November 8, 2021
By Kurt Meyer

When organizations must restructure or rebuild or go through major change, many times they must lay off workers. This is always difficult, but there are things you can do to ensure a successful transition.

Communicate With Impact

No matter what actions you take it’s important to realize that employees are nervous, and many of them are essential to future success. Poor communications will lose your workforce. Keep in mind, when people don’t know or understand what is happening, they make it up. That means the rumor mill heats up and burns out of control. Don’t let that happen. Control the message. Use an encouraging tone that acknowledges that difficulties lie ahead, but still keep a positive vision for the future.

Above all, be truthful. Your credibility and ability to lead is on the line.

Who Stays and Who Goes?

Deciding who stays and who goes begins with rooting out toxicity from the organization. The good news is that toxicity comes right to your front door; all you need to do is listen for it. Essentially, toxic employees will tell you how good they are and that pretty much everyone else sucks. Perhaps they might attack past management with a “Glad those idiots are gone!”

You also want to identify those that are “dug in” and firmly believe change is unnecessary. Unfortunately, the typical “dug in” profile is a long-term employee who likely contributed much to the business in the past. The trick here is to find those that will come along and re-engage.

This entails talking to your people. The main point of discussion is to present the current status of the company and department, the things that are going to change, and the employee’s thoughts and opinions on that change. It is a process that elicits a response like “it’s about time” or “I am pretty excited to get started” — or “that’s never going to work” or “we’ve tried that before and the results were disastrous.” Either way, it will gauge whether an existing employee is going to support or drive the change, or resist or even undermine it.

The best part of this process, of course, is to find those who are highly engaged and energized by a new and improved executive team. They’ve got a kind of turn-me-loose mentality. This is your A-team.

Once you’ve assessed your existing talent, once roles are revised and talent gaps have been identified, you’ll have a list of people whom you’ll need to let go. This needs to undergo a thorough analysis. Past performance history needs to be reviewed, along with disciplinary history.

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