10 Questions for HR to Ask Before a Re-Organization

I was writing a blog on another topic when re-organizations came up.  It got me thinking that sharing a short list of questions HR practitioners should be asking their leadership team before a re-organization would be helpful.  Here they are enjoy!

  1. What is the business problem you are trying to solve?  This will lead to a discussion of what is going on in the business and give you insights into what the leader is thinking big picture.
  2. What’s changing?  Duh, this might seem like a no brainer, right?  Sometimes I like to be Captain Obvious for fun.
  3. What is the business need for this change?
  4. What are the people impacts?  Are folks moving to new teams or being asked to do different roles?
  5. Will they be adding (or subtracting) headcount?  This is a big one because it will lead to some fun legal questions if you are decreasing headcount.  A disparate impact analysis can help, partner with your in-house counsel to make sure you understand the impact of the decision and to outline thoughtful criteria for who will be impacted.
  6. What makes you nervous about these changes?  Yes, you are asking the leader to be vulnerable, but this is something you need to know so you can help them solve concerns.  An alternative to this (and also question #1) is: What is keeping you up at night?
  7. How will the team perceive this change?  Maybe you are updating a process and everyone will be excited and happy.  Or maybe it will be a tough change where their peers and friends won’t be around anymore.  Either way, you need to be ready for how folks will react.
  8. What other teams will be impacted by these changes?  People interpret change in many ways.  I recently did a re-org and a team member who partnered with them went to their manager asking if he would be moved too.  If we can pre-emptively have conversations on what the re-org includes and also what it does not include, this helps people stop worrying and get back to work.
  9. What is the timing?  This is especially important around the holidays.  I have a personal rule of thumb that we freeze any terminations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, when possible.*  Now, I have had folks say that I should tell them before the holidays so they don’t spend too much, but I am more about not ruining holiday celebrations with their families.
  10. What is the communication plan?  This one is important enough that it should be at the top of the list or even be its own list!  The communication plan needs to be well thought out and make sure it includes the right levels of leadership at the right time.  The communication can make or break a re-org since people will make up details if they are not told the what, why and how of a change.  I cannot stress enough how important this piece is and HR should be an active participant in helping to craft this message.


*The holidays I call out might be different depending on the country or cultural traditions of the folks you support.  And there are times, depending on the severity of the issue that you cannot hold on terminating someone unfortunately.