I was asked to speak at a CIPD branch event recently on the subject of ‘Downsizing – managing restructures positively’. I shared the floor with a HR Manager who herself is currently managing a large-scale restructure and an employment lawyer.
The lawyer’s piece sparked many questions and much debate. Pooling, bumping, assessment criteria and consultation periods- all provoked a barrage of questions. Pooling, in particular seemed to be a big issue with many questions around the composition of pools.
The key message from the legal profession seemed to be very clear. Consultation is king. And not just from a statutory process perspective. Consult at every opportunity and gain agreement at every step of the way. This was especially pertinent around the subject of pooling. There were some very interesting case law examples of where Tribunals had found in favour of the individual based on how the employer arrived at their pools. The advice was simple, consult on how the pools will be structured and gain agreement.
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, communication was a key theme from the HR angle. “Know your audience” and communicate regularly seemed to be one of the mantras. I have to say, this was music to my ears. Whenever we write a proposal, design a solution or develop a project plan, communication plays a massive part
We often hear stories from individuals who have been made redundant who know little or nothing about the outplacement service they are being offered. Typically, people find out about the outplacement support at some stage during the consultation process but it’s not uncommon for someone to hear at the point at which their redundancy is confirmed. Needless to say, the message about outplacement support will often be missed as the redundancy confirmation is sinking in.
It’s also not uncommon that the person or ‘envoy’ who is giving the news has other priorities too. The stress experienced by the HR professional or manager delivering the news is often under-estimated. All of which can mean that most of the positive message about the support available can get lost in the wider emotion of the process.
Our advice, like that of the lawyer, is that regular and effective communication is a vital component in a successful and positive restructure. At a difficult time for both the organisation and the individual, positive messages about the support that people will receive can have a tangible effect on both morale and productivity. This is true for those who are staying with the business as well as those who are leaving.
Most of our clients are telling us that ROI is becoming increasingly important when making decisions around outplacement support. When you decide to invest in the provision of outplacement, our message is to think about how you communicate to all of your stakeholders. Unions, envoys, managers, HR colleagues, think of the wider audience, not just those directly affected. And ask your provider to help. At Chiumento, we see this as an important part of our role and we are happy to help.
Client Development Director