Checklist for maintaining fairness and trust during a re-structure
Studies show that workforce restructures can have a significant and negative emotional impact on all employees, whether or not they are directly impacted by the changes. This impact is felt before, during and after the official process of change, and can have a long-term impact on performance.
However, studies also show that the way that a restructure is managed really matters: if your employees trust you and believe that you have handled things fairly, you will bring people with you.
This checklist is designed to offer you some ideas for building trust and fairness into your restructure process in a way that works for your organisational context.
Reflect on your organisational culture/ psychological contract: what do your employees expect from you?
A psychological contract is made up of the spoken and unspoken perceptions employees and employers have of their obligations and expectations of one another. For example, employees in an organisation that has historically valued entrepreneurialism often have a different mindset towards change than those in an organisation that has historically valued stability.
If in doubt regarding employee expectations, ask them how they feel about the changes in the organisation and how you can make the process easier for them?
This can be done one-to-one, in a group discussion or via electronic surveys, depending on what is appropriate to your organisation.
Don’t forget to consider unspoken assumptions and/or histories of previous restructures; these will affect how any new restructure is viewed.
If you are new to the organisation, speak to others in the HR, the leadership team and line managers about any lessons that have been learned from the past.
Use your understanding of your organisational culture to prioritise different ways to maintain fairness and trust.
Key steps before a restructure begins
Write a business case for why you are restructuring (see the guide on How to manage a restructure for more information).
Involve your employees as much as possible in developing the business case for change.
Encourage open discussion (at all levels) about where the organisation is heading and encourage everyone to share their concerns, suggestions and ideas.
Consider what type of staff engagement would be most useful to your organisation (one-to-one discussion in supervision meetings, small group discussion at team meetings/ away days, or big events for whole departments/ organisation-wide at staff away days).
Ensure that you provide opportunities for both written and verbal feedback to ensure that employees who are less confident raising issues in front of others still feel heard.
Ensure you give opportunities for staff to rank and test ideas, rather than simply brainstorming solutions (this will make sure the best ideas rise to the top and make it much easier for senior leaders to actually use staff input).
Be clear with all staff about how you are going to utilise their input in preparing the final business case for change, so that they can see that their input was meaningful to the final decision (even if their preferred option hasn’t been taken forward).
Key steps during the restructure process
Talking to all your employees throughout the change process is key: create a plan for how you are going to communicate the need for change with your employees (see the communication plan template and guide on How to manage a restructure for more information).
Double check that all employees know how the restructure will affect them personally. This is usually via line management discussion.
Ensure all employees know who they can discuss queries, concerns or ideas with. This could be a line manager, HR contact or senior leader.
Make sure all employees are clear about how complaints/ grievances can be raised and address.
Provide ongoing coaching to those who are directly communicating with employees about change (it will be emotionally draining for them too and it can help to have someone trusted to discuss it with).
Set up a clear approach to sharing redeployment opportunities within the organisation. This should cover who can apply for which vacancies, how the application will work, the timeframes for applying, and how you will assess who is most suitable for the role (eg assessment centres, interviews, CVs).
Ensure that every employee know what the next step is for them at the end of the restructure.
Key steps after the restructure process
- Develop an exit support package for departing employees (where relevant), which could include:
- Incentives for voluntary redundancy, where appropriate (eg enhanced notice period or severance payments);
- Access to counselling or life coaching services;
- Individual or group outplacement support (helping employees to consider their career goals, individual strengths and developing a plan of action);
- Employability support (eg CV writing, interview skills training);
- Agreed written references.
- Develop a support package for “survivors” of change, which could include:
- Planning a formalised induction process for those changing roles or line management (this could include objective setting, peer mentoring, additional training, additional supervision meetings);
- Team building activities (bringing a new team together more regularly to start with, social activities or time together outside of the work environment);
- Opportunities to debrief regarding the change process; you need to cover what could be done better next time. This can be done via one-to-one/team/department/ organisation-wide discussions and/or via surveys;
- Counselling support.