“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. “- Charles Darwin, Origin of Species.2
In our changing world, corporate reorganizations result in centralization or decentralization measures based on business needs. Although not always a negative change, when employees hear the term “reorg” they immediately equate it with layoffs and presume the worst. This is a reminder that communicating change clearly and frequently while setting expectations for ongoing communications can prevent incorrect assumptions and rumors. Here are some suggestions:
- Carefully select the spokesperson and how the change will be communicated. Choose someone who is not only senior enough but also respected by employees. In the announcement, focus on the needs of the employees and cover the questions they likely will ask their manager or a fellow colleague. Only discussing the corporate rationale for the change is limiting. Some standard examples are: Why is this happening? When will it happen? Who will I report to? Are there more changes ahead?
- Ensure there is two-way communication. The biggest mistake some companies make is to deliver the change without offering an opportunity for employees to ask questions on an ongoing basis. It may be helpful to establish an email address or a Q&A box to receive questions. Then, share the answers publicly with employees as some may be wondering the same thing, but are afraid to ask. After some time has passed, conduct an employee survey and commit to sharing the results, even if they are negative, along with an action plan to address the results.
- Communicate often. Successful reorgs require more than a one-time communication. “You need to treat people with respect and dignity, being transparent and telling them what is happening and when. You need to keep communicating with people. The biggest mistake is to communicate once and think you are done.”3 In addition to a big announcement, companies should equip managers with information to use during their smaller department meetings that discuss the specifics for that group. This will give employees a better understanding of what it means for their role.
I have worked with numerous companies undergoing a variety of changes for many years. The successful ones work in advance of the announcement to prepare several layers of leadership in order to keep their staff engaged. You don’t need all the answers, but transparency will earn you loyalty in the long term.
What communications practices would you propose to a company undergoing a reorganization?
1 – http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/reorganization-without-tears
2 – http://www.consultparagon.com/blog/change-management-success-frequent-communication
3 – https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-two-biggest-communication-blunders-during-a-reorg
4 – https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/communicating-during-org-structure-changes/