The first in a three-part series on how businesses have redrawn the map after economic headwinds
After the seismic economic shift we witnessed between 2008 and 2012 – whether it was induced by business downturns, right sizing, outsourcing, or merger / acquisition – it became evident that something had to change…around change. Organizations of all shapes and sizes have grown to develop new practices to deal with both the emotion and the pitfalls.
In the series that will follow, we will focus on three sets of highly effective change practices – Communication, Transition Services, and Knowledge Transfer, which, when strategically orchestrated, form a toolkit of tactics and techniques to facilitate and support a successful transition to your future state.
Let’s talk first about Communication.
Imagine preparing for the major announcement of a planned organizational change – an event, organized as a global town hall for an entire division of your company. Your objective is to clearly articulate the plan for change along with opportunity/benefit statement about the decision – essentially, the reason(s) for the change. At a minimum, the message will include the what, the why and the when, followed by additional details designed to further educate and assuage fears about the change. Your hope is that your audience will understand the reasons for the change decision.
While preparing, you begin to recognize the weight of the message you’re delivering and the impact it’s going to have on the lives of many of the people hearing the message. The problem is that seconds after the words leave your lips, the realization will dawn on the impacted employees and render them completely unable to digest anything else. Despite your best efforts to provide more information, they have simply stopped absorbing anything further. Nonetheless, keep the dialogue going – encourage questions and push for further discussion. Keep communication channels open and flowing around the core message – updating and repeating it frequently throughout the transition, as you engage different communication channels. As you may have guessed, this is not going to be an enjoyable exercise.
In a recent engagement, we worked with a client who was challenged to reduce their global IT Services organization by 80% and simultaneously integrate a third-party outsourced services group. Not surprisingly, this generated a myriad of communication struggles as the organization attempted to manage the change with their employees, only some of whom would be transitioning to the future state organization. So, how did they go about alleviating the stress, maintaining organizational focus and retaining their top talent? The answer, in part, is scaled or scalable communication – clear messaging in all shapes and sizes, delivered at the right time, and to the right individuals.
- PRE-PLANNING. Eliminate as much uncertainty, as quickly as possible, for as many as possible. Seek out guidance and support from your HR business partner well in advance to prepare. This stage of the transition is a huge challenge especially in a global organization where work rules vary and may be constraining. Post revised or new positions and execute an internal-only recruitment / application process to better align your current talent pool against the positions in the new organization as quickly as possible. You want to avoid losing critical corporate knowledge as well as your strongest talent. At the same time, it is only fair to those impacted that they know their fate as soon as is practical.
- LARGE COMMUNICATION. We’ve essentially, already covered this one. The grand, town hall announcement: deliver your message, share the opportunities / benefit statement, the what-why-when, and your most pertinent details (even though they may fall on deaf ears). Keep communication active through a Q&A session and by facilitating further interaction and discussion in this larger forum. Open a transition Q&A mailbox so that employees can raise questions throughout the process; ensure that in-the-know resources readily respond so that information can be shared via a constantly updated FAQ.
- MEDIUM COMMUNICATION. Create an intranet site just for the organization in transition. It can be populated with town hall decks, FAQs, job openings for positions in the new organization, outplacement resources, and a rolling calendar of key events for employees who will remain with the company and those who will be transitioning. This is a self-serve opportunity for employees to better educate themselves on the topics and ideas that impact them most personally as well as a platform for social interaction and engagement.
- SMALL COMMUNICATION. Partnering with HR, departmental or functional leaders should host smaller team meetings so that employees understand the timeline and what’s expected of them during the transition. Outline the benefits and incentives to support the ongoing work of the company as well as any additional transition support. Eventually every transitioning employee will need at least one, one-on-one with HR to detail how the transition will play out for that individual employee.
Throughout these early days and weeks, utilize your various communication opportunities to personalize the transition and express empathy for those dealing with the change. With a strong set of transition service tools, you can confidently engage individuals facing the transition. We’ll discuss those in the next Best Practices Blog for Organizational Change.
Monica Morgan | Consultant | TayganPoint Consulting Group | firstname.lastname@example.org