After the Reduction in Force: How to Re-Energize Your Team

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1 Overview This offering will take managers through a five-step process, providing detailed worksheets/activities for each step. The five steps that managers will be guided through are: 1. Personally prepare o Understand your own reactions to the change. o Clarify the commitments you can make to the team (and what is outside of your control). o Develop a positive vision for the future. What can the team/environment become? o Prepare to answer employees questions about the change. 2. Gather information from your team members o Conduct one-on-one meetings with members of your team. o Summarize your findings (e.g., common questions, key concerns, ideas) 3. Re-connect with key members of your team (begins simultaneously with step 2) o Target key individuals. o Identify their needs, expectations, etc. o Develop individualized plans to re-connect with them. 4. Conduct team meeting(s) o Assemble the team and share what you know about the change and what you learned from talking with them. o Facilitate team discussion(s). o Commit to actions/seek commitment from the team. o Agree to a regular communication/meeting schedule. 5. Assess progress, communicate, and make adjustments o Examine the progress of the team and individuals. o Communicate regularly. o Make adjustments as necessary. 2/11/2009 1

2 Introduction Organizational change usually presents challenges to those who are involved in or influenced by it. As a manager, you face your own challenge during and just after a reduction in force. This often creates ambiguity and discomfort. As a result, this is a time when your team is at risk. People may be unsure of their responsibilities, may be uncertain about their future, and may have doubts. They are almost certainly thinking about how the change will affect them. This is a time when morale can suffer, when key team members are susceptible, and when team and individual performances can decline. On the other hand, this can be a good time to re-build or re-energize your team. Reduction in force often unfreezes old habits and patterns and can present opportunities to enhance team and individual performances and satisfaction. By taking a few key actions, you can address the challenges of re-energizing your team after a turbulent change. In general, to re-energize your team after (or during) a change, you will need to: Personally prepare for the challenge you face; Allow people to voice their concerns; Demonstrate your understanding of their concerns (but not necessarily agree with them); Answer questions about the change (or commit to seek answers) on an ongoing basis; Over-communicate with the team for a period of time about what you have learned, what will happen next, when they can expect to learn more, etc.; Clarify expectations for success what has changed and what remains the same for the team and for each individual on the team; Identify obstacles and problems and take actions that show your commitment to moving forward; Spend time identifying individual needs and concerns particularly of key team members and re-establish connections with them; Voice and demonstrate your commitment to re-building the team and building a great place to work; Establish a positive future vision for the team what the team can become; Balance respect for the past with a positive look to the future; and Assess progress and address new issues and concerns as they arise. 2/11/2009 2

3 In contrast, you should be careful not to: Make commitments or promises that you cannot keep some employees may already feel that promises have been broken as a result of the change it is important to re-build trust and credibility. Stifle protesters doing so will simply drive them underground and create hidden problems that are even more difficult to handle. Tell people that they shouldn t feel that way. They may feel differently than you, but accept their feelings for what they are. Speak poorly of people who have left the institution. When you do, other team members wonder, What will they say about me? Make threats such as, If you don t come on board, your future with this institution is limited Threats won t create the kind of environment you want. Assume that your good performers will support the change without any personal attention on your part. For a period of time, they will probably need more attention than they did before the change. 2/11/2009 3

4 Five Steps to Re-Energizing Your Team This guide includes five steps to re-energizing your team after a significant change. Each step is described briefly below: 1. Personally prepare Understand your own reactions to the change. Clarify the commitments you can make to the team (and what is outside of your control). Develop a positive vision for the future. What can the team/environment become? Prepare to answer employees questions about the change. 2. Gather information from your team members Conduct one-on-one meetings with members of your team. Summarize your findings (e.g., common questions, key concerns, ideas). 3. Re-connect with key members of your team (Begins simultaneously with step 2) Target key individuals. Identify their needs, expectations, etc. Develop individualized plans to re-connect with them. 4. Conduct team meeting(s) Assemble the team and share what you know about the change and what you learned from talking with them. Facilitate team discussion(s). Commit to actions/seek commitment from the team. Agree to a regular communication/meeting schedule. 5. Assess progress, communicate, and make adjustments Examine the progress of the team and individuals. Communicate regularly. Make adjustments as necessary. 2/11/2009 4

5 Step 1. Personally Prepare There are a few specific actions that will help you prepare to support and re-energize your team. Re-energizing a team is not easy, so it is important that you first understand how the change impacts you personally. To prepare to support your team, you should work through the following: 1. Understand your own reactions to the change. This will better enable you to help your team members. Answer these questions: a) How do I feel about the change? What about the change is positive? What about the change is negative? Positives Negatives b) What do I personally gain? What do I personally lose? Gains Losses 2/11/2009 5

6 c) What are my biggest concerns about the change? d) How can I come to terms with any of my own concerns so I can deal with my team effectively? Whom do I need to speak with to increase my own comfort level? 2. Clarify the commitments you can make to your team. During a reduction in force, people often feel that prior commitments have been broken. For that reason it is very important to re-build trust by making only those commitments that you know you can honor. To help you establish the commitments you want to offer, answer the following questions: a) What can I commit to with my team? What is in my control? What is outside my control? For example, you may be able to commit to: Share any new information that you receive about the change; Attempt to clarify everyone s role in the new environment and what is needed to accomplish as a team; Meet with each person individually during the next several days; Answer all questions to the best of your ability and agree to seek answers to those you can t; Seek support to address specific concerns (not promising the support of others, but promising to seek their support); Work with the team to identify and remove obstacles; and Work to make this a great place to work. b) You may not be able to make the following commitments: There will be no further changes. There will be job security for all who remain. We will receive all the resources/support we need (although you can commit to seek resources and support). 2/11/2009 6

7 Generate your own list of the commitments you can and cannot make to your team: Commitments I CAN and Will Make: Commitments I CANNOT Make (e.g., outside my control): 3. Develop a positive vision or description of what the future could look like for the team. Be realistic, but be positive. a) What could the team/environment look like in the not too distant future? b) Why would members of your team consider this vision to be positive? What will need to take place for this vision to become a reality? 2/11/2009 7

8 4. Prepare to answer your team members questions about the change. If an employee came to you with the questions listed below (or if they were thinking them), could you answer them? If not, identify who could help you determine the answers. Able to Answer? If not, contact whom? Team Member Questions About the Change Yes No What will be different? Realistically, what can we do to make a difference? Is our leadership really committed to making this work? If I change, will I be supported or is this just the latest change? What does this change mean to me? How will it affect me? What if anything will I need to do differently? How will I be evaluated now? Is my job secure? Why should I do things differently? What s in it for me? What happens if I don t change? 2/11/2009 8

9 Step 2. Gather Information 1. Conduct one-on-one meetings with your team members. Gather their perceptions about the change and identify their concerns. Develop a list of questions you want to ask each of your team members prior to meeting with them. Below is a list of potential questions that you can ask. Identify which ones you intend to ask, and revise or generate new ones as necessary. Ask? Questions to Gather Information from Your Team Members Yes No What do you think about the change? What do you dislike about the change? What problems are you having with the change? What do you miss about the way things were? What did you have to give up or lose as a result of the change? What good things may occur as a result of the change? What might you gain as a result of the change? What may make it difficult for our team to succeed in the new environment? For you to succeed? What do you think we need to do to ensure our team s success and satisfaction? What will help us move forward? Which, if any, additional members of the team are we in risk of losing? What questions do you have about the change? 2/11/2009 9

10 Tips When Gathering Information: Express your understanding about any turmoil and ambiguity. Express your commitment to rebuild the team and make this a great place to work. Acknowledge that it won t happen overnight and can t happen without their input. Be prepared to answer questions and to explain about the problem or needs that made the change necessary. Everyone should understand why the change was made and why it was required. Recognize that even positive changes typically involve some sense of loss. So, even if this feels like a positive change, don t be surprised when some people feel uncomfortable about it. Try to understand what it is that concerns them. If your team is quite large you may not be able to meet one-on-one with each team member. If you cannot meet with each person, conduct one-on-one meetings with as many people as you can. Try to meet with a good mix of people (e.g., new and experienced, satisfied and disgruntled),and not simply with those who are responding positively to the change. Conclude each meeting by telling the employee that you will assemble the team to discuss concerns and develop a plan for moving forward. 2/11/

11 2. After the one-on-one meetings summarize your findings. Capture the following information: a) Common questions your team members have about the change b) Key concerns that were raised c) Commonly perceived losses by your team members d) Common misunderstandings about the change e) Good things that team members identified about the change f) Ideas for moving the team forward 2/11/

12 3. When a reduction in force occurs, people may incorrectly assume that everything has changed. It can be very helpful for people to understand exactly what has changed and, equally important, what remains the same. For example, reporting relationships may have changed, but your commitment to high standards of customer service may not have changed. Based on your understanding of the change and what you have learned during the one-onones, identify what has changed and what you believe remains the same: What Has Changed What Remains the Same 2/11/

13 Step 3. Re-Connect with Key Members of Your Team Turbulent change can encourage people to disconnect either psychologically (loss of motivation) or physically (leave the institution). This means that at a time when you need your best people the most, you are at the greatest risk of losing them. Therefore, while you are gathering information and conducting team meetings, you should also work to re-connect with the key members of your team. You may want to initiate the individual meetings with key members of your team during the information gathering process described in step 2. In any case, you should NOT wait until the team meetings have concluded to begin re-connecting with individual team members. 1. Identify the key members of your team. Generally, these are the people who are the most valuable contributors to your team. If they left, it would have a strong negative affect on the team. Who are the key members of your team? Key team members: Perform well and have good future potential; Exert a strong positive influence on the rest of the team; May be at risk of leaving; Are difficult to replace; Possess critical skills and knowledge; and May have valuable relationships outside the team. Although all your team members are important, you may need to pay particular attention to your key team members during this turbulent time. They should be considered retention priorities since losing them would be so detrimental. On page 20 of this workbook, you will find a Retention Priority Worksheet. You may find this a useful tool for identifying the key members of your team. 2. Try to identify what each key member may be losing or concerned about as a result of the change. For example, Do they have concerns about job security? Are they concerned that the skills that made them successful won t be valued in the new environment? Are they losing control, autonomy, access to information, authority, or desired job responsibilities? Do they feel that a commitment or promise has been broken? Do they think that the change has hurt their career opportunities? Are they concerned that they will have to interact with certain people more/less frequently? How is the person reacting to the change? Supportive? Passive? Wait and see? Withdrawn? Resistant? Angry? Disruptive? 2/11/

14 Key Team Member Concerns/Potential Losses Reactions 3. For each member of your team that you believe it is essential to retain, develop some preliminary plans or ideas to re-connect them to the team and the institution. Are there ways to make up for any perceived losses? How can you show them that they are valued? You may already have a good idea about what to do to re-connect with some key team members. For others you will need to better understand their needs and reactions to be able to generate ideas. See if you can answer the following questions about a key team member. If not, these are some of the questions you will need to ask when you meet with them. What is important to this person? What do they want to accomplish? What do they care about personally and for their career? How do they feel about the change? What are they most concerned about? What would make this a desirable place for them to work? A few ideas to re-energize or re-connect people to the team and the institution are listed below: Tell them how important they are to you and to the team going forward. Identify any skills they hope to build. Establish ways to continue to develop and build their skills and competencies. Explicitly acknowledge and thank them for their contributions. Involve them in your planning for the team. 2/11/

15 Acknowledge the current ambiguity and commit to meet with them to clarify their new role. Ask a well-respected divisional leader to meet with them to acknowledge their accomplishments and communicate that they are valued. Identify the type of work they value and offer desired task assignments. Identify ways to make up for lost prestige. Tell the person that you want them to stay, that they are needed, and that they can be successful in the new environment. Identify a few growth goals and commit to helping attain them. Designate time to listen and coach them. Share your ideas for the team and seek their input. Try to shield them from undesirable contacts. Ask them what they need to be successful and happy here. Acquire a key resource they will need (e.g., information, equipment). Treat them like a highly desired external candidate that you are trying to convince to work for you. Re-recruit them. Provide them with time to visit/meet with others as an ambassador of the new team. If there is no way that they will be happy on your team in the new environment, offer to help them identify other opportunities within the institution rather than lose them. On page 21 of the workbook you will find a Retention Planning Summary Sheet that you may find helpful for organizing your ideas and plans. 4. Meet individually with each key member to discuss his or her concerns and to attempt to re-connect. Listen to their concerns and ideas. Voice your commitment but be very careful about making promises you can t keep (review the list you developed earlier). Clarify what they need to do to be successful in the new environment and express your belief that they can succeed. Establish action plans to make this a place where they can thrive. Seek their commitment to give the change a chance and to communicate any concerns they have directly to you. Tip: At first it is critical that you meet with the key members of your team. However, eventually you should meet with every member of your team to clarify expectations for success. Each person should understand: How their job has changed (if at all); and What is expected of them (both during the initial change period and long-term). Tip: By treating people as individuals and winning over key members of your team, you will begin to develop a critical mass of support. A team of 10 that has only one or two supporters is hard to keep energized. But as you gain supporters you will begin to get a sense of positive energy that will accelerate the team s progress. It takes time but becomes easier when you reach critical mass. 2/11/

16 Step 4. Conduct Team Meeting(s) Use the information you have gathered from your team and your own understanding of the reduction in force to prepare to conduct a meeting with your team. The following outline can be a helpful starting point to help you get ready to guide the meeting with your team. Meeting Outline I. Explain the purpose of the meeting. a) Explain that you have assembled the team to discuss the change, to give people a chance to ask questions or express concerns, and to develop plans to help ensure our collective success in the new environment. b) Acknowledge that changes are not easy and that all issues won t be resolved overnight. c) Express your commitment to making the change work and helping the team be successful. d) Tell them what you will be covering during the meeting. II. Share what you know about the change. a) If you have not done so already, share with the team: o Your understanding of why the changes took place; and o Any changes that have already been established from institutional/divisional leaders (e.g., changes in structure, reporting relationships, responsibilities, goals, objectives, etc.). III. Share what you learned from the one-on-one meetings (see your notes from pages 9 & 11). a) Based on your one-on-one meetings: o Express your understanding about the impact of the change on the team; and o Share some of the common questions that team members had and provide answers to those questions. b) Share the commitments you are able and willing to make to the team (see your notes page 7). IV. Clarify general expectations share your understanding of what has changed and what remains the same (see your notes on page 12) a) Allow the team to ask questions or seek clarification. V. Share with the team what you think the future can look like if the team is successful (see your notes page from page 7). a) Ask the team for their reactions. Incorporate their ideas as appropriate. VI. Identify what s working and areas of concern. Ask the team to identify: a) What s working? b) What are the obstacles to our success and satisfaction? What concerns do you have? 2/11/

17 c) Record these on a flip chart. If necessary, you can get the group started or encourage discussion by listing a few of the concerns you learned about during your one-on-one meetings (see your notes on pages 9 &11). What s Working Obstacles/Concerns d) Based on the answers to a) and b) ask the group to identify o Things we should CONTINUE doing; and o Things we should STOP doing or START doing to address obstacles and concerns. e) Record these on a flip chart Stop Start Continue f) For each action item (Stops and Starts) that you feel is appropriate, identify who will do it, by when, and what support may be needed. Action By When Who s Responsible Support Needed VII. Schedule time to meet again to discuss progress and to re-visit action plans. a) Establish time line for follow-up. b) Agree on timing and channels for communicating new information to the team. 2/11/

18 Tips for Conducting the Team Meeting: As a result of the change your team may need to make changes in its structure, goals, and/or objectives. In some cases you may want to involve the team in deciding those changes; in other cases you will simply communicate those changes to the team. If you are unsure which is most appropriate, discuss this with the person you report to. Commit to address some concerns and obstacles immediately. Acknowledge issues that are not within the team s control but be sure to take action on some issues that are within your control. Consider whether the team will need any new skills to be successful. If so, identify how best to build those skills. Involve HR where appropriate. Accept what you hear even if you don t feel the same way. Don t tell people that they shouldn t or can t feel a particular way. Communicate your willingness to meet with individual team members to discuss their own concerns, ideas, and plans. Recognize that people may react more strongly than you did they may have lost more than you, or may have been less informed than you were. An individual may also be experiencing other personal changes that make it difficult for them to cope with the changes occurring at work. Allow people the chance to vent but don t take it personally. Be prepared to sell the problem that led to the change. Be sure that everyone understands the need for the change and the reason why the change was required. 2/11/

19 Step 5. Assess Progress, Communicate, and Make Adjustments Over the next several days and months you should try to do the following: 1. Implement a few key actions. Quickly pick an item or two from the action list that are within your control, implement them, and update the group when they are completed. Demonstrate that you are keeping the commitments you made to the team. 2. Take the team s pulse assess how well they are adjusting. Observe them at work. Conduct informal one-on-one meetings with members of your team both supporters and dissidents. Continue to learn about obstacles and concerns. Check to see if you are building critical mass. 3. Communicate any new changes or other related information as you learn about them try to keep the team in the loop. If any new changes have a dramatic impact on the team, re-group with them to discuss the implications. Even if no new changes occur, try to provide a general status report (e.g., things seem to be stabilizing ). 4. Host periodic team meetings to assess progress. Examine progress against the team s action list. Review the team s vision assess progress and re-conduct the stop-start-continue process with the team. Develop new actions as necessary. 5. Spend some extra time with key members of your team assess their personal progress and re-connection to the team and the institution. Work with them to show your support and to build their support/commitment. 2/11/

20 Retention Priority Worksheet Name: Department: FACTOR RATING Current/Past Performance How effective has this individual been in his/her current and past job assignments? Has this individual performed to expectations? Has he/she successfully accomplished the goals and purpose of the position? Poor Performer Star Performer Future Potential What is the future potential or likely future performance of this individual? How will he/she perform at our organization? Will his/her skills and abilities match the requirements for future work at our organization? Little Future Potential Outstanding Potential Relationships To what extent does this person have relationships with important customers, partners, and/or suppliers/vendors? What are the number, strength, and importance of these relationships? To what extent do others share those relationships? (This scale may be irrelevant for some jobs.) Possesses no critical contacts/ relationships Possesses essential contacts/ relationships Anticipated Reaction to Change How positive an influence will this person be during the change period and beyond? How will the individual respond to the transition? How will he/she influence others (positively/negatively) by his/her presence, behavior, and/or absence? Will likely be an obstacle/problem Will likely be a supporter/leader Likelihood of Leaving How likely is it that this person will leave if not offered an incentive to stay? How marketable is this individual? How long will this individual be needed for the transition only? If so, he/she may be more likely to leave due to a limited future with our organization. Will almost certainly choose to stay, even without incentive High probability of leaving if not given incentive Ease/Cost to Replace How difficult and costly would it be to find a suitable replacement for this person if he/she were to leave during the transition? What are labor market conditions and how available are potential replacements? Easy to replace, if necessary Very difficult/costly to replace Criticality of Skills How important are this person s skills and knowledge? How will his/her skills and knowledge contribute to accomplishing the strategic goals of our organization or the Department/Division? Are his/her skills and knowledge replicated by other employees? Are there specific needs that only this person can address? Non-essential skills Absolutely essential skills Overall Assessment Overall Individual Assessment of Retention Priority Acceptable if this person leaves Important to retain Critical to retain Comments: 2/11/

21 Retention Planning Summary Sheet Name Planned Actions to Retain Resources/Support Timeframe 2/11/

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