A stand down, redundancy or restructure announcement will often trigger the flight-or-fight response in team members, causing them to shut down to the purpose, process and possibility of the organisational change. Not helpful when you’re trying to maintain performance and engagement through the change and into the future!!! And certainly not a great experience for staff.
I'm Lata Hamilton, Change Leadership and Confidence expert. And this is the 13th article in my 15-part Reimagine Restructures Blog Series.
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The hard one
I can safely say that no company makes the decision lightly to restructure. Whether it's a stand down, lay offs, or an operating model change - the decision has never made lightly. It's made because with all of the risks and everything weighed up, it's still the right thing to do. However, getting your staff to buy into the change, feel comfortable with it, and come along on the journey with you, and THEN also perform to that future strategy or vision if they are being retained, can be really tough. Staff will often have an emotional reaction. It'll bring up anxiety and fear for them. And this is a real problem, because it means that they aren't able to open their ears and open their hearts to the possible benefits of the restructure.
Why do staff often have such strong negative and emotional reaction to restructure? Well, it's because it triggers for them survival instinct: the fight-or-flight response. For them, staff actually start to imagine all of the ways that their life is going to fall apart if they don't have a job.
Jobs means different things for different people, and it can be a real marker of identity. But more than that, it's also meeting their base level, security needs income and money for:
The ones hit hardest
Who REALLY cares about a restructure? Who's really scared? Usually, it's the Permanent team members - the Full Timers and Part Timers. And it's because, in today's culture, even though our workplaces and industries have changed so much, there's still a mentality that Permanent roles are the best - that Permanent roles equal security, equal stability, equal safety. There's this idea that being in a Permanent role is the thing that you must aspire to and strive for. And often during a restructure, it's the Permanent roles that are thrown into the air, and people are left wondering if they're going to have one, when the dust settles. That's what breeds this fear.
So this article is all about how to shift the mindset that permanence is best. We are in an ever-changing, fluid world - people are going to need to start jumping on board with this.
See our ready-to-use Emergency Change Package with a 6-Week Transition Plan to stand down staff during coronavirus at our website: www.passionpioneers.com.au/changepackagecoronavirus
IDEA #1: Start with “Why?”
My first idea is to have open communication with a really strong, solid strategic imperative attached to it - the "Why?". Why it's so important that the organisation goes through this particular change, in order to set you up for the future. So having this really strong "why" is essential to having buy-in for your staff, and having them get onboard with your restructure.
IDEA #2: Clear timelines that you stick to
There is no point having a well-laid plan but keep missing deadlines and milestones. If you do that, people will become mistrustful. They'll start to feel confused and uncomfortable. To keep them onboard through the journey, make sure that there are really clear timelines. If there's a reason for those timelines to have to change, make sure that you explain again: "why?". Why does it have to change, and what's going to happen instead? Make sure that clarity around timing and process is always communicated, always understood, and that people have the chance to ask clarifying questions about it.
IDEA #3: Support with Change
The last idea is to have a really comprehensive change program and support services. You might have a fantastic HR team, fantastic leaders, fantastic managers; but, they might not be equipped to handle this particular change. So by using dedicated change professionals in this restructure, you'll get a nice, comprehensive change plan, as well as the professional support services. And, better yet, get staff involvement throughout the change program. You can ask for volunteers and have people delegated (assigned by their managers to participate). The volunteers will bring enthusiasm, a level of interest, and they'll get some great development opportunities. And the delegates might just be really solid people who understand and know the business, know the culture, know the people, to really kind of blend it and bring it all together.
I'm Lata Hamilton - the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, a Change Management consultancy specialising in digital transformation, operating model changes, and new ways of working and leadership.
Grab my free Creative Launch Ideas Guide with 53 ways to bring your next Change and Transformation to life - download it here.
And if you'd like my help with your next change or building leadership capability for your team, get in touch with me here.