel more relaxed and comfortable with impending layoffs. Businesses who take the soft gloves approach will run into fewer issues with bad PR and negative Glassdoor reviews. Working notice may cost more in the short-term, but it will benefit their employer brand and will create more loyalty and higher productivity among the employees who are staying with the business.
- OFFER OUTPLACEMENT SUPPORT
Many companies offer outplacement support to help exiting employees recover from the experience of job loss and get back to work. There are many benefits to offering outplacement, including saving time and resources. Your exiting employees will become more focused on what’s next, rather than engaging HR and legal teams. It’s also a signal to remaining employees that their employer cares about their outcome.
- TAKE CARE OF THE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE LEFT BEHIND
Having worked with numerous businesses across North America, we know that the employees left behind are often in a tough spot, as they’re expected to pick up where they left off with little to no emotional support. In the same way that exiting employees are offered outplacement, we should provide our remaining team members with resources. They’ve gone through trauma, experienced job insecurity, had to say goodbye to valued team members, and may be suffering survivor’s guilt. Studies show the productivity of employees who’ve been left behind declines dramatically. Again – listen, communicate, be empathetic and bring in coaches and speakers to help your employees recover.
Employee performance through business transformation is an area few employers get right. When profitability depends so heavily on the performance and the productivity of people, it’s worth the investment in putting our people first!
Amy Davies is the founder and CEO of First 30 offering advanced onboarding and outplacement services to businesses. She is also the author of A Spark in the Dark: Illuminating Your Path to a Brilliant Career in a Reorg World. Before establishing First 30 in North America, Amy lived in the UK and Europe working with global organizations including Unilever, Mars, and Grainger. She possesses unique expertise in understanding the impact of corporate and economic flux on individual outcomes. Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.