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Managing change: Moving in a positive direction


Positive directionStuart Lindenfield explains how outplacement and transition planning play a vital role in keeping morale high and business requirements on track during large-scale organisational change.

Every day we are faced with news of projects being placed on hold, businesses being restructured and announcements of merger and acquisition activity. All changes create a need for the HR community to integrate and harmonise often disparate and international workforces.

Very often, a major change like a merger or acquisition can effectively reset the team ‘clock’ within an organisation by impairing business performance.

The negative impact of change

So how can you minimise the negative impact of change on an organisation? Well, firstly, it is important to establish shared goals as early in the process as possible and then create the space and impetus for change to happen. However, in many organisations, this is consistently and repeatedly undermined by a failure to manage communication and to control the ‘fallout’ from structural changes and redundancy.

“Listening to whispered uncertainties by the watercooler is a far stronger communication than the press release announcing the merger.”

Studies have shown that up to 25% of high achievers, the drivers of intangible assets bought in an acquisition, will leave a company within 90 days of a major change being announced. Typically such individuals are not shown the opportunity inherent in the new organisation and do not like the way in which the process is managed. Watching their peers being ushered out the door and listening to whispered uncertainties by the watercooler is a far stronger communication than the press release announcing the merger, and any information on the company intranet.

Thorough transition planning can help to avoid these risks by improving the quality of immediate communication and enabling line management to offer a more detailed and consistent set of reasons to support the change programme. In addition, the provision of outplacement support for individuals leaving the business has repeatedly been shown to reduce the undercurrents of dissent within the business.

Transition planning and outplacement support contribute to faster delivery of business objectives by predicting and mitigating the negative factors before they can impact on morale and change implementation. They help organisations fulfil their legal obligation to mitigate the impact of redundancies, whilst helping individuals re-establish and revitalise their careers.

Eight essentials

A company’s greatest asset is also its greatest threat. The way people are supported, managed and directed before, during and after change can seriously affect your employees’ future career – and the future of your business. Here are eight essential tips on how to fulfil your legal and moral obligations while improving staff morale, motivation and productivity.

1. Select a suitable transition services provider

Evaulate who would be the best partner to achieve your priority outcomes. Check their credentials; meet with their delivery people (not just their salespeople). Don’t simply focus on price. A ‘mistaken’ choice of provider will prove extremely costly. Support the chosen provider in creating an understanding of the support available to affected employees through group awareness sessions – your provider should be happy to offer these on a complimentary basis.

2. Create a high level transition plan

If the provider has genuine project management expertise, they can help design a high level project plan which will minimise any unnecessary upheaval and disruption pre, during and post implementation. This will detail the who what when and how of the entire transition process, and is designed to support the affected individuals whilst achieving organisational objectives.

3. Design selection criteria and redundancy package plans

Check compliance with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements, including BERR* notification. Ensure selection criteria will stand up to scrutiny.

4. Consider redeployment opportunities – seriously!

The law requires companies to ‘mitigate the impact of redundancies’.

One obvious way of doing this is through redeployment. Often companies do not have the time/resource in the midst of change to address this properly. Through a rigorous job design, redeployment, and assessment development process, a competent transition services provider can support this activity with you and save you a lot of money and expertise at the same time.

5. Create a communication plan

A comprehensive plan that describes what needs to be communicated, to whom, by whom, how and when to ensure a minimum of confusion and misunderstanding. Err on the side of more communication, and ensure that the management team are always willingly available to answer any concerns and queries.

“Maintaining morale and motivation is crucial during times of major change.”

6. Organise separation interview training for line managers

Not all line managers find the ‘giving of the news’ an easy thing to do. When it goes wrong there can be serious repercussions. Those who have to deliver the bad news, and manage and support their people through a difficult period, require support themselves. In some cases they may even find themselves in the same predicament. You may also wish to consider security measures, and ‘pick-up’ support on the so-called ‘Tell Day’. Look to your provider for this support*

7. Provide ‘managing change’ support for those not leaving

Maintaining morale and motivation is crucial during times of major change. Staff may need help in exploring the risks and opportunities presented by the change. Guide them in discovering their personal strengths and challenges in their response, and provide them with the knowledge, tools and motivation to take control, refocus and move forward towards personal and organisational success and productivity. Your transition services partner should support this with you.

8. Ensure highest quality of outplacement support is provided to departing individuals

Today’s departing employee may be tomorrow’s customer. New research shows that business leaders believe that the quality of outplacement support provided to exiting employees has a strong bearing on the reputation of the employer, and their ability to retain key staff.


Organisational change is a fact of life in today’s changing global workplace. Increasingly, organisations in the public and private sector are consolidating, merging, acquiring and restructuring in order to maximise the use of their human capital and thus remain competitive and profitable.

Change brings with it pertinent challenges and frequently requires a reduction in staff numbers. This process can be a potential mine-field for employers and poor planning and application often leads to the loss of top performers, increased litigation from disgruntled employees, reduced output/performance, low morale and unwelcome negative PR. Key to avoiding such issues is to turn to an experienced partner who can help key stakeholders navigate through and successfully plan for the employee separation process.

Stuart Lindenfield, head of transition services at Reed Consulting, is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts on career management, with a strong track record of helping individuals enhance their careers and organisations successfully manage transitions

One Response

  1. Help the managers
    Whilst the article does cover the essential ground in an easy to read, and brief format, having been through rather more downsizing exercises than I care to remember, the one issue that I would highlight is the area of help for managers – 5, 6 & 7 in the article. Whoever is running the overall change programme – and it is often not HR – needs to focus on how they are going to help managers – both the managers of those who are going, and the managers of those who are staying. The simplest method is to get some of the managers together – virtually if you are managing change across borders, and to work with them to understand what help they really would value. The help topics should also be prioritised, as we often do not have the resources that might be valued. Some of the “nuts and bolts” sorts of help are National in type, but others cross borders. Clearly timing and speed are issues with this sort of exercise, so if you have limited time to do this post-announcement, do get help. I’ve used a British company called Executive Action 3 times in the last few years, and they have always added value.

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