Restructuring your workforce: Best practice for employers

At our latest networking event, we had the opportunity to pick the brains of several heads of projects and PMO professionals about the challenges they face when managing a projects and programmes function. This topic sparked some fascinating discussions between the attendees over which issues they felt were most pressing and which solutions they felt worked most effectively.

Out of all the challenges that our attendees mentioned, restructuring a workforce was one that seemed to get everyone talking. From finding the right mix of people and skills to shifting focus in new directions, the group had all experienced various challenges when undergoing workforce restructures. The most common of which was keeping the existing workforce happy and motivated during this period of change. If the wrong approach is used, the process of the change is far less likely to succeed.

Thanks to their years of experience in being involved and managing workforce restructures, the group was able to offer some interesting tips and insights on best practice for this inevitable business change. We’ve decided to share some of their ideas in this blog so other businesses, who want to adapt and reorganise their workforce, can learn how to keep their employees on side.

Consult with your employees

If you truly want the restructure to work, you need to organise collective or individual consultations with your employees throughout the process. Keeping them in the dark and expecting them to quickly adapt will only cause unnecessary upset, stress and frustration that will make the process far more difficult to execute smoothly and successfully.

Communication is absolutely key in restructures so set up your employee consultations as a forum for genuine, open conversations. Your goal is to explain why the restructure is happening, while also making your employees feel that they’re in a collaborative and comfortable environment where they can share their views. Talk them through the process, whether that be the redundancy process or how their new responsibilities will be organised, so they have a clear understanding of what’s coming next. This will encourage conversations about potential creative solutions you can implement, can help with negotiations and increase engagement and motivation too.

Be aware that, depending on the scale and size of your restructuring, you may have legal obligations to carry out consultations and notifications under your company’s employment agreements. So discuss the formal process with your HR department to ensure you follow the correct legal boundaries and procedures to the letter.

Use assessment tools

Deciding which of your employees deserves to stay and who needs to go is understandably one of the most difficult aspects of a workforce restructure. Choose the wrong people and you could face further difficulties down the line, that waste time and money you might not have. So the pressure is on to get it right first time around.

To help you to make a forward-thinking final decision, you can use assessment methods such as competency-based interviews to determine which strengths and weaknesses your employees have that will benefit your business in future. The results will tell you which of your employees will perform well following the restructure and who will oppose it at every hurdle. It can help you to separate the skillsets of employees with identical job responsibilities and makes the process of employees redundancies fairer because it removes all emotion and favouritism.

While it's good to consider relevant skillsets in your final decision, don't forget about personal factors too. You'll want to keep employees who are also team-players, adaptable and patient as you go through this major change. You can learn more about the personality and attributes of each individual employee by asking for detailed reports and feedback from their line managers. This again will make your final decision all the more easier.

Set up development programs

Restructuring more often than not results in employees being required to change teams, take on new roles and learn new skills. But without sufficient training, this transition can be slow and problematic for everyone. It can also cause havoc with your employee loyalty and satisfaction levels which can lead to a mass walk-out if you’re not careful.

This is why it’s crucial that you set up development programs that enable the employees you decide to keep on to settle into their new roles with ease. These shouldn’t necessarily start after the restructuring process has been completed. It’s more beneficial to start your employees training as soon as possible and update it on a regular basis. Opt for development programs that not only measure performance but are readily available and mobile so training can be completely conveniently.

Cross-skilling your employees can be particularly helpful during a restructure because it gives them the means to take on a variety of roles and responsibilities during this period of change. This can not only motivate your teams but also ensures your business continues functioning effectively. Mentoring programs with managers can be a great way to achieve this, but organisations will need to provide additional support and incentives to do this in amongst their other tasks.

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Tilden Lamb

16th November

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