Restructures are here to stay - get used to it
Updated: Apr 28
Restructures are a reality of workplaces today.
Organisational design is the hottest trend in industry. The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016 study found that 9 in 10 companies were planning to restructure:
Almost half (49%) of UK respondents said they have recently completed a restructure, while 42% are planning to or are currently undertaking the process. Just 7% had no plans to restructure...
Been there, done that
I know it too well – in my last 5 years of working every team I’ve been in has restructured. It hasn’t mattered if it’s Consumer Goods or Financial Services. If it’s Private Sector or Public. If I’m in a Marketing Team, or a PMO, or an IT Team. In one case, my entire company of 15,000 employees restructured. In one hit. Every division, every level, every leader, every employee.
So either I’m bad luck or restructures are just a normal part of working in today’s industries. Increased global market competition, innovative strategy, changing customer needs, flexible working, financial downturns, CEO turnover… organisational redesigns are often the answer.
A new phenomenon
It hasn’t always been like this – it’s changed. My dad worked in 1 company for some 20 years and in that time experienced about 5 restructures. Yet the 4 teams I’ve been in over the last 5 years have ALL restructured. There’s been roughly a 400% increase in the frequency of restructures over the past few decades.
But what hasn’t changed is people’s ability to understand, accept & positively experience a restructure.
For most employees – fear and panic set in immediately after the announcement. The organisational vision goes out the window as their lives are crushed by the overwhelming anxiety that they will lose their jobs – their livelihoods. It’s not called making a living for nothing. I’m a Change Manager and I’ve been faced with this reality in staff.
What keeps people going?
The strongest urge in the human body is survival. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs puts Physical Survival Needs as #1, not just for some, but for everyone:
This is the need for food, drink, shelter, sleep and oxygen. If a person cannot satisfy this basic survival need it dominates their interest and concern. A person who is cold, sick or hungry will not be very interested in socialising, learning or working.
Notice that – “or working”. Then the second level is Physical Safety Needs.
This is the need to feel safe in the world: to feel safe from personal danger and threats...When a person is fearful, all concentration goes to calming the fear with no thought for any other task.
A job means the ability to pay bills, put food on the table, send kids to uni, fund retirement – it means survival. And even more – it’s an identity, a pride, a reason for being, a source of fulfilment for many people. Your announcement just drove all that into the ground.
The consequences of restructures
You expect customer service standards not to waver. You ask for engagement to stay high. You cross your fingers that performance for the period won’t be impacted. You hope people’s morale and wellbeing doesn’t take too much of a hit. But you’re asking for all of this from a group of people who are in survival mode, whose fight-or-flight response has been triggered, who are operating on fear and stress. You’re trying to combat 6 million years’ worth of biological programming with an engagement plan on a Powerpoint slide. Good luck with that.
A new approach
A new global trend needs a new global approach. I say – restructure away! If you’re a CEO or senior leader, do whatever you know is necessary to keep your customers happy, your company profitable, and its survival in play. It’s not your job, it’s your duty.
But we need to start supporting the impacted people differently.
What you’ll see coming from me is a range of content and articles with one thought in mind – how you can help your people not just survive but thrive during your next restructure.
How you can make it a positive, transformational experience. And how you can truly reap the rewards of your endeavours. Sans Powerpoint.
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.
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