Leadership Restructures Change

Looking after your team during an organisational change

It goes without saying that organisational change is a stressful time for all levels of the business.

As a leader or HR professional, you are in a position to manage some of the stress that those around you may be experiencing as a result of an organisational change project. Understandably, this stress has an impact on employees’ motivation, change readiness, and emotions. 

Change is a psychological risk factor and people differ in how they interpret, cope with, and bounce back from change. Looking after your team and monitoring how the organisational changes are affecting employees is important througout the change process.

One of the most commonly asked questions by our clients is “How can we keep performance from dipping and teams motivated during a transition?”. Ensuring your team stays engaged throughout the change process can be a tricky job. People look to their manager during transition to provide guidance, advice, information and support. So, here are some tips for managers about how to best look out for your team during a transition.

  1. Listen: Spend time with people in your team, just listening to their concerns. People may be experiencing anger, frustration or feeling confused about how the changes will impact them. Some people may need to “let off steam”. Taking the time to listen to your employees helps them feel valued. In fact, one of the most important indicators of employee satisfaction is often whether they feel their managers listen to them and value their opinions. 
  2. Get the facts: As the manager, it is important that you understand the facts around the restructure before communicating these to employees to ensure your messages are in line with that of the organisation. Some believe it is best to communicate all the facts as soon as they are available, whilst in other instances it may be better to use uncertainty to allay initial concerns – we discuss uncertainty in more detail here. Explain the business reasons for the change. The more your staff understand and accept the need for business change, the more likely they are to respond positively to the change process. Find out as much as you can about the process of the transition, timings, whether any employees will be retrenched and other key information.
  3. Provide stability where you can: During the change process, managers are often pulled away from the day-to-day for internal meetings and constantly having their attention diverted. Making time for your regular weekly team meetings, regular email updates and one on one meetings with team members are all great ways of making sure your team feels supported and “in the know”.
  4. Be creative about stress reduction: If your team reports they are feeling particularly stressed, why not have a team building session on stress reduction? Ask everyone in the team for their ideas on what works for them to reduce stress. Following this up in your team meetings can be a good morale booster and a great way of building team spirit. It may also prompt conversations regarding the change and its effects amongst the team members, building mutual understanding and camaraderie at what can otherwise be a divisive time.
  5. Deal directly with negative attitudes: If a team member is particularly negative about the change process, meet with them directly to work through their issues and ask for a constructive approach. Taking their concerns seriously can go a long way to getting difficult people on board.
  6. Create support networks: There are other areas in your organisation that are available to help employees during transitions. If you are a manager, HR can may be a helpful source of information. Perhaps you may have access to an Employee Assistance Program for employees who are feeling particularly stressed. Find out about any other sources of support for your team and make sure people know where to go to if they need additional assistance.
  7. Take care of yourself: Managers often put themselves last during difficult times at work. Equip yourself so that you have enough resilience to be a great leader throughout the process. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, recreation and good food to stay healthy, optimistic and energetic throughout the transition period. For more on taking care of yourself, click here.
  8. Provide role clarity: Role ambiguity and change is considered a psychological risk factor according to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Both during and after change, it is important for each employee to understand the role they have within the organisation. The organisation must ensure that the person does not have conflicting roles.  Lack of role clarity can lead to tension and conflict.

To assist with role clarity during periods of transition, consider the below tips:

  • Provide up-to-date position descriptions.
  • Provide an organisational chart – enables clear view of structure and communication channels.
  • Develop personal workplans to keep individuals future-focussed.
  • Discuss roles and workplans at team meetings and clarify roles.
  • Don’t change job functions or position descriptions without consultation and discussion.

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