Category Archives: BLOG

Leading through transitions

Even though unemployment is low, companies are still restructuring. Companies are facing uncertainty in healthcare, new business models in grocery retail, and new competition in other industries. In order to remain competitive and take out cost, companies turn to restructuring their workforce with approaches such as layoffs or early retirement offers.

My husband’s employer offered him and hundreds of other employees early retirement. He had a very successful career moving up in the company over 34 years. The parting was painful for some, exciting for others, and emotional for all.

I also personally experienced my own corporate employers’ restructurings. Early in my career, peers were laid off from a leading healthcare company. I survived that layoff, but remember how painful that day was for those who left and those who stayed. Also, a few years ago during a thirteen-year career moving up the corporate ladder for a Fortune 50 company, my name was called in a layoff. This definitely was an emotional transition in my life.

In each of these situations, I observed how tough the transition has been for those retiring or being laid off, and for those staying with the company. But, we often don’t think about how tough the transition must be for the leaders who have to put the pieces back together with the remaining team. Most leaders have never been in a situation like this before, and don’t know how to handle it.

Leaders are faced with two primary challenges – managing the transition of employees leaving, and inspiring the team that remains. Following are strategies that will help you successfully navigate through both situations.

Leading Employees Transitioning Out

How do you help employees transition out, when their shortened careers may not be by choice?
1. Be as transparent as you can – Help all employees on your team understand why the company needed to take this action, within the boundaries of what you can legally discuss. Communication may help them better deal with the situation.
2. Appreciate them – Let your departing employees know that their service to the company is sincerely appreciated. Share how their contributions have been valued. Self-worth and self-confidence are usually at low points during these times. Even though you can’t reverse the action, it matters to know that their years of commitment and hard work were not unnoticed or unappreciated.
3. Be empathetic to their emotions and concerns; listen – People just want their concerns to be heard. Know that this is a very emotional situation that will take time to work through. Be empathetic by just acknowledging their feelings.
4. Offer assistance to land elsewhere – For some employees, you may be able to connect them to professionals in your network, or share opportunities that you hear about.
5. Give the space and bandwidth needed to transition out – Don’t try to just suck the life out of them before they leave. Where the situation permits, determine how work will be reassigned as soon as you can and communicate it to the team. Give them the bandwidth to close out projects and train other employees on the responsibilities.

Leading the Remaining Team

How do you handle the next morning and coming days when the remaining employees return to work and things are different?
1. What assurances can you give – The morning after the layoffs or retirements are effective, meet with the team first thing to acknowledge that things will be different, but they have your commitment that you will make the transition as smooth as possible. Assure them that ‘we’re all in this together’.
2. Be as transparent as you can – Communicate allowable information on what will happen next as soon as you can. Employees are wondering what’s ahead because the grapevine is ripe with rumors. Don’t sugarcoat the news. If the cuts are over, let them know that in order to ease other fears. However, don’t give false hope. Be honest if more restructuring is on the table and all the dust hasn’t settled yet. Trust can grow or be broken at times like these.
3. Appreciate them – Let them know how much you value their hard work and pitching in to make the transition work.
4. Be empathetic to their emotions and concerns; listen – Acknowledge that your employees feel unsettled and miss their coworkers. Empathize with their emotions and concerns. Share that you have the confidence in them to work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.
5. Make yourself available for employees to come to you with concerns – This will take time to work through. Let employees know your door is open to listen; however, don’t passively allow whining to take hold.
6. Provide direction – Your team is looking to you for guidance and direction on how to move forward. What does the new structure mean to the company and to your team? How do things change or stay the same? Invite input on how the team can work most effectively in the new environment. Create opportunities to strengthen relationships among the team.

You, leader, play a huge role in how restructuring transitions turn out.

If you are not proactive in leading your team through the process, you’ll have tougher consequences to deal with.

And if the team you are leading through transition includes millennial talent, I have created a special update to help you. You can download it here.

Why Your Boss May Be Agitated With You

Hard to Find: Workers With Good ‘Soft Skills’,”  was the focus of a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal.  According to this article “companies across the US say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers.”  Other research shows similar trends.  A recent report, “Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy” based on a study by PayScale Human Capital, sheds light on skills that companies seek and that many college graduates are lacking. Missing soft skills at the top of their list include critical thinking/problem solving, attention to detail, communication, leadership, ownership and teamwork.  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) even weighed in on this challenge. In the article titled, “HR’s Hard Challenge: When Employees Lack Soft Skills“, they note that:  “soft skills – which are needed to effectively communicate, problem-solve, collaborate and organize – are becoming more important for success as the workplace evolves socially and technologically.”

 

This skills gap is real and impacts a company in a variety of ways. Many employees at all levels don’t have the skills they need to work well together to keep the company on the leading edge.  Leaders claim they are not ‘a people person’, effecting their ability to effectively communicate and build relationships with their teams. As a result, the work environment becomes less engaging and less productive. Some of your best and most promising talent leave. You’re left with an even bigger ‘skills gap’ that you frantically, and often unsuccessfully, try to close. The long-term performance of the organization is at stake.

 

Soft skills are tough to hire for and tough to train on. Companies are finding both creative ways to test applicants for these skills, and are investing in training.  Is it worth it? According to the SHRM article mentioned above, “research from the Hay Group revealed that managers who incorporate a range of soft skills into their leadership approach can increase their team’s performance by as much as 30%.”  Employees feel more connected to the organization, their team, and feel a greater sense of value and self-worth.

 

Solutions for Companies

How can your company close your soft skills gap and get AHEAD in creating an environment where employees like to work and your organization can thrive?

 

Assess – Assess where you stand on the soft skills you have identified as most important for the culture and work to be done within your company.

Hire – Evaluate your hiring practices.  Incorporate questions that focus not only on technical skills, but also soft skills.

Expectations – Establish expectations for the how soft skills show up in the values, competencies and behaviors that define your culture. Ensure that these expectations are communicated broadly and in a way that all employees can relate to.

Accountability – Hold leaders and employees accountable for developing their soft skills and for integrating them in their daily interactions.  Recognize and reward employees who are making an intentional effort and are progressing.

Develop – Offer soft skills development opportunities for employees, especially in your leadership pipeline, through training, direct experience and mentoring.

 

Solutions for Professionals

If you are an individual contributor, what can you do to develop your soft skills? Take these steps to personally get AHEAD.

Awareness – Become aware of your strengths and the soft skills you need to further develop. Be attentive to the reactions of others in your interactions.  Ask for feedback from your manager, peers or team members.  Work with a mentor who can advise you of specific soft skills and how to apply them in your organizational culture.

Heart – Take this seriously. Put your heart into growing yourself in this area.

Educate – Identify books, articles, and training workshops that will help you deepen your knowledge of the soft skills you wish to develop. Work with a mentor on specific areas or goals.

Accountable – Take responsibility for your actions. Give it an all out effort to improve. Make a plan for the soft skills you want to work on, aligning with those that are a priority for your company and particular role. Start with a goal to work on one skill. Don’t overwhelm yourself or others who are on the receiving end.

Demonstrate – Put your plan into action. Be intentional about applying soft skills in your daily interactions. See how it works and try again. Be aware of the progress you’re making.  Celebrate even the smallest victories.

 

Though we use the term ‘soft skills’, they ultimately have a hard impact on the bottom line. Make closing the soft skills gap a priority in your company or in your personal career.  The results will help you get AHEAD and stay AHEAD.

 

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to schedule a free, no obligation coaching strategy session at vivian@vivianblade.com.

 

Vivian

Your Career Empowerment Coach

 

www.vivianblade.com

 

P.S. Please share this in your social media network and with other professionals you believe can benefit from the information.