Once news of an imminent restructuring, reengineering, and transformation process starts to filter in an organisation the way things are done almost immediately changes. Staff becomes anxious, some will be angst. The rumour mill awakens and in most cases, it works against formally communication.
Let it be clear that if Leaders want to influence the culture immediately after restructuring, the culture strategy has to be implemented before, during and after the re-organisation process. It is therefore imperative to try and anticipate the people issues and possibly work on addressing them upfront. This will ensure a higher chance of influencing the culture issue after the re-organisation process. What questions would employees have once they hear that the organisation is restructuring? A Harvard Review article entitled, “Three Answers Every Employee Needs” summarises some of the demands by employees. 1. Do I have a job in the new organisation? 2. Who will I report to? 3. What will my remuneration be? Further engagement will bring out more issues around these questions. Employees are anxious to know the impact of the re-organisation process on their job titles, job content, job scope and overall its configuration in the new organisation. It therefore, becomes key for management to empathise with that uncertainty and strategize accordingly.
Some leaders in a bid to keep the re-organisation process confidential have lost trust and key talent that is needed to steer the organisation during and beyond the process. Transparent communication becomes key to make known what the process is all about and what it is not. A communication strategy has to be developed and implemented involving identifying the channels to reach out to staff such as email/town hall approach, what information is communicated and by who. The initial announcement should ideally come from the top office of the organisation articulating why the process is being undertaken and as per current business trends it’s mostly for organisational survival by improving efficiencies and productivity. Human Resources (HR) Managers and Line Management should open up discussions and be able to answer any issues from staff.
It is important to prepare for staff disengagement even after a communication strategy has been implemented. The possibility of job loss in this current economic environment will leave staff with low morale. Staff disengagement may continue even from those remaining in the organisation as they grapple with the imminent changes.
Once a layoff has been effected, Management need to ensure the remaining staff quickly settles in. Where reporting relationships have changed, allow new supervisors to meet their team. The new expectations and goals should be clearly outlined to the team too. If there is material change in the job content, job descriptions have to be amended accordingly. Subsequent HR management processes such as performance management, job evaluation, and skills and competence requirements need immediate realignment in order to build a high-performance culture in the new organisation. Mentoring and training staff on new skills required in the new organisation builds trusts between the leadership and staff. The longer these necessary processes take during or after restructuring the more difficult it will become for management to influence organisation culture.
The way the organisation handles laid off employees has a great impact on the culture that prevails after the restructuring. It is of course difficult to have all employees perceive retrenchment as fair in terms of selection of staff/positions and package offered. It is however important to strive to be as objective as possible by focusing on the business demands and giving support to retrenched staff. Layoffs become necessary for business competitiveness and should not be perceived as personal. A lot has been written about preparing employees for layoffs and organisations can implement some of the suggested initiatives as a way of reducing trauma and building trust.
Corporate restructuring and layoffs are unfortunate, but inevitable process of today’s business. It becomes key that management has the necessary skills for change management. The length of time the whole process will take has a huge impact on the culture that will prevail afterwards. Harp -hazard implementation of changes followed by reversals will further erode the trust and confidence that staff has in management. Lastly engage those who stay. Understand their people issues and show commitment in ensuring they quickly get productive in the new organisation.
It pays to treat staff in restructured organisations as new employees by clearly communicating the new vision/direction of the company and the desired culture required to take the organisation there. Whenever there is reorganisation the Corporate Commitment either changes or is reinforced and this must be promulgated as necessary. Management should show confidence in the new direction and champion corporate values and contagion will prevail across the organisation.
In conclusion, it is not enough to plan for business change and not adequately plan for people issues, otherwise it will be a plan to ensure staff disengagement. Keeping your remaining employees engaged, will require management to be honest, consistent and proactive. Peter Drucker’s statement of the importance of organisational culture in strategy execution encapsulates this article, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 242 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com