How to restructure without losing your best employees

Consultant Valerie Morton offers some tips on restructuring your team

Q: I am restructuring my team. How do I balance getting the right structure with making sure I have jobs for my good people?

A: We all know the challenges of finding new staff, and it is tempting to shape structures around the skills of existing workers. As someone who has done this, I have first-hand experience of it backfiring when a key team member resigned soon after the restructure (for legitimate reasons - she moved away from London). I was left with the dilemma of reorganising again or recruiting to a post I did not now want.

Consider these questions. Are you sure the individuals concerned will leave if their jobs no longer exist? Perhaps they might see a change of role as a development opportunity. If the new role has less responsibility, can you identify a challenging project that the person could manage as well, so the proposition becomes attractive?

What are the consequences if your good people leave? Might they have been about to leave anyway, to take on their next challenge? What is the recruitment market like for the specific role involved? Could this be an opportunity to bring some exciting new blood into your charity?

We have strong values in the voluntary sector, and one of the ways we demonstrate them is through the way we treat our employees. We consider the personal impact of any change on people, alongside the business benefits. But remember, everything we do needs to be in the interests of our beneficiaries. Treating an employee with respect, consideration and care does not mean allowing their needs to overshadow those of your beneficiaries.

If you base your decisions on individual members of staff, you run the risk of failing to achieve the objectives of the restructuring, or of finding yourself with future unscrambling to do.

If you really feel your proposed structure is right for the charity, it is likely that the benefits will outweigh any temporary staffing issues.

Start with your ideal structure, see where you can fit people into it, look at training and development to enable people to meet new challenges and be prepared for some people to leave. Manage the process in a way that is both professional and considerate so that you bring the staff along with you, regardless of their destination.

- Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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