6 Ways to Keep People First in Reorganizations
Silence is golden, unless you have children and then silence is suspicious.
The same can be said about senior management in any company. How often have you seen it? Grand plans get announced, and then the entire process goes radio silent. The organization is left to ponder if anything will actually happen. It is amazing that when organizations are undertaking major projects they create ongoing communication channels through newsletter, town halls, etc.
But, when the project is actually a change that impacts people’s careers, management is willing to abdicate communication to the grapevine.
Management begs patience of the staff, but patience is the one thing they are unwilling to give.
In the absence of guidance or communication, people will construct their own narrative, a negative narrative. In the void left by management, what are people to think? Then magically a year later changes are communicated from on high. No matter how positive the changes, the distrust that has been generated will color the announcement. So what is an organization to do?
First and foremost remember that you are dealing with people and their careers. Treat this like the deeply personal issue that it is. Yes, as a VP with over 10,000 people reporting to you, you can’t sit down with every one of them. So it is important to have a plan.
1. Start Fast
Day one establish that you are the face of the change and that you take your responsibility to them seriously
Create virtual opportunities to enable people access to you. If major public figures can have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit then you can do the same thing internally. And don’t screen the questions.
If there are more questions than time, then let them know and then let them know that you will answer all of the questions. If there is a question that you can’t legally answer then let them know.
Also know that you can’t address all of their fears or issues, but just knowing that you are concerned will go a long way.
3. Get Out There
Put on a road show. If your employees are geographically dispersed then hit the road and meet them where they live. Also, make sure that they know that the reason that you are there is them. Nothing says that you don’t matter like saying I was coming in to meet with my boss and thought I would get together with you. Thanks for the donuts and coffee, can I go now?
4. Multiply Yourself
Leverage your management team and change network. Make sure that your team is on board and ready to be part of the change and communicate it to the broader team. Don’t have a change network to support this, then dammit get one now. See item 1.
5. Communicate often
Long periods of silence communicate more than any newsletter ever can. Make sure that you are communicating regularly with the team and that they can count on that communication. When things are in flux and your team members have been left without the familiar, a month can seem like a year.
That doesn’t mean bombard their inboxes with valueless notes every day, but set communication expectations. “We will spend the first 15 minutes of our monthly town hall talking about where we are on the journey. What we have accomplished and what remains.” And remember those AMA session? That is not just a one-time deal.
6. Establish trust through dependability.
People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do – Lewis Cass. It is important to set objectives and then keep them. Tell them, “We will have the new performance system out to everyone by the end of the quarter” then hit it! Yes sometimes you miss a date, but if you communicate why it will go a long way to maintain trust.
Change is a Constant
Change is constant in corporate America. The difference between a good change and a bad change is as simple taking care of your people.