As the pandemic brings on more restructuring, Three Keys' president Zachary Bingham explains the importance of communicating with stakeholders before so they stick with you afterward
Covid-19’s impact on business has led to an increase of 78% of U.S. Chapter 11 filings since September
, leaving CEOs to restructure their companies to help cut costs. Emphasising stakeholder communications during this critical time is almost as equally important as the financial aspects of improving or saving a company from financial ruin.
Stakeholders are groups of people who are of importance to your company: from customers, current and potential employees to members of the media, creditors, suppliers, NGOs, and vendors.
Miscommunicating - or not communicating at all - during a restructure will cost you stakeholder trust and loyalty. It will hinder the chances of a successful growth track after a restructure.
When companies neglect to take into account the feedback and emotional wellbeing of team members, this can lead to a wide range of losses for the business: a loss of productivity; a loss of associate engagement; a loss in customer service; a loss in operational focus; and financial loss and long-term damage to your reputation/brand.
Managers must be equipped with the right tools to manage change effectively, such as customised team-member messaging and carefully scripted FAQs. An effective manager may not be an effective communicator, so that assumption can’t be left to chance.
Insecurities and trepidations team members might have about the process must be addressed. Be empathetic as they have just as much to gain or lose throughout this adjustment.
Each Message has a Right Time and a Right Place
In situations like a restructure, where there is a high likelihood of an emotive response, then the 'channel' is every bit as critical as the message. We have many new channels open to us, so it’s important to align them appropriately.
Challenging and complex messages are best delivered by a person that the recipient knows and trusts. In this instance, the management layer of your organisation can shine. Executive leadership can always reinforce and lead through consistency to complement the efforts of the management team.
Think through the best channels for sharing information: email, Zoom or phone calls and make the time to keep everyone informed regularly. Organisations with well-established muscle-memory and infrastructure for 'cascading' information tend to perform well and hold on to the trust of their employees.
When It’s All Said, It’s Not Quite Done
Typically, a successful restructure is defined as 'getting through it'. While understandable, that perspective is a bit short-sighted. A restructure doesn’t end on the announcement day. In some respects, it’s just beginning. And if one uses that perspective, it can keep you, and your organisation, focused on the future, which is the whole point of a restructure.
Here are a few tips:
- Leave the door open to continually listen with intention. Some employees may not feel like sharing their concerns and feedback through more formal channels immediately following the restructure; sometimes, people just want to know the right person with whom they can talk after they’ve had a chance to absorb the change.
- Do post-restructure surveys for at least three months following a change to gauge the efficacy of the comms. Sometimes, issues and learnings aren’t uncovered until after the launch.
- Use benchmarks before the change for associate trust, engagement, and customer satisfaction. Set goals to evaluate across your team member groups. Did those go up, down, or remain stable throughout?
- It’s not unusual to see trust scores make a slight downtick after a restructure, so don’t read too much into a minor drop. However, this can bring context to a considerable decrease and instil a sense of focus on rebuilding trust.
Change-management communication has many layers and requires a great deal of preparation. The most important thing to remember is that every business is a 'people business', and as long as you remember all the people in your business, your restructure will go as smoothly as it can.
- Zachary Bingham, president, Three Keys Strategic Communications