Years ago my former boss created some rules that should be in mind when dealing with restructurings. I managed to remember them and would like to share them here with you. If you want to know more about my former boss business, then visit his companies website…
- Trust and Transparency – the key to success
These are the cornerstones of restructuring communications. Without transparency, the workforce can have no real trust in their management. If the management don’t trust their employees, then no transparency is possible. In a stalemate situation, the management team should make the first move.
- Senior Management need to get engaged – and stay engaged
The role of the CEO is not to show up with the bad news and disappear. Consistent involvement in the communications for the duration of the restructuring shows that the issue is being taken seriously.
- Paint the big picture
It’s easy to focus on the short-term in a restructuring situation. But – barring catastrophe, the organization will outlive the turmoil. What is the long-term gain that falls out of the short-term pain?
- Treat people like people, not numbers
Restructuring decisions have a profound effect on people’s lives so make sure this emotional impact is both understood and taken into consideration by senior management: they should talk about their own reaction and emotions but communicate in a strongly fact-driven way with a clear explanation of the business goals.
- Accentuate the positive
In a period of bad news, it is easy to ignore the upside. The role of communications is to find the silver lining in the cloud and make sure that this is understood.
- Better to lose a limb than to bleed to death
If there is bad news, share it quickly, provide as much information as possible and, if anything, err on the side of caution. A series of restructuring announcements, each painting a worse picture than the previous one saps morale and breeds mistrust in management. Update employees whenever you can.
- Don’t confuse message and narrative
Messages are organisational DNA: they are replicable across geographies and events and have longevity. Message platforms provide consistency and give communications teams guidance in how to develop their local narratives. Narratives relate to individual events and may have a shelf-life of weeks – or even days. Don’t confuse the two.
- There is no internal and external story – only a story
It is unwise to assume that information provided internally will not leak externally. So, develop a communications narrative that covers all bases and all geographies. Make sure you inform internal audiences first, even if it is only a couple of minutes before the external announcement.
- Don’t forget the offline community
Especially in production facilities, large numbers of employees have no access to online materials – what is your strategy for engaging these groups?
- It’s personal – treat it that way
As far as possible – whether via senior management attendance at town hall meetings or management cascading programmes – make the time to reach out to people face-to face, on announcement day and subsequently.