Organisational Change; Looking after those left behind…

September 28th, 2010 by Martin Smith Leave a reply »

Organisational Change - looking after those left behind




In times of organisational re-structuring attention is quite rightly given to those that are being impacted and who are leaving the business due to redundancy. But beware of forgetting to spend time and effort thinking about the people that will remain in the ‘new organisation’ as well, otherwise it could cost you in the long run.

I have been lucky enough to work with some very large organisations over the years, most of who were almost in a constant state of change and business re-organisation, re-shaping or downsizing, leading to redundancy for many roles. Naturally at times like this a lot of effort is put into making sure that those impacted by the loss of jobs are well cared for and given as much help as possible to find new employment opportunities.

It’s easy to think that the new organisation is all ‘designed’ and ‘ready to go’ but often that’s not the case. And, what about the people who will be staying to bring this so called ‘new organisation’ to life? How much do they actually know about the shape, size, vision, objectives or roles in the new order? All too often the ‘stayers’ can start to feel ‘neglected’ as energy is focused on making it as easy as possible for people that are leaving the business.


Sometimes it’s too painful or considered insensitive to start talking about the new organisation before those being made redundant have actually left, but it’s important to start to share the new vision and get people working towards it as soon as possible to help accept the change. There is a real need to talk about and share the Vision and Shape of the new organisation to start to engender hope and optimism for their future.  In my experience this can be done sensitively and can include everyone.

Here are some of the practical lessons (and recommendations) that I have learnt from my experience both during change and after it have occurred;

  • Communicate as much as possible – What is being done to help those affected? How the new organisation will be structured. New reporting lines etc. Keep communicating throughout as well. During times of change and uncertainty people often don’t listen too well once they have heard that jobs are under threat!
  • Don’t forget the outside world! – Often overlooked in change projects is the need to engage and communicate with the ‘wider world’ i.e. your customers, other departments or suppliers. After all, it could be that their primary contact with your organisation will not be there in the future. Service levels need to be maintained throughout the change so that there is as little disruption to the customer/supplier as possible. Make sure they know who to contact with questions or queries etc.
  • Share the vision for the new organisation – It’s important that you and your team know and understand the reasons behind the changes. What’s driving it? What would happen if you didn’t change? What benefits will the changes bring etc. Keep emphasising these points whenever possible, both in team meetings and 1-2-1 sessions.
  • Have individual meetings – Spend time with each of your team individually during times of organisational change. They will all have separate concerns, issues and questions and they may not raise them in a group setting. Keep an open door and allow time to listen to their ideas, thoughts, concerns and problems, answer their questions as much as possible and find answers when you don’t know them.
  • Be clear about new roles and objectives – One of the biggest issues during organisational change concerns new roles and objectives. To respond to these make sure that Job Descriptions and Reporting lines and objectives are ready to share with your team to answer any questions that they have. It’s important to discuss these issues even if you don’t have all of the answers, you will at least know what is of concern to your team and can be ready to provide answers when they are ready.
  • Engage your people quickly – The faster and deeper that you can engage your people in any  changes and shaping their own future, the more likely it is that you will get their buy-in and commitment to the new organisation. Ask them for input, delegate tasks and involve them in generating ideas for how you can make the new organisation a success. It’s been my experience that; Greater involvement = greater buy-in to the change
  • Team Events/Morale Boosters – Give some thought to organising team events and morale boosting opportunities. These can be as simple and informal as having Pizza ordered in for lunch one day to going for a drink with the team after work. Of course you can also go down the more formal route of organising a team workshop where you could focus on the team’s objectives and have some fun activities throughout the day as well. A small amount of time and money spent on your ‘stayers’ now is likely to pay dividends in the long run.
  • Hold regular Team Meetings – In times of change you really need to understand how and what your team are thinking and feeling and team meetings are a great vehicle to enable this. Team meetings provide an opportunity to repeat the key messages, re-iterate the objectives and remind them of the vision. They also provide an opportunity to share thoughts, feelings and air any questions.


The ideas shown above are taken both from best practice and my own experience and have all been used to great effect in change projects that I have been involved with.

Do you have any experiences to share? What would you add to the ideas above? I would love to read your responses.

Martin Smith Learning and Development Ltd is a specialist consultancy working with leaders at all levels to improve their relationships with the people that they interact with both internally and externally to the company. We work with organisations, teams and individuals to identify how they can get the best from their people. We have experience spanning diverse industries and encompassing sectors such as engineering, design, customer service, finance, supply chain, sales and procurement.


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  1. Great blog & so true, have come across this happening many, many times. It is so often said that its almost better to be one of the leavers.

    Lets hope business leaders take heed for the future.

  2. martin says:

    Thanks for reading the blog Kathryn and for your comments. As the blog states, it is so easy to focus all of your attention on the leavers and forget those that are staying. From an organisational point of view they are the future. It’s so important to get the balance right and remain sensitive to everyones needs in difficult times.

    My fingers are crossed that business leaders and change leaders read this and articles like it.


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