Managing Employees During a Turnaround

By Dave Willmer

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Here's the scenario: after many months of slow business, things are picking up at your company. On the surface, this seems like nothing but good news. However, change (even for the better) can be unsettling for your team. This new situation may leave some employees wondering how their jobs might be affected or how they’ll manage increased workloads.

Any time your firm plans an adjustment, whether it’s small, such as switching to a different brand of PCs, or large, like the addition of a new line of business, you need to adopt a “change management” mind-set. Here are the critical steps you need to think about:

Promote open communication - Staff outreach should be the first priority. You may not be able to disclose all of the details about certain developments, but don’t keep employees in the dark. If employees learn of the news through the company grapevine instead of you, they’re likely to hear inaccurate information. Let people know what you can share and that you will keep them apprised as more information becomes available.

It’s useful to explain the reasoning behind the need for change. Why is it taking place now, and how will it affect the company? Employees are more likely to support a move if they understand why it’s necessary. For instance, you might explain that your firm has decided to reorganize several departments because market demands have shifted as the U.S. economy begins to improve.

Share the expected outcome - Try to give people a vision of what it will be like after a change is implemented. If you’re introducing another layer of management, for example, explain how this will impact your employees’ daily work: What will be the reporting structure? Will there be a different process for purchase orders?

Even finer details, such as where the new supervisors will sit, will give people a picture of the arrangement. The fewer unknowns, the less anxiety people will have.

Encourage staff involvement - Whenever possible, include employees in the transition process. Individuals who are involved in the change and given the opportunity to help shape developments are more likely to support what lies ahead. You may also find that your team members bring a fresh perspective to the situation and can offer valuable insights and solutions when given the chance.

Focus on other issues - It’s easy for major developments to take over conversation in the workplace. Do your part to address change, but also keep people focused on their core responsibilities. Regardless of the situation, there will always be technical issues to resolve and strategies to refine.

If the change at your company is particularly stressful, make an extra effort to create a positive work environment during this time. Plan special activities, such as a pizza lunch or off-site meeting, to provide a respite from current events. Also encourage people to take their breaks, and set the example by doing so yourself.

Times of change can be difficult, but they also can bring out the best in your employees. You may find that certain individuals rise to the challenge and show adaptability and initiative. Take note of individual actions during the transition, and you may uncover team members with leadership potential.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.