4 Steps to HR management during an organisational restructure

Sharon Platts

By Sharon Platts

28 Feb 2019

The HR function is key to a successful organisational restructure. With numerous economic and political factors, like Brexit, causing many organisations to restructure, now is an important time for any organisation to be planning so that, if they decide to restructure,  it goes as smoothly as possible.

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With potential site closures, like those announced by Honda and others, entities merging, relocations being considered or organisations undergoing TUPE processes, the HR function will need to be involved from the off to keep employees engaged and happy throughout the process. Studies have shown the benefits of a happy, motivated workforce – but any organisational change, from contractual changes to office relocation, has the potential to demotivate and demoralise your organisation’s people. Downsizing, through site closures or otherwise, is a particular example.

The HR function needs to ensure that the organisation emerges from the other side of the restructure as smoothly as possible. They’ll be key in communicating to employees what changes are coming and how they will affect them. HR will also be essential in ensuring that these changes are successfully embedded across the organisation. With this in mind, providing support for your HR team during a corporate restructure can make a great difference to how well they perform.

Detailed below are the four phases in which the HR function makes a key contribution to corporate restructuring initiatives – and details of how HR can be supported at each step.

Step 1: Planning

The planning stages can make or break a restructuring process. The main tasks to consider are:

  • SettingSMART goals
  • Forecasting the cost of your transformation plan
  • Creating timelines for delivery of the project
  • Analysing the impact on your employees
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Identifying skills gaps in your delivery team
  • Devising an engaging communications plan.

This last point is especially important – without an effective communications plan, it will be much harder to keep employees aware and engaged with the change process. At this stage, in addition to the project plan, it’s also essential to:

  • Be clear on anticipated benefits of the restructure and how you are going to measure them. This is important for defining the success of your efforts and establishing accountability.
  • Have an honest view of the real costs of the restructure, including estimated impact on time and productivity.
  • Have enough resource ringfenced to implement the restructure whilst ensuring current work doesn’t suffer.
  • Build regular project management reviews into your timeline to make sure you deliver on time, and in budget.

On the subject of timing, keep in mind that there are also legal frameworks with their own strict timetables. Consultation periods are statutory, and if processes such as TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations) apply, there could be timetabling issues. Processes must be undertaken within set periods and this can be challenging, for example, if pensions need to be transferred from one scheme to another.

How can you be supported?

An effective plan will allow you to identify whether external support is needed to ensure success of your restructure. HR specialists can be used to supplement your HR team’s capacity if the team is too small – or if you don’t have a dedicated HR team at all. They can also give you access to skills or experience required to support the restructure that your team currently lacks. And lastly, HR specialists can boost your team’s agility as a resource you can quickly deploy and re-deploy as needed.

Step two: Launch

The ‘Go Live’ announcement is a crucial phase in the organisational restructuring process, with several important things to consider. To aid in the announcement, and avoid impacts on morale, you must:

  • Create engaging launch collateral that gives employees as much information as possible up front
  • Be prepared to respond to employees as and when they have questions
  • Keep employees in the loop with any new updates and explain how those changes impact them as individuals
  • Work with an awareness of the personal change curve; both by managing people through it and equipping managers with the ability to do so

How can you be supported?

Depending on the size and capabilities of your HR team, you may find it challenging to provide the right level of communication to the rest of the organisation, or you may find it hard to equip individuals – line managers especially – to support their reports through the change. External specialists in training and development can assist with the training and upskilling of employees, in addition to the communication pieces vital to a successful launch.

Step three: Delivery & Implementation

The strong, HR-led communication that you started at the launch needs to be maintained throughout the delivery and implementation stage. Similar levels of communication and transparency must be maintained as changes start to take hold and employees’ working lives are affected. At this stage the main tasks are:

  • Arranging meetings with any affected employees.
  • Delivering project milestones identified in the planning stage, along with in-flight reporting.
  • Delivering specific activities such as TUPE or potential redundancies, along with tracking and reporting on anyone affected.
  • Delivery of training, coaching and mentoring

That last point is important for all levels of your organisation. Line managers and senior leadership must be able to lead through change effectively and may need coaching in how to do this. Individuals may need training to assume new responsibilities as a result of the restructure, filling in gaps left by exiting employees or where their remit may have changed.

How can I be supported?

Training and coaching is a prime candidate for outsourcing to an external provider to take the burden off your internal team. At the same time, outplacement is a highly valuable service to provide for those employees being made redundant, keeping them and those employees remaining with you engaged and happy in their work.

Step four: Embedding & Review

After the restructure has taken place, it needs to be embedded in your organisation. This means:

  • Regularly checking that employees are motivated in their new roles, and possess the skills necessary to fulfil those roles.
  • Ensuring that the values of the organisation and the rationale behind the restructure are being lived up to

This is where proper goal-setting at the planning phase comes into its own. If your goals are set correctly, it will be easy to assess whether they have been achieved and to measure the success of your restructuring activities. When evaluating your efforts, it's essential that:

  • Your review is comprehensive and honest.
  • You assess ROI (Return on Investment) accurately.
  • You consider both business metrics and behavioural metrics as part of defining your success.

How can I be supported?

Given the importance of thoroughness and impartiality, an external partner is ideally placed to help work out what went right, what went wrong, why that was the case, what the consequences are and what next steps will be. And of course, those next steps should then go through the same process to ensure they’re affective. HR specialists, like Connor, are experts in communication, data management and post project analysis.

Finally

It’s important to note that these steps are not necessarily sequential. Plans, for example, need to be revisited frequently as circumstances change. So do implementation strategies, as the HR function and its potential support systems learn more about how the organisation functions and reacts in the organisational restructuring context.

Restructuring a company or public sector organisation can place extreme pressure on an HR function. If you'd like to know how specific outside expertise can support your HR professionals during this process, contact Connor or call on 01491 414 010. There's no obligation and any conversation will be completely confidential. We're happy to discuss ideas and talk about the problems and opportunities inherent in restructuring projects.

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