Musical Chairs

The new management line up at UBS’ investment bank, its fourth in 18 months, according to the Financial Times, reminds us of a problem being faced by companies in every industry: how do you reassure valued employees that they and the operations they run are not about to be dispensed with?  UBS has apparently avoided the exodus of talent widely anticipated, but are there any rules of the road for other companies facing similar upheavals?

Unfortunately, pre-existing cultural norms in organizations determine a great deal about whether these conditions will cause employees to jump ship, but there are ways to mitigate this effect and communications practices can be a key factor.  Face to face communications are always a preferred method but the stakes are high.  Most of us aren’t very good at hiding body language.  It’s also best to avoid sudden shifts in communications style.  Unexpected departures from company SOP are rarely interpreted positively unless the shift is carefully explained.  However,  when bad news from the C-suite seems to come thick and fast, it does pay to gradually increase communications frequency around other matters.  Look for ways to engage with employees on routine, even mundane topics.  Content is important, but the outreach counts in and of itself.  It may be an “eat what you kill” world, but we still need to gather around the campfire.

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