Communicating organisational structure change at Golder 

by Lucy

The challenge

Golder had identified something that we hear a lot about in the organisations we work with. People who excelled at their jobs had been promoted to be managers. Lots of Golder people were very good at their roles… so they had lots of managers. However, being great technically didn’t necessarily mean they had the skills to manage and develop others. Golder recognised the need to change things if they were to continue to grow in what was becoming an increasingly competitive market.

We met Emily Firth, Human Development Manager, who explained that the decision had been made to assess all their managers. They needed to identify those had the attributes, behaviours and potential to lead the business into the future and those who would be better positioned to focus on other roles, whether that be business development, project management or technical expertise. This element was crucial; to look at them as individuals and where they could best contribute. However, Emily realised that this needed to be done in a sensitive and effective way. Although it was felt that many would be glad of the chance to relinquish management responsibilities, some were likely to feel they’d had some stripes taken away. It was therefore critical that an open, informative and honest approach was used throughout, and Emily asked us if we could help with that.

The solution

We’ve got lots of experience in developing internal communication for our clients, so creating a plan for communicating these huge changes at Golder was something we were pleased to be able to help with.

The first step was, of course, to meet some people in the organisation, to ask about communication and understand what worked and didn’t. It proved to be a very useful exercise. For example, we knew that the people at Golder were highly intelligent yet they told us that a lot of the communication they received was too formal. They clearly appreciated the use of straight-forward language and a friendly tone.

We also found out how people were feeling, what they knew about the planned changes and many things we needed to consider when planning the communication activities and messages.

It was important that all managers understood the reasons behind the change and how it was going to proceed. So we helped the Golder senior team by interviewing them all, to get the full picture, before crafting a narrative that would explain what was happening to everyone else. Once this had been signed off, the senior team and everyone involved were able to refer to it; ensuring consistency of messaging across the whole organisation

The result

The process of reducing (by approximately half) the number of people in the organisation with line management responsibilities went really smoothly and the level of communication throughout was really appreciated. The sort of feedback received from the workshops included:

“Nothing could be improved today, it went very well.”

’‘The Orientation Workshop was a great chance to meet other People Managers face-to-face and to develop as a team, with no distractions.”

’‘The discussion about how we can support each other in the role was really useful.”

Want to know more?

This narrative then became part of the communication plan that was developed closely with the Human Development team. Golder is fairly unusual in that it is 100% employee owned with key senior shareholders (principals and associates), so we had to consider how they would be kept informed as well as managers and staff. Although there were some parts of the plan that we would directly support, and others that Emily’s team would be responsible for, we agreed to work in partnership throughout to ensure that the content and timing of the messages remained aligned to the plan.

A ‘Change Workshop’ early on gave all 90 Line Managers (as they were known then) the opportunity to hear about the changes at the same time. With a conference style approach, the workshop provided a balance between informing about what would be happening and providing opportunities for discussions and considering how people were feeling. We ensured the Line Managers understood how great communication was playing an important part during the changes and helped them recognise their role in sharing the plans with the rest of the organisation; creating their own team briefings plan during the workshop.

Communication continued throughout the whole period that people were being matched with their new roles, with timely and open messages being shared in line with the plan. Once the new People Managers (as they would now be known) had been chosen, we got together with them again. This workshop was called the ‘Orientation Workshop’ and its aim was to let the future leaders of Golder reflect on what the new role would mean for them. There were changes and additional responsibilities and the People Managers needed to clearly understand all this along with what support was available to help them become accountable for every part of their new roles.

What Emily said…

“The Rambutan team are refreshing and fun to work with, they take time to understand the business context and deliver something fit for purpose. If you want a partner to help you drive significant organisation change in an engaging and collaborative way, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Rambutan.”

Emily Firth, Human Development Manager

Lucy created the communications plan and supported Golder during their period of significant change and would be very happy to tell you more about it, so give her a call for a chat.