Managing change: surviving the aftermath

Restructuring can be a stressful experience for all involved, so how can HR minimise disruption and damage to those left behind?

Restructuring can be a disheartening procedure that can leave a damaged workforce behind so to minimise disruption and ensure an effective ‘bounce back’ it’s vital to follow a good process. Vicki Daniel, co-founder and co-director of Change2020, shares her change management tips on reducing upheaval and supporting downsizing survivors.
Plan to change
The old adage holds true in change initiatives: ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’. Daniel recommends that every clear strategic change plan should identify the following:
  • Why this change is needed – the simple strategic picture and the urgency associated
  • What will change and what will stay the same in the business (Strategy, Operations, People, Process, Structure, Technology etc)
  • How the impact of the change will be managed
  • What are the activities that will take place to manage this impact to ensure operational disruption? Usually these activities include communications, training, coaching, stakeholder management, workplace change, company redesign, new processes and technology etc.
  • What will be the impact on me and how will it be managed
Cultural audits
Companies should be aware of what makes its culture unique, what facets of the culture supports the company moving forward and what aspects of the culture needs to change. There are various tools and surveys that can help with this but often the best way is to simply ask staff to share their views on the workplace culture – current & desired.
“It’s also important to note that some of the unique factors may in fact be holding the business back; just because you have a uniqueness does not mean it is good for the culture or the future of the business,” Daniel said. “Always hold onto the stories which underpin the business. Great storytelling is an excellent way to retain the special and unique factors of a business – keep the ‘good stuff’ alive and recognise it is ok to let go of the ‘stuff’ that may not fit in the future.”
Throughout any change initiative Daniel said face-to-face communication is always best. Most people want to hear messages from their direct leader. Keep it crisp and honest. Other forms of communication are useful but should be treated as supporting communications – broadcast emails, posters, short films and newsletters. Ensure communication is frequent and two-way; people need to be able to ask not just listen. Additionally, holding focus groups for employees to share their concerns or ask questions can be a great way to provide support to survivors.
Empower leaders
Often ‘survivors’ of structural change find the new working environment difficult and stressful therefore leaders and managers need to be empowered with the skills to negotiate through times of change and support the employees left behind from redundancies. These skills include:
  • An ability to identify the different phases of the cycle of change, i.e. handling loss, understanding change, making decisions and moving forward
  • Assisting employees to understand changes in their personal lives in the context of larger global forces
  • Outlining the choices available to employees in times of change, i.e. to resist, avoid or embrace change
  • Encouraging employees to make constructive, proactive personal decisions in complex situations
  • Providing assistance with developing an action plan to help each individual navigate organisational change effectively
A leader’s role is to give those who remain behind confidence about their future. Open discussions with employees about why retrenchments are happening and what can be expected in the future will build trust and engagement within the workforce.

This article was adapted from Surviving the Aftermath which was originally published in the September 2013 HRD Magazine. To read more click here.

Recent articles & video

Worker 'smuggles' unauthorised devices in 'high-security' workplace

Compliance order issued: Employer to pay almost $30,000 for unjustified dismissal

Decline in job ads 'accelerated' in June: SEEK NZ

Government moves to stop contractors challenging employment status

Most Read Articles

Immigration NZ employees put on leave after inappropriate conversation on Teams: reports

PwC wins against disgruntled accountant who wanted to nullify settlement

The Warehouse Group to lay off head office employees: report