navigating company restructuring

February 22, 2024 •

6 min reading

Navigating company restructuring: Building resilience through change

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In the ever-evolving corporate landscape, the rhythm of change often means company restructuring. While these transformations are sometimes crucial for growth, they bring forth a set of emotions, such as fear, insecurity, sadness, surprise, confusion, etc.

Navigating through company restructuring poses its challenges, yet employing specific tools can significantly ease the process for both employees and the leadership team; allowing for a smoother transition and cultivating resilience amid change.

Joan Beets, Managing Partner in Executive Search & Management Consulting at KennedyFitch, and Martine Corthésy, Founder & Professional Certified Coach for 19 years, offered valuable insights at a "Women in Leadership" event hosted at EHL. Let's delve into these reflections together.

Grappling with the challenges of restructuring

"Change is the only constant thing in life – and in business" - Joan Beets

Company restructuring, a complex process, fundamentally alters the operational and organizational fabric of a company. It aims to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and shift strategic focus. However, this metamorphosis also brings with it a wave of uncertainty surrounding job security, shifts in roles or leadership, and potential changes in work culture. This can potentially lead to stress, anxiety, and even a sense of loss among the workforce. It's essential to acknowledge these feelings as a part of the change process.

"It is simply horrible when people do not know what is happening and are scared to come to work." - Joan Beets

According to a McKinsey Global Survey, amidst restructuring, 38% of employees found themselves distracted in their day-to-day activities, while initiatives pertaining to growth stalled. The survey further revealed that 66% of what is considered a successful company reorganizations had developed a clear communication plan for all internal and external stakeholders.

Embracing the power of communication

In the face of company restructuring, open and transparent communication plays a pivotal role. Employees deserve to know the reasons for restructuring and the expected outcomes. A clear, proactive communication strategy can help share information with the employees and ensure collective awareness of the process. Regular updates can help alleviate concerns and prevent the spread of misinformation or rumors.

Furthermore, fostering an open dialogue can bridge the gap between the management and the employee perspectives, expectations, and concerns.

If managers and executives do not know what the next steps will be, they should rather communicate that than to just stay silent and create more uncertainty for their employees.

"They can say: I do not know yet, and I will know by ..., hopefully." - Joan Beets

Including employees in the conversation about change can also be beneficial - if it is possible. This can involve seeking their input, addressing their concerns, and reassuring them about their value and role in the company. Otherwise, people just feel like a pawn in the play.

"There are times when management can include employees in discussions and the decision-making process, and times when this is not possible. From what I observed, the most important is to communicate clearly about the process as it goes to insure you build trust instead of distrust." - Martine Corthésy

The role of leadership in navigating change

Effective leadership plays a critical role in steering an organization through periods of restructuring. Leaders can guide their teams through the change, inspire confidence, and have a stronger chance to facilitate resilience among their employees and peers.

They could plan for a support structure to help employees take up new roles and responsibilities during the restructuring, clarify what each employee's new job will entail. They can also encourage employees to take advantage of training and development opportunities that can help them prepare for new positions.

Leaders can also offer support and resources, such as counseling services, career coaching, and other activities, to employees who may experience stress as a result of the company's restructuring efforts.

Other than that, leaders could be supportive of their team by inspiring trust and hope - "we can do this" - and demonstrating a clear vision for the future and showing empathy.

"Supporting employees in a time of re-structuration is not easy, and there is not one perfect recipe or remedy. People are so individual and have different needs, some like to go through it alone, others want support. The ideal when possible would be to ask what is needed, offer different approaches, encourage personal responsibility and support diversity in needs." - Martine Corthésy

Showing vulnerability is a strength

Furthermore, even if vulnerability is often looked at as weakness, it is, in fact, a strength and sign of good leadership.

"Sometimes we need to acknowledge by saying out loud that changes can be very hard and messy. Being real and transparent about it can paradoxically have a significant positive impact" - Martine Corthésy

In the face of corporate restructuring, embracing unpredictability becomes a powerful strategy. It's acknowledging the uncertainty as a threat and as an opportunity for growth. Instead of fixating on the aspects beyond control, employees can focus on their responses to the change, crafting a resilient melody in the face of upheaval.

Cultivating a strong corporate culture

During restructuring, it's vital for leaders to be fair and consistent. Decisions about layoffs or job changes should be based on objective criteria, such as performance metrics. They should consider long-term objectives and anticipated results while making restructuring decisions.

Furthermore, leaders should foster an "acknowledging" culture. Despite restructuring being a lengthy process, it's crucial to celebrate small wins along the way. This can help maintain a sense of community and keep employees' engagement and morale high.

Honoring the past

Restructuring is not an easy process, not for the employees nor for the people making the decisions. They need to honor the past, see what has worked and what will still work and what not to make sure the company is future-proof.

"We do not take enough time to look and celebrate what we have achieved. We also sometimes have to take time to give credit where credit is due and not only discuss the changes." - Joan Beets

"It is, in fact, important and useful to remember where we come from and go down memory lane." - Martine Corthésy

Building resilience: The key to navigating change

Resilience, the ability to adapt to adversity or significant stressors, is a crucial trait for navigating company restructuring. It involves the capacity to bounce back from difficult experiences and adapt to new circumstances. For example, practicing together a mindset of continuous learning can make a difference, while acknowledging that each individual will evolve at different speeds which will require agility. This involves viewing the restructuring process as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than a threat.

Lean on your support system

Having a strong support system, both within and outside the workplace, enhances resilience. This could include mentors, colleagues, friends, or family members who provide emotional support.

"It is important to have a set of people you can go to. Have a sounding board: Somebody to go to vent to and will hold space for you, but also someone you can go to, and they will give you advice and solutions." - Joan Beets

Another influential aspect that can help to build resilience is practicing self-care. This involves, for example, setting boundaries, prioritizing personal needs, and ensuring a healthy work-life balance. Taking a break, saying no to social obligations or events and setting boundaries also go hand in hand with self-care.

"Supporting other colleagues in the process is one thing, but if you do not feel like going to that after-work-drink with your teammates because you do not have the energy for it, just say no. Set the boundaries you need for your well-being and preserve your energy." - Martine Corthésy

Check-in with yourself

Resilience is a very personal process which requires regular check-ins and prioritizing self-care.

"Some people charge their battery by going to a concert or running a marathon, others like to stay in bed and watch Netflix or bake a cake. You have to listen to yourself, to your heart, to your body. How are you feeling today? What is it that you need today? - You have to be kind to yourself, when you have a bad day, you have a bad day and that's OK. But at the same time, also having the courage and the trust in yourself to keep going that better days will come." - Joan Beets

In conclusion, successfully navigating company restructuring presents challenges, yet it can also serve as an opportunity. Starting by being open to unpredictability, practicing self-care, fostering open communication, and leveraging strong leadership are key strategies that enable employees and executive teams to navigate these changes effectively, emerging stronger on the other side.

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