Organizational Change: Timing Is Everything!

Every company goes through it – that point when business is struggling and, while looking for new ideas or solutions, the topic of “changing the organizational structure” comes up. This is probably more relevant in smaller companies where there is already a lack of structure or some people are tasked with wearing multiple hats.

The realization hits: What worked even 5yrs ago may not work now…so what to do to start turning a profit again?

Three areas will come into focus: product or service being offered, the clientele you are pitching to and the staffing and duties of your employees. That last point – looking internally – is usually the one item skipped, believing that the problem lies with the first two points. But there will eventually come a time when the company needs to look at how it is structured, how the job descriptions are written, who they have doing the jobs and whether or not all of that is still effective or not.

We have become a fast-paced world – focused on quick fixes and answers to everything so we can move on to the next step or project. But when it comes to making changes within your organizational, those that take their time to think it out, carefully plan it and share it with the company at the right time find the transition smoother and effective than “dropping the bomb.”

Whether small or large, there are factors that every company should take into consideration before announcing an organizational change to their employees:

1) Why are you making the change?
To ease the shock effect to the employees, be able to clearly explain to them why the company is making a change and how it will actually benefit everyone. Keep it simple yet direct. Don’t just tell them “we are doing this” and leave it at that. You want your employees to feel part of the positive change, not just the negative, so that they accept it and take ownership in it. Also don’t go too deep into detail – more information is NOT always better. If you start to “talk over their heads,” so to speak, they get more confused and will begin to think you are trying to cover something up.

2) Who is going to be affected the most by the change?
If you are reconfiguring reporting lines, make sure you have constructed a new organizational chart prior to the announcement. As with any change, employees will be looking for direction and clarification until they settle into the change. It also shows the employees that the company has a plan in place and stands behind the change…that its “set in stone.”

If you are eliminating/changing employees’ positions, especially management positions, have a separate meeting with them before making an announcement to the whole company. Do not let them find out along with the rest of the company, especially if you are hoping they will stay on during the transition or move into another position. It’s a sign of disrespect to your employees which will cause them to walk out of the meeting wanting to find a new company to work for.

3) When are you going to make the change?
Timing on instituting change will depend on a number of different factors such as tax/accounting considerations, sales peaks, etc. Just because you have formulated a plan for a new organizational structure doesn’t mean that you go and implement it tomorrow.

For example: You don’t want to announce to your employees right at the start of a busy sales season that you are restructuring positions which will eliminate some while creating others….but it won’t take affect until after the busy season is over. You have now put a fear in your employees minds that come the end of the busy season, they may not have a job so they will start looking for a new one now and, if they find one, will leave immediately as they feel no loyalty to stay until your busy season is over.

Think too about budgeting and financial reporting. Small changes throughout the year won’t have much of an affect, but major changes will skew budget numbers and maybe have tax implications.

The focus should be on making the changes as smooth as possible as to not create additional problems. Don’t get so caught up in the “need for change” that you loose sight of the teamwork needed among your employees to successfully make the change.

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or have concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
– General Colin Powell, Retired”


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Barb Buckner

Over 15 years of experience as a strategic Human Resource Professional with a proven history of implementing HR strategies and managing employee relations, process improvement and compliance. A reputation for leveraging business relationships, engaging the workforce and creating a positive return on investment into HR initiatives.

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