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Charlotte Bates | 1 July 2022

Restructuring with humanity

Putting your people at the centre of a restructure process

With the increased cost of living and talk of a recession looming, we know some organisations are struggling and may need to make the difficult decision to downsize or change the way they are structured to weather a challenging period.

Going through a restructure process can be an unsettling and challenging time for business owners, leaders, and employees. However, we’ve seen that actively putting your people at the centre of a restructure process, while also balancing your organisation’s needs, results in outcomes which prioritise transparency, simplicity and respect. Taking this approach means that employees will feel that they have been treated with dignity and can move on to the next phase of their career with positivity.

Minimum requirements of a fair restructure

  • You need to have genuine business reasons for making any changes (e.g., downsizing or reorganising roles due to financial pressures, changes to roles to align to a new strategy. Restructuring to deal with performance or personality issues is not a genuine business reason!).
  • Take the time to get your business case and proposal for change in good shape – the more information you can provide up front the better as it helps show how justifiable the proposed changes are. In addition, employees will have the information they need for meaningful consultation which can reduce delays.
  • While cutting costs will be a genuine reason for proposing to reduce roles, you still need to explain why certain roles are potentially impacted and demonstrate how the selected roles will contribute to savings identified.
  • Following a fair and robust process is critical – this means meaningful consultation, giving people all relevant information about the proposed changes (including the reasons for them and the proposed selection process, if applicable), allowing them time to give feedback, and genuinely considering the feedback BEFORE making any decisions about any changes.
  • Be responsive and communicative throughout the process, e.g., it is ok to extend timeframes if you tell people why and as soon as possible.

Restructuring with empathy: taking an employee centered approach

While the above is the bare minimum, we recommend going further to create the best possible employee experience through a difficult process. When planning your restructure, try putting yourself in your employees’ shoes - what would you like to be told, how would you like to be made to feel, how would you like to be treated? Some things to consider include:

  • Whether you can engage with employees early to get their thoughts on what changes could be made before drafting a proposal for consultation. They may have some ideas on how to drive efficiencies that could prevent a restructure altogether.
  • What information needs to be provided and the best way to provide it taking into account individual needs, including cultural needs, language and disability requirements, and how people like to be communicated with.
  • Whether you have individual meetings (important for impacted employees) or group meetings, and ensuring that you have enough time for people to digest the information and ask questions.
  • Where and when you meet with impacted employees - do you have somewhere private? Can you meet later in the day so they can go home if they are upset?
  • What support your people may need, e.g., EAP, other leaders being available in case the impacted employees feel more comfortable talking to someone else, drop in Q and A sessions.
  • If a selection process is required, what will be the best way for employees to showcase their skills and knowledge and capabilities.
  • How you can understand what each employee’s preferences are, e.g., , how they would like the final decision to be announced to the team, what they need during their notice period and how they can depart with dignity.
  • Can you use your networks to help people who are to be made redundant find another role?
  • How you support people remaining with your organisation as they will also be impacted by the change - they may be losing a good work friend or could be worried about their own role and the possibility of further cuts.
  • How you motivate your future workforce and make sure they understand where your organisation is heading following the changes.

Placing your people at the heart of the process can help them exit your organisation with their mana intact and move on with dignity.

We are here to support you if you are considering reorganising your business to respond to the current financial situation. We can help with every stage of the process from designing your structure, working through steps of the change process and supporting with the implementation of a new structure.

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