Corporate restructuring and layoffs are an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of today's business climate. Keeping your remaining employees engaged, motivated and productive after a restructure requires managers to be proactive, honest and consistent or risk alienating and losing even more key talent.
The ultimate goal of any restructuring and layoff is to make the business more efficient, more productive and therefore more competitive.
Restructures are never pleasant. The weeks before consume a huge amount of mental and emotional energy as plans are drawn up then reworked over and over again.
The actual day of announcements is draining as the waves of different emotions are experienced by staff: relief from those staying and, usually, dismay from those leaving. While this is a draining time for you as a leader, the real work starts the day after the restructure
What do you do on this day? How do you re-energise your workforce?
Moving forward: Re-engage your teams after a restructure.....
Here are some practical tips to help begin the process of reengaging and refocusing individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole.
- Bring your team together as soon as possible following the announcement. Start the reengagement process by acknowledging that the event was difficult but necessary for the ongoing stability of the organisation and let the team know you are available for private discussions if anyone has any concerns that they would like addressed.
- Following the restructure, give employees an opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions through one-on-ones with managers, department get-togethers and town hall meetings. When addressing employees, be straightforward. Begin by acknowledging that it has been difficult and thank them for their support.
- Recognise the emotional reactions of others. Employee feelings can range from fear to relief. Remaining employees may feel guilty that they were able to keep their jobs, whilst some may feel anger towards the decisions makers who they feel should have prevented this. There may even be some individuals upset that they were not chosen. If it is not the first time an organisation has gone through a restructure process, some remaining employees may feel a betrayal of trust – they were promised it 'wouldn't happen again'.
- Address workload issues. It is common for the departed employees' roles to be dumped in the laps of those remaining. This can be a lot of pressure on an employee, especially if they don't have the strengths for that additional role. This is when coaching, mentoring, education and further training is critical to keeping talent. Present the additional responsibilities as an opportunity for learning and growth.
- Be honest. Don't guarantee individuals that their jobs are safe if there could be more redundancies in the future. If you are uncertain what the future holds, that is ok too – people will appreciate the honesty. We have written more on uncertainty during a restructure here.
- Acknowledge that you may not have all the answers to how things will work in the newly restructured organisation and that you will be seeking their advice in the weeks ahead. This may also give people a purpose for being part of the team.
- Remind the team of their purpose in achieving the organisation’s goals. Refocusing your team is an important step towards shifting the mood and reengaging employees following the restructure.
- Provide as much clarity about each person's role as possible and how their role contributes to the organisation's purpose. Making explicit this connection motivates individuals by explaining how important their role and their contribution is to the organisation.
- Clear your diary as much as possible and make yourself visible to staff in the days following announcements
Long term, it would be beneficial for you to implement the below processes for the ongoing success of your newly structured organisation.
- Establish regular toolbox talks/meetings designed to discuss the new structure, the new way of doing things and understanding workloads following the redistribution of tasks. Holding these regularly (daily or at the very least, weekly) also allows you to 'keep your ear to the ground' and identify rumours circulating or disengaged employees who may need some extra attention.
- Create and reinforce an 'open forum' workplace where anyone can raise questions and suggestions about what’s working and what’s not working and solutions can be identified collaboratively.
- Work to ensure that your employees can trust you as a consistent, dependable leader who is committed to their best interests and outcomes. Diligently develop your employees so that they are best prepared to handle whatever comes their way.
- Finally, don’t forget about you. Remember, you may also be experiencing career transition during this time, so be aware of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions around what is going on around you. Find out what support is available to you and acknowledge how you personally deal with the changes taking place.