PositivePeople July 23, 2020 No Comments

How to Build Empathy into your Restructure

As a result of the impact of COVID 19 on organisations, the reality is that many businesses are needing to restructure to remain viable. For those employees affected, a job loss, in addition to the multi-faceted anxiety that this pandemic has created, can be devastating.   

We all necessarily have to take note of the legalities of how to implement a change process in a way that is fair and minimises the risk of any personal grievances being raised.

Rigidly following due process does minimise potential risk. It can also sometimes leave the impression, with both those affected and those employees who remain in the business, that the employer is cold hearted and uncaring. Given the COVID 19 situation, these perceptions can be especially strong.

Change processes are more successful for all involved with empathy built in along the way.

The feeling that exists within the organisation during the restructuring process and afterwards is a clear indicator of morale and also how employees view how the process has been handled and communicated. This in turn affects engagement and productivity, as well as potentially leaving an indelible mark, either positive or negative, on the organisation’s employment brand.

So, the ideal is to strike an even balance by following a fair process, but doing so with a very strong sense of caring and empathy for all of those affected, both directly and indirectly.

 

Outlined below are some practical pointers of how to show caring during the process:

  • Ensure that you plan the restructure very carefully so that it is professionally done
  • Make sure that an essential element of your plan includes a filter of empathy and caring throughout
  • Develop well thought out and carefully worded communications. As with any communications on a difficult subject, the facts have to be stated, but it is how you say and communicate them that makes the difference. Maintaining confidentiality is important. However, it is helpful to have others in the team understanding the need to be supportive of those directly involved
  • Take the time to put yourself into others’ shoes and tread lightly
  • After outlining the proposal, offer to allow impacted individuals to go home for the rest of the day or deliver the proposal mid-afternoon and let impacted employees go home then
  • Understand that different people respond differently and take that into account at the time
  • Outline access to the company EAP service or in the absence of this, the Government funded ‘Need to Talk? 1737’ service for counselling support
  • At the proposal meeting, offer time to employees during the work day to get their thoughts straight around what feedback they may wish to provide and prepare for the feedback meeting. Arrange cover if they need it
  • Realise it can be a difficult process for all concerned – CEO, Manager implementing the change, impacted employees and other employees. Be available to hear and discuss concerns from anyone throughout the process. If the issues raised are beyond your skill set, encourage people to access EAP or 1737 or seek other appropriate outside assistance
  • Sometimes the content of a proposal may take a while to process. Be available for additional questions or meetings if you think your employees require it
  • For those whose roles are disestablished, provide support with up-dating CV’s, LinkedIn profiles and practical guidelines on navigating the job market at this time

Separating from a business is counter-intuitive for a human being’s natural desire for social connection and approval. Showing caring and empathy never goes amiss, and can work towards reducing the stress for all concerned. Apart from being the right thing to do, especially at this time, it is also sets your organisation up as one that will be respected for its ethos.

This will have positive spin offs of loyalty, commitment and engagement from those remaining.

If you need help navigating restructuring, please make contact with us. Positive People have over 25 years of experience partnering with medium sized businesses. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz 

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