Damaged goods or guardian angel – why redeployment goes wrong

Over the past three years many organisations have been faced with the challenge of how to move people across organisations – frequently as the result of re-organisation and redundancy programmes. This is the reality of redeployment.

At its simplest it means moving people from parts of the business with a surplus of human resources to other parts that have a shortage. How organisations approach redeployment can vary enormously – not just in terms of process but also in terms of success – for the organisation and the individual.

With traditional internal recruitment people are generally moving for positive reasons – promotion, opportunity or development. The employee usually initiates the process (although there can be exceptions in direct entry and succession planning scenarios) and typically feels in control. Moving is their choice as is the destination.

That sense of control is often missing in redeployment situations. Here the move is initiated by a situation created by the organisation. From the outset this may mean that the employee is an unwilling or resentful participant. Often they will be placed in a stressful situation with unpredictable impacts on behaviours.

For example while an individual may well want to stay with the organisation, we have to recognise that moving to a new job, function and/or location may well not be welcome. There is also a real danger of a “survival first” headset – having any job being more important than having a job that actually makes long term sense for both them and the employer. The impact being medium to long term dissatisfaction, poor performance and greater long term trauma for both organisation and individual.

So, how do you set about designing a redeployment process that works for your organisation? One of the answers lies in exploring a number of dichotomies which will give you real understanding of the needs of your organisation.

One dichotomy, for example, is about the manager headset. Do they see redeployed staff as “damaged goods”? Or do they fall into the altruistic “guardian angel” camp? At one extreme we find managers who predominantly feel that people being redeployed are somehow “damaged goods” or “cast offs” from other parts of the organisation. Rather than see the individual who is at risk of redundancy as a “victim of circumstance”, managers can be pre-disposed to badge them as “poor performers” or “problems”. Sometimes (but not always) this can be reflective of how past reorganisations have been used as a means of tackling individuals who should, more appropriately, have been exited through performance management processes. This creates a culture where being put at risk of redundancy is seen as a label of being “no good”.

If there is a predominant “damaged goods” culture – and we have certainly seen this in some organisations – then HR immediately faces a major challenge in implementing a successful redeployment process. This can be made even more problematic if there is little history of cross-functional or cross-divisional moves.

At the opposite extreme are managers whose response is to try and save everyone – whatever the cost. Their altruistic and often well-meaning “guardian angel” approach may, on the surface at least, sound positive but it can often create real problems for the future. This headset can create false hopes and there is a real risk of “square pegs” being fitted into “round holes” leading to potential resentment amongst the existing team. All of this has serious implications for engagement, performance and longer talent term retention.

Understanding and re-positioning hiring manager headset is a critical ingredient in the success of redeployment programmes.  The danger for HR is an attempt to implement and police a redeployment process without tackling the underlying hiring manager headset first. Failure to do so can result in HR taking the blame for failure – from employees, hiring managers or both.

In our latest insight paper we explore this and more dichotomies and look at how their characteristics may shape your solution. And this is the crux, there is no one best practice solution. Rather it is about developing a model that reflects the goals of your organisation. You can get a copy of the paper here.

Mike Burgneay
Managing Director

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