It’s happened to all of us, you go to your favorite restaurant or neighborhood hangout and there’s a banner outside “under new management” or “under new ownership.” Depending on your personal experiences and what you’ve heard from friends, neighbors and relatives, this could be a blessing or terrifying change. Imagine how a business transition like this felt or looked for the employees of the establishment?
[tweetthis]How business transitions are handled can make all the difference to employees.[/tweetthis]
As an HR professional, I’ve assisted with changes both in ownership and management. I must say that the way business transitions like this are handled can make all the difference to the employees and the image projected on the local community. Here are a few wins and losses of my experiences with management change:
1. Speak to the employees first before sharing the news with the public or affiliates of the company – WIN!
By speaking to the employees first, the current and future management companies show their commitment to the staff that has carried the business this far and can avoid rumors from destroying the positive outlook of this strategic move. Note: Check your compliance with the WARN Act! You may have certain legal obligations of giving notice to your employees!
2. Waiting to tell the employees whether they will be re-hired or not – LOSS!
Inevitably, the new management company will want to be selective about individuals they keep and who they opt not to hire. This is a tough position for both the current and future management. My recommendation is to move swiftly with communication. This may mean having difficult conversations with employees who have been with the company for a long time, but the sooner you communicate to those who are not being rehired, the sooner you can tell the remaining employees that they are being retained. In one of my experiences, the in-coming management waited until just a few days before the transition to communicate who was being retained and this was a serious blow to morale. In this situation, the job abandonment rate was high and some of the employees they hoped to retain went out and found a new job out of fear of the unknown.
3. Have the transition team meet weekly (or twice a week) to discuss critical items and answer questions that have come up – WIN!
There are a lot of pieces to the transition puzzle and it helps to have continuous communication as well as clearly defined tasks assigned to one individual for follow up. This doesn’t mean there won’t be teamwork, but when push comes to shove, one person needs to champion each task to avoid duplication of work. Throughout the process employees will have a lot of questions and it’s crazy to think any individual will have all the answers. By meeting weekly, or more frequently, and discussing the questions, you guarantee that the answers are uniform across the board and if further information is needed, it should be added to the task list with a champion to get the answer.
4. Be prepared and organized for the transition day with individualized packets for each employee – WIN.
Whether it’s on-boarding or off-boarding, we all know there is a lot of paperwork involved and having incomplete or missing pages could have serious ramifications. I recommend having packets with each employee’s name on it. Go through the packet with employee and explain each form and what they need to do with each item. I have tried the “buffet line” of paperwork and it always seems that paperwork is missed or goes missing. So while making packets is time consuming and uses extra supplies, you will not regret the small extra expense for the peace of mind that paperwork is complete, secure, and organized.
5. For the out-going management, celebrate and commemorate the years of success – WIN
This is the lasting impression left with the employees that you have worked with for past years. Consider doing a reception for the employees with a catered meal and have key management members or the CEO/Owner say a few words. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. You never know when your professional paths may cross again and you want the lasting impression to be something along the lines of “they cared about us” “they appreciated my contributions to the workplace” “They saw the job through to the end” While it may seem like a completely obvious answer, the most critical element to the change is communication. The more answers you can provide, the fewer rumors will successfully circulate. Getting the buy in from the employees can definitely assist in the shaping of the public optics of the change because if the employees are comfortable and excited about the change, they will communicate this to patrons, friends, relatives, and the like. Very few people like change, especially in their workplace, but with the right finesse and on-going communication, you can minimize disruption and successfully guide your team through the transition.