Businesses seek to stay competitive and grow through reorganizations, including mergers, divestitures, and acquisitions (M&A). But this business gain is usually accompanied by people pain. While company leaders may be crystal clear about the benefits they expect from the transformation, the people in the organization may be distressed by the same change. Not knowing how the change will impact them personally and professionally means employees can react in many ways including:
- Losing performance momentum resulting from uncertainty and distraction
- Spreading rumors that distract others from focusing on their jobs (typically in the absence of communication from the company)
- Resigning to seek the certainty of a new job
According to research, the failure rate for M&A can be as high as 90 percent. Although the change may have clear financial benefits, how employees feel and react has the potential to make or break the transaction. It is dangerous for leaders to assume their people will feel grateful to have survived the change and kept their jobs, especially if they mistrust management and are angry with how the company treated them and their colleagues.
Before the reorganization is consummated, wise leaders will develop:
- Communication strategies to determine what leaders and supervisors say and how to say it. Telling employees with transparency and honesty as much as possible about the reasons for the change and how it will impact them will help employees buy in and move forward positively.
- Culture assessments and plans for building the reorganized company’s culture. Identifying similarities and differences, as well as strengths and weaknesses, between the old and new organization will speed up the transition.
Once the shape of the reorganized company is established, it’s time to deal with:
- Gaps in the new organization, by providing career expertise to help in the redeployment of employees to minimize the need for additional recruiting to fill roles that are critical to the new company’s success.
- Overlaps between duplicated roles, by providing career transition coaching (outplacement) for people who do not fit the new company, to ease their transition into new roles, as well as minimize disruption to the business.
- Alignment of people with strategy, by creating and implementing professional development that leads to better employee engagement and retention, addressing the 4 R’s (Relevance, Relationships, Recognition, and Reputation), as well as the 5th R (Career Resilience) to achieve success in times of change.
Act early and decisively, with clear and honest communication, to demonstrate to your people that they are important to the company’s success and minimize the loss of talented individuals key to the future of the new organization. Get help from an organization experienced in planning and operationalizing people change strategies. Sophisticated outplacement and development tools, coaching, and support will enable leaders to move from putting out organizational fires to instead focus on building the new organization.
Additional posts from Brian Hinchcliffe:HR Strategy | Talent Management