Challenge 30. Retaining talent during a reorganisation

Nut to crack: How do you manage talent during a reorganisation to avoid unnecessary churn?

When an organisation changes its structure, this is primarily because it in- tends to have a more robust organisation after the reorganisation. However, the quality of that new structure is determined by the people who work in it. And if you lose your best people during the reorganisation process or can’t place them in the proper position, your structure may look great on paper, but your performance will not improve. Therefore, the question arises: how do you ensure you optimise the match between individuals and roles?

Nutcracker: A targeted talent retention approach

Challenge 40 elaborates on the definition of talent. If you are clear on who your talents are and want to ensure that you will not lose your best talents during a reorganisation, create a heat map with clear actions per talent before any rumours about a reorganisation go out.

In this talent retention heat map, you fill in the following columns:

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Unit
  • Location
  • Hire date
  • Tenure
  • Impact of leaving
  • Risk of leaving
  • Proposed action
  • How
  • By whom
  • By when

You enable proactive handling during the reorganisation by systematically mapping all talents and developing an individual action plan to retain them one by one.

Next, ensure that you provide clarity to the group of colleagues not affected by the reorganisation as soon as you know. Creating clarity about this as early as possible prevents employees from being unnecessarily shrouded in uncertainty and proactively looking for another job elsewhere.

Then, make sure you schedule a minimum of two conversations with the talented individuals you do not want to lose as soon as possible.

The first conversation enables you to make the individual aware of the con- sequences of the reorganisation for them. At the same time, it allows you to identify personal wishes concerning a future role and to manage expectations about what you can and cannot do in finding them their next role in this part or another part of the organisation. Update the heat map after the first con- versations.

In the second conversation, which should ideally happen within a week after, provide a solid offer for each talent which matches both the individual’s needs and the needs of the organisation. Work closely with hr to ensure the quality of this process is high and you meet legal requirements.

Real-life example: Selection based on quality

A bank opts for a new operating model and way of working, resulting in a completely new organisational structure. All positions are declared vacant.

During one month, all employees can apply for up to five positions in the new organi­ sational structure. This provides a first inclination of the match of individuals for jobs. This is followed by an online assessment for each employee and a meeting with a senior manager.

In the selection process, the criteria of knowledge and skills are given less weight than attitude and behaviour.

Some people objected to this process. About ten per cent did not want to enter this process and therefore left the organisation of their own volition. Another ten per cent did not make it through the selection process and were asked to leave by the organisation. The remaining 80 per cent were placed in a new role within three months; in 40 per cent of the cases, a different role to the one they fulfilled before the reorganisation. They were subsequently trained and prepared for their new role, allowing the new organisa­ tion to start successfully after six months. By working this way, the optimal person­role match was achieved relatively quickly.

Tip for change leader

Ensuring that you continuously have honest performance conversations with employees, also if a person does not appear to be a good match for a position or role, avoids much frustration during a reorganisation. Reorganisations are not an instrument to correct overdue performance management.

Tip for change enabler

It is not easy for managers to have honest and open conversations and simultaneously understand the dos and don’ts of legal frameworks. Provide good scripts and “dry runs” to equip them as best as possible for the discussions. Ensure hr joins these conversa­ tions to provide the required on­the­job support.

Kernel: Strategise to keep your best people on board

Forewarned is forearmed: if you plan as well for your talent retention as you plan for your business performance, especially in the context of a reorgani- sation, you win in a world where talent is a scarce resource.

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