6 Tips For Business Reorganisation

restructureReorganisations are commonplace in the world of work. They always have been, and probably always will be.

Continuously changing environments mean that businesses will always need to adapt, to disrupt, to fracture and to realign themselves in order to respond and remain competitive.

Reorg’s are often a daunting task and a bad reorg can take years to neutralise and correct, leaving a trail of disruption in its wake, with distrust, and disappointment becoming a hallmark of the culture left behind. But a good reorganisation can help give the business room to grow, address issues that the current design simply cannot solve, and create a ‘clean slate’ with which to transcend.

Here’s my 6 tips to you, that I have learned from my experiences with reorganisations in the past, that I hope will help you in the future.

1 – Start with lots of ‘what’ questions

I know it sounds simple, but before any form of reorg is being planned, ask yourself lots of what questions, such as;- what you are trying to achieve, what are all the issues that you are trying to solve, what will success look like, what will failure look like, what will failure feel like, what are all the options to be considered instead of a reorg, what makes a reorg the best option, what issues will you come across during the process, what group of employees will you need to discuss the reorg with and what will you tell them? Keep asking ‘what’, it’ll be worth it.

The more planning that takes place the better, but that planning must also take place before a reorg is decided, not after it’s been decided, so that important questions are not missed.

2 – Decide who owns the decision and project – it probably shouldn’t be HR.

Agents of change we are, owners of change, in this context, we probably shouldn’t be. If the above ‘what’ section has been carried out correctly, then the reason for the change should be clear, and ‘to make HR’s lives easier’ will not be the main driver! This process will be to better serve the organisation and so business leaders should take ownership over it. No manager I have ever met has enjoyed decisions being forced upon them or things being done ‘to them’, so their ownership, and critically their input, is vital. If they aren’t on board and don’t take accountability for it’s success, then they aren’t appropriately invested in making it work.

3 – Plan, Plan, Plan

Great reorganisations can still result in toxic situations if they aren’t handled correctly, and quite often, badly handled reorg’s are only as a result of poor planning.

I’ll save you the ‘5 P’s’ line, but planning is everything and this really is one of those situations where you should try to plan for as much as you possibly can. Plan a sequence of events, create a communication plan, plan for unlikely but possible issues as well as likely issues. Plan for things going wrong and plan for ‘word getting out’. Plan for things not going to plan. Plan for workplace disruption and uncertainty. Plan, plan, and plan some more until you are comfortable that you have what you need to do a professional job.

4- Communication Is Key

Knowing what to communicate and crucially, when, is absolutely key so always try to manage the message from start to finish, but remember that people are people, and things that might affect them personally, will resonate with them on a more sensitive and deeper level.

People have a right to now what is going on around them in relation to matters that affect them, but as business leaders you also have an obligation not to create unnecessary hysteria. So create a communication strategy and put real effort into it – good comms is often the decisive factor in whether things have been handled well or handled badly.

If you envisage that the reorg is not going to result in any redundancies then get that out there straight away, and unfortunately if redundancies are possible, then treat your workforce with respect and be honest with them. If you are going to take any special measures to ensure that nobody’s livelihood is affected in any major way, such as ‘red-circling’ of salaries and so on, then alleviate those concerns early on, after all, what moral reason would you have for not alleviating these concerns?

5 – Treat everyone with respect

Things might get awkward, complicated, personal even, but always try to treat people with respect. Reorg’s are emotive and this often brings out the best and worst in people, but if you keep focused,  remain dignified and treat everyone respectfully, then it will just be that little bit easier for all concerned.

6 – It’s not over when it’s over

The reorg is complete, reporting lines changed, new contracts issued, development plans in place, the last line on the communication plan is done so it’s over, right? Wrong. Most reorgs forget the post-activity evaluation although it’s really important. Post-activity evaluations will help identify any areas that need to be redeveloped or amended, and don’t take it personal if something you designed didn’t quite work during the implementation – organisations are fluid and reorganisations will need to be considerate of that. What is important is recognising that some changes and tweaks will always need to be required.

Finally, learning lessons during the evaluation will be massively helpful to you in the future – because it’s inevitable that you’ll probably need to reorganise again in the not-to-distant future.

I hope this helps.

The Art Of Employee Relations

shaking-hands-image-drawing

We hear more and more about collective workforce disputes as businesses continue to look to restructure their operations in order to survive, compete, or grow, and these disputes have received something of a renaissance in recent years.

A quick glance at the national news outlines the various ballots and strikes continuing to take place at businesses right throughout the UK, such as Southern Rail, the Prison Service and Tata Steel. This industrial action is for a range of reasons too, including changes that could affect the health and safety of workers, employee’s working conditions or changes to pension arrangements.

An interesting development recently occurred at Southern Rail where employees who were members of the ASLEF union rejected a deal to resolve the ‘driver-only’ train dispute, a deal that ASLEF was recommending that their members accept, with this case being of particular interest due to the fact that Unions usually negotiate to the point of being confident that the deal they put forward to their members is more than likely going to be accepted.

HR have always played a key role in employment disputes and yet it does not seem to be mentioned as a core skill in the future direction often talked about by HR stakeholders. In the continued quest for HR to become strategic business partners, working proactively to develop organisations and the like, it is always important to remember that good employee/industrial relations and the management of such from a HR point of view, truly is, an art.

I was really fortunate to grow up in a true IR climate in the world of steelmaking. With colourful characters from a management and union side, I was given fantastic exposure as an up and coming HR professional to experience that world and understand how it works. I got to understand how important the mutual relationship was, and how issues could be addressed behind closed doors, out in the open, and even in those ‘tricky situations’ where the deal agreed behind closed doors was then played out in the open for full effect.

I often recall my first day in Steelmaking where I was introduced as a HR apprentice to a union representative who asked my boss if that meant I was a ‘Trainee Bastard’. I know it sounds bad, but I found it amusing, and I loved every minute in that environment.

But what I and my other ‘junior’ HR colleagues learned during this period, was a set of skills that nothing could have prepared us for, not the world of academia, not through our professional membership, and not in non-unionised environments. We learned the art of employee relations through watching how Employee Relations managers and Industrial Relations Directors operated. We watched them strategise, develop consultation plans, play a ‘chess game’ when considering what decisions they could and couldn’t make, watched them pick their battles and know when to deal. We also watched them love, almost every minute of it, unless the consultation was to discuss job losses, when conversations were more reserved and respectful. These skills were critical in the industries in which we operated.

My concern is that I gather this is now something of a dying skill, but if the recent news stories as I mentioned above are anything to go by, then these skills need to continue to be developed or businesses will suffer. Unions have continued to develop these core skills, largely as this continues to form a fundamental part of their job description, so if businesses fail to develop skills to represent their interests and their side of the debate, then employee relations disputes are in danger of no longer being a level playing field.

The rise of technology, automation, the fear of ‘robots are going to take our jobs’ and a difficult economic climate, means that businesses are going to need to consult and modify their working practices, terms and conditions, and even physical environments in the not-to-distant future which I predict will mean continued industrial action as it is inevitable that any proposed changes will not be to everyone’s satisfaction. And if the industrial action is going to continue, then the skills within the business environment to respond to this, will continue to be needed. So maybe developing HR professionals in the art of employee relations, needs a renaissance too.