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Surviving a restructure in marketing

This blog could as well be called surviving in marketing but I’m thinking specifically about what happens when a company restructures and results in redundancies in the marketing department.

I’ve survived and been on the receiving end of marketing restructures. I’ve made the suggestion to restructure. Although no two business’ circumstances are the same, I think over the years, I’ve gained some insight into the process.

When you find out about an impending restructure it may or may not be a surprise, but whether you had an inkling it was on the horizon or not, it’s still going to be a shock. Don’t make any decisions at this point. Ask your employer if you can take some time to take stock of the situation. Keep an eye on what your colleagues are doing, if they stick at their desk you need to consider how it will be perceived if you leave the office early.

You’ll generally be taken to one side, either as a team or as an individual to be told what’s about to happen. You’ll then go through a process of consultation at which point you’ll either be offered a new role, be presented with other roles you can apply for or you’ll be offered a redundancy package.

Remember at all times that during the consultation period, you are still working for the company under the normal rules of your contract. This is your time to determine whether there is an opportunity for you to stay within the organisation or whether you’re going to leave. Use this time wisely. Scope the jobs market but don’t be seen to be too proactive until you’ve made your decision.

Restructures happen for a number of reasons, generally because of a failing in the business strategy or because the business strategy has been reoriented towards another model.

Restructuring shouldn’t be the outcome of a failure in marketing strategy. If individuals are unable to make the marketing strategy work out, this should be picked up on in regular one to one reviews and dealt with either by managing the performance of the individuals or changing the marketing strategy.

It’s also worth pointing out that marketing is in a period of transition. When I started out in marketing everything was about print display and direct marketing. Over the years, the rise of the internet has changed the way we do our marketing. Whether that be SEO, PPC, email marketing, content marketing, the use of personalisation and automation. These things have all changed the way we do things and the amount of resource we put into each marketing channel must change over the years. Naturally, this means we’ll change the structure of marketing teams.

I think it’s fair to say, I’ve also survived restructures where individuals weren’t performing, and where they should have been managed out of the business, but the word restructure was used. If you find yourself in this situation make a call about which side you’re on and how much you really want to work for the company.

Believe me, this types of decision puts me off my food and gives me sleepless nights. The people making the decisions are human like the rest of us and they are going to be feeling pretty bad right now. They’ll want to do as much as they can to help you. Take advantage of the way they’re feeling and use it as an opportunity, remember if you’re leaving the business you should be negotiating your redundancy package up to the very last minute. You need to negotiate on gardening leave, how many weeks redundancy they’ll give you, what the reference looks like, get an explanation in writing on letter headed paper for the redundancy, a review on Linkedin – whatever you can get that will help you over coming months.

If you’re staying you equally need to be conscious of your future. What does your new role look like? Are you happy with the scope of that role? Are you happy with your new job title? Can you get more pay? Will they put a plan in place for your future development?

You’re going to go through a mix of emotions. I remember the first time I was made redundant (I’ve been made redundant twice). I felt like a complete failure and it left me fearful of being made redundant again. Even though I had a job offer in two weeks, it took around 18 months for that anxiety to dissipate. The second time I was made redundant I was ready for it. I knew I could find a job, which I did within two days.

Even if you stay with the business you may be surprised about how you’re left feeling. I survived a marketing team restructure which saw around 8 of my marketing colleagues made redundant. I remember feeling really excited that I’d still got a job and that my new role would be better aligned with my managerial experiences. I remember thinking I was going to be able to make a much bigger difference to the smaller marketing team and I was genuinely excited about it. For some time after, I also felt an irrational anger that this happened to people I really respected and rated.

What surprised me is I found it difficult to re-engage in the role after this restructure. In one role, I was in a team that was restructured with redundancies and around nine months later we were restructured again and I was moved into a role in which I had very little experience, but plenty of transferable skills. I had already found it difficult to do my best work in the rejigged team, following the second restructure I recognised it was time to leave. Knowing when to go and when to stay is essential.

Remember always where your loyalties lie. Don’t take anything too personally. It’s just business. If you go, this is probably going to be a great opportunity for you to make a change. As long as you view it as such, who knows where a marketing team restructure will lead you?

Good luck. I’ve been there. I feel your pain. I’ve always found these things make me come back fighting.

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