Early in his career, Iqbal Ashraf, CEO of Mentors Guild, was caught up in a corporate restructuring. His boss understood the inevitability of a corporate consolidation. Unlike everyone else, instead of defending the current structure and staffing, the boss aligned himself and his team with the people arguing in favor of the reorganization and offered to help. When those endorsing change were facing a lot of resistance, they appreciated his support. As a result of his efforts to craft a valuable role for his department in the new company, both he and the department fared well following the restructuring.
The key to not only surviving, but also prospering following a reorganization, according to Brigette McInnis-Day, executive vice president of human resources for global customer operations at enterprise software firm SAP, is to prepare for that eventuality ahead of time. The best way to position yourself for a potential business restructuring, according to McInnis-Day, is to build a strong network of people outside your immediate functional area that know you, and understand your value to the organization. She refers to this as building your “personal brand” and advises making a concerted effort to build a brand that is “powerful, distinctive and memorable.”
To ensure that when the time comes you have people outside of your immediate functional area who will speak on your behalf, McInnis-Day suggests you take risks, volunteer for assignments that others don’t want, seek to work on cross-functional initiatives that span multiple divisions and, if possible, take expatriate assignments. Doing so will provide exposure for you so you will be remembered when decisions are being made as to who will remain and what role they will play.
David Johnson, founding partner of restructuring advisory firm ACM Partners, advises that when faced with organizational change, “raise your hand.” He points out that companies going through a restructuring need engaged employees to step up and take on more responsibility. “Those employees who step forward and volunteer for the challenge often find themselves with a broad set of new experiences, relationships and not infrequently these employees find themselves the beneficiaries of ‘battlefield promotions,’ sometimes achieving titles that they would not have received for years in other circumstances,” he says.
Hugh Taylor, author of “The Life Reset,” believes that corporate survival depends on the value you bring to the organization. “When your company restructures, spins off a division, or buys another company, you are, in your own small way, just another corporate entity in the transaction. Your value to the new setup will be scrutinized from many angles. What value do you bring to the deal? If the answer is ‘not much,’ you may be out,” he says.
Taylor suggests that in the event of a restructuring be prepared to take a step backward to make two steps forward. “If you can figure out where the value is in the restructuring — what they’re trying to accomplish strategically — you can request the workload in the new structure that will help make the strategy a success. Then you will be rewarded. This is a good move even if it seems at the moment to be lateral or backward,” he advises.
However much you have, or have not prepared, when that reorganization is announced, McInnis-Day of SAP suggests you take the following actions immediately:
- Talk to the human resources executives responsible for staffing the reorganized units to determine what positions are available.
- Identify the decision-makers responsible for filling the positions that you are interested in and get your “pitch” out to them as soon as possible.
- Update your résumé and look externally at the same time that you are pursuing internal positions. Having a backup plan is not only prudent but it will provide you with leverage in negotiating internally.
Sooner or later most of us will find that the organization we are working for is facing a need to restructure, whether due to changing business conditions, a merger or acquisition or new leadership. When that happens, as Kirk Blair, partner at Deloitte Corporate Restructuring Group, points out, the most important thing is not to panic. Understand your value and look for ways to apply it to the new direction being taken by the organization. Whether your career is set back or you take advantage of the opportunity to enhance your career depends on how well you have prepared for that eventuality as well as the immediate actions you take.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com