It was 2009/10.
The financial services industry was experiencing the fall out of the global crisis. I was working as a leadership development consultant at Legal and General and we were going through the biggest restructure and redundancy process in history.
I had delivery objectives on two major projects:
To manage the restructure and redundancy process sensitively, ensuring all employees received the developmental and emotional support they need to reapply for roles or exit in the best and most supported way possible.
To support survivors following the restructure and redundancy process by helping them navigate the ‘new normal’ emotionally and developmentally in order to return to a break-even point more quickly.
The crux of both these projects lay in effective communication.
In briefings and presentations, the facilitation of meetings and training.
It all needed to be completely on point in order to achieve the most positive impact possible.
We are now in the midst of a very similar (for different reasons of course) and yet different situation. The COVID 19 pandemic has seen many organisations turn to restructure and redundancies. Leavers are confused and scared, and survivors feel guilty.
Support is most definitely needed!
I’ve listed a few things that worked well when managing very similar situations back in 2009, and from my training and coaching of leaders in verbal communication in the years since.
1. Change has two sides – be human first
When the rubbish hits the fan it’s very easy to be data and numbers led. But at the heart of change are the people. Supporting the emotional impact of change on leavers and survivors is of paramount importance and should be the lens through which any communication is viewed.
This means arranging for training, group support or open forum/surgery sessions where employees can ask questions and receive honest and open responses to ensure two-way communication throughout.
2. Involve to inspire
Getting employees involved from the beginning will ensure you are engaging people from their perspective rather than just a top-down view. Change agents, top talent, community leaders or other employees on the ground can be appointed to be the ear and the voice, feedback information and provide another channel of communication to employees.
3. Increase leadership visibility
Rather than shrinking into decision-making huddles, now is the time for leaders to be relentlessly visible for your people. Regular videos, live Q&As, forums, town halls and invitations to email leaders direct, will ensure that employees feel heard and supported.
4. Make briefings meaningful
Briefings are inevitable and will form the main channel of communication throughout the process. Use my ‘VVSS’ approach to help maximise engagement and minimise conflict when briefing your staff.
Engage everyone in the vision. Why is this happening and what does it mean for them in plain English? (in both a positive and negative sense.) To help prepare, use the SWOT analysis model to gather this information if you aren’t 100% clear on how to approach it.
Share your own emotions around the change, the impact it has had on you and how you feel about it. Be honest. You can remain professional and true to the values of the organization whilst still getting real and addressing the elephant in the room.
Use stories to communicate the change. From the causes, decisions made, your own personal view and the vision for the future. Swap out data and charts for images and examples. Stories will add depth and connection to your communication and will have a higher probability of landing positively.
A simple briefing structure like Bernice Mccarthy’s ‘4MAT’ can help you stay focused, keep things simple and succinct, and create an engaging flow so that attendees remain engaged throughout. It can also provide the WIFM (what’s in it for me) that most people want to hear right from the start. Planning, preparing and practising your briefing using a structure like this will give a much higher chance of it landing positively.
Having been heavily involved in the delivery of these projects before, I have many tools, processes and approaches that can be applied in order to effectively deliver challenging messages in difficult times. These tools will enable leaders to safely navigate the emotional impact of change and gain the best outcomes for their people.
If you would like a no-obligation chat to see how I might be able to help you and your organisation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, send a Direct Message or book in a time to chat here https://helenpackham.as.me/?appointmentType=8648467
Helen Packham is a speaker coach and verbal communications strategist helping leaders 10x the impact of their verbal communication to engage, retain and maximise the potential of their people. She has 15 years experience in leadership and executive development and 6 years in entrepreneurship. A TEDx curator and speaker, Helen passes on the powerful tool of storytelling to her clients so that they can confidently present and speak with impact.