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Best Practices for Managing Changes that Impact Employee’s Jobs: A Case Study

I’m working with a client on a major initiative that will impact their employees’ jobs. It won’t mean there will be lay-offs within the organization, but rather significant restructuring of roles and responsibilities and some relocations.

The company has eight (8) offices throughout the United States and in Canada. They are consolidating departments and offices and will be moving employees to various locations and, in some cases, to different roles within the organization. They are reducing from eight (8) offices to six (6) offices and from over 20 departments (many of which are redundant) to just about 10. This is mainly impacting the director level and below within the organization and about 450 jobs overall. As the company has grown, it has gotten a bit “messy.” The consolidation will enable for improved efficiencies and effectiveness in meeting client needs.

As you can imagine, employees are worried. Although they are aware of this initiative and have been told that jobs will not be lost and all employees are being retained, they are, understandably, nervous about what that means exactly – especially if some roles are being restructured and some offices are closing down.

Here are some best practice steps we have taken/are taking to ensure employees understand the process, what is happening and why and are communicated with regularly. We…

  • Visited all eight (8) offices early on in the process to discuss:
    • What was happening and an estimated timeline
    • Why it was happening – benefits to the organization which included long-term growth potential, reduced costs and improved interactions within the organization and with clients
    • And emphasized that there would be no loss of jobs
  • Set up an internal portal (using Microsoft® SharePoint) where employees could go to see updated information about the initiative
  • Pulled together a project team to accomplish the initiative with representation from each group/department being impacted by this initiative
  • Developed a change management process – how will employees be relocated, what are “work at home” options, how will employees be selected for new roles/responsibilities, what training will need to take place and how will that training be sourced/developed, etc.
  • Developed a project plan to ensure that we had reasonable timelines to accomplish everything – keeping mind when this started the holidays were not too far in the future
  • Developed a communication plan to ensure that we had folks in place to consistently communicate what was happening, changes in plans, etc. We asked a variety of people to take responsibility for communications given the massive communications that were required for this initiative to be successful

And, possibly even most importantly, we socialized (and continue to do so!) this initiative in a variety of ways to keep people engaged and motivated. We used a socialization plan to do so. Socialization included – besides the offices visits we conducted in the beginning before actual start of the project – emails, updates in the online newsletter, department meetings both in person and via virtual attendance, all staff meetings, and through one-on-one conversations with some individuals who were impacted and more worried about the end result than others. Certainly we also used the portal for socialization and, in many cases, pointed employees over to the portal for more details.

We have already developed outline for the training programs that will be required to get employees up to speed in new roles and to undertake new responsibilities. All employees who need training will be trained before they move to their new role and will be provided support for a 3 – 6 month time period. Developing the training outline and sharing that with employees along with the fact that we will train them early on and provide support for up to 6 months has really enabled employees to get behind the effort. They are engaged in the process and excited about the opportunities. We highlighted the benefits to employees who are taking on new roles and responsibilities. And, with a plan in place, they are confident they will succeed. This was essential if we want this initiative to succeed overall.

Summary

When undertaking an initiative that will impact employees – even in small ways – be sure to share information regularly and communicate frequently via a number of channels. Be prepared to answer questions about how employees will be impacted, why the change initiative is happening and the benefits to both the organization and employees, and how employees will be supported overall throughout the process and after implementation. Remember – the more you communicate and are open in sharing information (even if you don’t yet know the answers!) – the more comfortable and confident employees will feel overall.