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Restructuring: Why Change Is Scary and How to Combat It

This was originally posted on Training Industry

As markets change and performance falters, businesses adapt by reorganizing. By streamlining processes, integrating systems and adding new capabilities, a company can transform to navigate industry or economic crises. However, change isn’t organizational alone; an organization is comprised of its individual employees. To ensure an organization and its employees evolve together, custom learning solutions are critical.

There are numerous “people problems” that come with any reorganization, but companies can overcome most of them through careful communication and corporate training. Employee learning and development (L&D) teams have a crucial role in increasing employee motivation and helping employees see change as an opportunity.

eLearning is a powerful tool for tackling employee concerns and maintaining a motivated workforce through changes. Sometimes, it may involve onboarding (or cross-boarding) employees to a new position, reskilling or upskilling employees to take on new responsibilities. Regardless, any effective strategy must also address the psychological factors that decrease motivation.

Framing Change

The main goal of training during a reorganization is to bring employees up to speed on the skills needed for their new role. However, it’s also an opportunity to develop technical skills within your workforce. According to a McKinsey survey, 66% of executives see “‘addressing potential skills gaps related to automation/digitization’ within their workforces as at least a ‘top-ten priority,’” and almost 30% see it as a top-five priority.

While most of us don’t like change, we usually embrace a challenge that will help us improve. When a company undergoes a reorganization, it’s asking its employees to stretch and evolve. Technical skills will undoubtedly benefit individual employees, but more training may seem daunting in the face of large organizational changes. Therefore, training content and communications around the transition should mention motivational factors like career development, attractive new skill sets, knowledge, promotions or raises. Channel your employee’s anxiety to create excitement and engagement about their opportunities for growth.Channel your employee’s anxiety to create excitement and engagement about their opportunities for growth.

The Negative Effects of Stress

During a reorganization, employees often struggle with fears around job security and new responsibilities. Even the employees with more positive outlooks will experience some stress and uncertainty, which is why reorganizations are associated with decreased employee productivity, higher turnover and increased absenteeism. For the employees who are laid off during a reorganization, the impact can be damaging to future success. A 2002 study found that the employees left at organizations after a layoff experience declines in job satisfaction, organizational commitment and job performance.

In any case, the impact of stress on company culture and performance is detrimental. Unfortunately, when companies struggle with performance, they tend toward prescriptive environments. Usually, this response is an attempt to improve performance through more reporting and management, but it can have the opposite effect on motivation, which is critical for performance. For instance, goal-setting theories of motivation tell us that the careful creation of goals is more effective than performance management. When you set timely and attainable learning goals, performance will improve. Moreover, learning goals have shown to increase performance more than performance-based goals. Consider using digital learning technology like simulation models. Then, build learning goals around those training activities.

A reorganization is rarely perfect, and it comes with notable challenges to people and performance management. Fortunately, you can overcome most of those challenges through careful corporate training strategies. Employees who have engaged in onboarding, reskilling or cross-boarding can become agile contributors to the company. Just remember that training during a reorganization must also address key motivational factors in order to prevent stress, turnover and decreases in productivity.