Doing “less with more” is more than a catchphrase for many business owners. A challenging economic climate and uncertain forecast are forcing business owners to consolidate positions in order to remain competitive.
But getting employees on board with such a measure can be a daunting task for even the most experienced managers.
“It’s such a difficult thing to do when people are already stressed out about their jobs to go forward and layoff and consolidate,” says Randall Barker, a Utah-based certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR) and certified employment law specialist (CELS).
“It’s hard to convince someone who already thinks they’re doing a good job, giving their all, that they’re going to need to do more,” he adds.
Barker suggests handling the transition as “tenderly” as possible.
Good communication is especially important during times of transition. Ask employees for their opinions on how to best re-align your company. They’re often far more knowledgeable about daily operations than their superiors.
“Opinions need to come out,” says Barker. “You need to ask, ‘How can we be better?’ and ‘How can we do this better?’”
Once it’s made clear to employees that a consolidation is necessary and unavoidable, they will likely have opinions on how to best re-align their duties and responsibilities.
It’s also imperative to define new responsibilities and revise or reiterate job descriptions when consolidating positions. Have a formal meeting with each employee to address their questions and concerns. Hand them a copy of their revised job description and address any questions.
If you don’t know the answer to your employees’ questions, the best course of action is to tell them you’re uncertain and will get back to them with an answer, says Janice Darling, founder and president of Atlanta-based Springboard, a company that helps businesses navigate change.
“Too many people are uncomfortable with saying ‘I don’t know,’” she says.
Providing an employee with an answer that turns out to be incorrect can have harmful effects on any transition. Once an employee feels that they have been given false information by a manager, each and every statement is called into question in their mind. Supervisors should wait until they have 100 percent of the information before reporting back to the employees. Rumor and speculation amid employees runs rampant during times of corporate change; good leaders stay on top of the situation and quickly quell potentially harmful gossip.
It’s imperative that managers are visible to employees during times of transition. “Now is not the time to send e-mails,” Darling says.