Going through a restructuring process in any business can be stressful and difficult for all involved. And as with any people management problems or procedures, the impact in a very small business can be even more significant. In addition, many small businesses benefit from (and are challenged by) close relationships amongst the team and commitment and goodwill from staff, and avoiding damaging this during a restructure can be crucial to its success.
The most essential thing you can do to ensure things go smoothly and that employees ‘buy-in’ to the change is to communicate effectively, before, during and after the restructure takes place. Here are some key factors to consider when it comes to effective communication during a restructure
How will you share information?
There are several options here, and it might be that you use a combination. Consider how you normally communicate with staff, and what aspects of the restructuring are best communicated in groups, as individuals, or even as a whole team altogether.
You will probably want to give some information in writing, so consider how much detail will be needed and not only what information you think people will need, but also what information they might be looking for. This is likely to be around how the restructure will impact them directly, and may be to do with pay, timescales, other contract changes or possible redundancies.
This doesn’t only refer to when during the process you release information but also around how you do it. The realities of a small business mean that as soon as one person knows something, you won’t have time to talk to anyone else before it is more widely known, so as far as is possible, giving key information as early as possible to as many people as possible simultaneously is likely to be sensible.
In terms of retaining the trust of your staff during the process, really the more information you feel you can share with them the better, and the earlier the better. Gaps in information will be filled by rumours, resentment and uncertainty, so don’t allow these to develop.
A great thing about many small businesses is that you can genuinely seek feedback, ideas and suggestions from staff at an early stage, and can often be more flexible during a restructuring than perhaps a larger employer could.
If you can share with staff honestly what the reasons are for change, and what problems you are needing to solve, they may have some ideas on how this can be achieved, and if you only have a few staff, you can potentially involve everyone in these discussions rather than just senior managers.
It’s also sensible to make sure as well as verbal feedback/immediate suggestions in meetings, you allow for written feedback/more delayed feedback from staff who either don’t feel as confident raising things in front of the team, or are the type who need to go away and reflect before coming up with ideas and suggestions.
Your employees will have questions during the process, and while it is a good idea to anticipate as many of these as possible, particularly in terms of how the restructure will affect them, it’s also important they know who they can approach with queries or concerns during the process.
Encouraging open discussion throughout the process is enormously valuable in a small business. Don’t just ‘feed’ key information at the points you’ve planned, but maintain open lines of communication throughout, so that any variation is communicated, concerns identified quickly, and most importantly, that sense of trust is maintained.
If staff feel confident that you are being open and honest with them and that they are genuinely able to come to you with concerns, they are more likely to buy-in to the changes in the organisation and the new structure will be implemented much more successfully.
If you need any further advice on the importance of communication whilst restructuring your small business, do get in touch.