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Retain Staff

Transforming Survivors into Stars: Accelerating Your Team After a Restructure


Recent company layoffs across the Gulf have unnerved many. Restructures are highly stressful events for those who leave, but they can also create a “survivor” mentality in employees left behind. People struggle with extra workloads, morale plummets and everybody is worried that they might be “next”.

However according to Hanan Nagi, training and development expert, these challenging times can turn out to be a catalyst that accelerates your team and business. She believes investing in your remaining employees is essential to ensure your company remains competitive in the bad times, keeping up the high work quality and productivity the market expects from you. But how do you turn survivors into stars especially when budgets are now extra tight?

First, says Nagi, make sure your restructuring decisions are made on the basis of the new objectives of the company and how this maps to a skills analysis of your staff. Don’t be tempted just to focus on the “superstars”. In fact, research by McKinsey after the global financial crisis in 2009 suggests that the key people to retain are the “hidden gems”. These are the people who actually make things happen in your company whether through their strong networks or critical institutional knowledge e.g. the person who is the lynchpin of the production process or the sales person who has weathered tough times before and knows how to keep selling in these environments (“Retaining Key Employees in Times of Change”, McKinsey Quarterly 2010).

Once the restructure has happened, managers should refine the new job roles and responsibilities of those who have stayed. Do they possess what it takes to cover the additional responsibilities due to people leaving? Prepare an inventory or checklist of the skills they will need to develop. Use the following tips to support staff to grow into their new roles and manage their new workloads.

Mentoring and Coaching

Clear communication is important during the restructuring process so that staff know what is going on and what to expect when. Here your managers have a big role to play in reassuring staff and helping them to feel confident about taking on additional or different responsibilities. This can include a program for top managers to take remaining staff under their wing and mentor them to improve any skills gaps. Coaching is also incredibly useful: even a regular 30 minutes with a senior staff member can keep staff focused and motivated to develop the new skills they will require.

Managing bigger workloads

This is an opportunity to use both your experience and empathy by listening, coaching and helping employees to prioritize. It may be as simple as setting up regular morning triage sessions to work out where a task falls in the urgent versus important quadrant, to regularly check that tasks match business objectives and even deciding what can be eliminated or put off until later. Many companies like Google, GE and Volkswagen have also agreed on email rules such as ‘no emails on weekends’ to help staff recharge properly and be more productive during the week (“How to Lead After Layoffs – 13 No-Cost Leadership Strategies”, www.leadersharp.com, January 2016).

Buddying or shadowing systems

Identifying somebody in the company who already has a particular skill that you need to develop in remaining employees and setting up a buddying relationship can reap dividends. For example, if people are going to take on customer interaction where they may not have done that before, they can spend time with skilled staff to accelerate their learning.

Training

While you should maximize your company’s sources of development, not everything can be done internally. Traditional training or coaching through external companies is also useful, particularly if somebody needs to rapidly assume a leadership role. Here companies like HNI can help with one-to-one coaching or intensive courses to develop the behavioral skills of a leader or learn how to manage people differently, e.g. if a new leader has an authoritarian vs democratic style or needs help becoming more assertive.

Training can also support the company overall to maintain productivity by better targeting the business skills of remaining staff. Lifting the game of particular staff in key operational skills such as finance, project management, MS office, selling or marketing may not be negotiable as your company competes to survive the current financial situation.
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