Running From Change: Employee Transition in the Wake of Organizational Shift.
Once companies have communicated there is going to be change, how do you persuade them to stay with your organization? It’s not 2008-2011 when opportunities were scarce — those with strong education and training, good performance records, and current industry experience are likely to find new positions in just a few months. But, even though there are opportunities in the market place-employees don’t necessarily want to leave their current organization or develop a job search strategy.
As employees begin to think about future plans either with their current company or a new opportunity it’s important for the HR team to move as quickly as possible on a couple of things including: clarification of roles and responsibilities, reporting relationships, and deciding if current staff fits the future organizational structure.
Change can heighten the possibility of a mass staff exodus, which can be detrimental to the institutional knowledge that’s needed to move ahead even though the company is going through a shift. There are other opportunities to offer current workforce, and some with costs associated. But, to be successful, the project budget may need to recognize these expenses as essential to reaching your future state organization. For example:
- Future opportunities. As quickly as is feasible, clarify and document how the new organization is going to be structured and staffed. Identify where job openings exist, and if practical, set up a recruitment process to focus on current employees for those open positions. The result is retention of critical institutional knowledge — as well as your best talent. At the same time, those who do not secure a position in the new organization, can begin to re-calibrate their expectations.
- Brush up job search skills. Many of your current employees may be somewhat “rusty” in their job search techniques. Engaging an outplacement firm to assist in reworking resumes and preparing for interviews may help re-position candidates to fill internal roles, as well as prepare them for re-employment outside the company. This same outplacement firm can also help organize on-site job fairs and staff an outplacement office one or two days a week during the transition. Some of the transitioning employees may also receive individual outplacement support after their separation date.
- Training for all. Offer to fund specific training to update or upgrade the skills transitioning employees will bring into the marketplace. Most, if not all of this effort can be contracted with a third-party education organization via on-line programs, and in many cases, certifications are offered with successful completion of many of these curricula. At the same time, don’t neglect those who will be transitioning to the new organization. Consider offering opportunities to deepen or expand expertise – whether that be in the form of external learning or training classes, or an internal onboarding process, setting goals through the normal performance systems and arranging peer-to-peer training to help orient those in transition to the norms of the organization. If there is an entire group getting transitioned, you may consider a more formal group orientation to the new business unit and timetable for the first 100 days incorporating team integration activities. Depending on the experience and knowledge of the outplacement firm you have engaged, they may be able to coordinate this effort through your internal Learning and Development team.
- What’s in it for me? The size and scope of the organizational change has a great impact on the transition timeline – while some are hurried, others may cross multiple months, quarters, or even years. The impact, especially to employees who do not have a specific future within the new organization, can be months away. That doesn’t mean they are unneeded or unnecessary. If it’s desired that current employees stay through the transition to manage the existing workload and projects AND support knowledge transfer, incentives (beyond traditional severance) can be attached to each employee’s transition timeline. And in other, more unique cases, there may even be an opportunity to enlist transitioning employees for more non-traditional roles based on specific needs within the organization. The employee becomes, in essence, a consultant or subcontractor.
- Educate Leaders: Take the time to prepare leaders to help employees with this transition. Whether the organizational change is perceived by the employee as positive or negative, he/she will need specific guidance to best navigate the challenging waters of transition. Too often, we assume our leaders know how to conduct coaching conversations, and while they may be an expert in their field, coaching an employee through what could be an emotional transition may require a new skill set.
Monica Morgan | Consultant | TayganPoint Consulting Group | firstname.lastname@example.org