Remembering the human beings at the centre of HR change processes – PART 2

I was looking in my back-up folder for something else and came upon this piece of reflection and advice to myself for the future – written just over 8 years ago, before I blogged or tweeted. I remember sitting down to write this within a few days of completing my involvement with a large-scale change that included a complete restructure and, unfortunately, some redundancies. I nearly said ‘a headcount reduction’ but we all know what that really means!

With some minor editing and anonymisation, I’ve decided to share it in a three-part blog. In part 1, I covered making sure the HR team is resourced, prepared and supported, the importance of accurate data (more on that in part 3 too), engaging with staff, specific and contextualised communications.

1.      Timescales

Need to be realistic! If the change is big and the timescale is short, the more preparation in advance, the better. If the timescale is challenging, be honest with staff and stakeholders as to why. Recognise that a challenging timescale will cause more stress for the HR staff and others closely involved with making the change happen.

2.      Organisational culture

Make sure you understand this well and that your actions and communications are all in tune with this. Appreciate that there may be very different cultures if working with more than one organisation. Give the same messages but tailor to different cultures if necessary. Use local stakeholders to assist if possible.

3.      Planning

The importance of planning cannot be underestimated. As early as possible plan all of the activities necessary with key dates and milestones identified. Plan for predicted bottlenecks of activity. Flex resources appropriately. Make sure key meetings are mapped and if there aren’t any, plan them in.

Likely to need senior level/Board sign off for certain activities such as consultation dates, consultation document sign off, agreed management response, agreed and costed final structure etc. Depending on governance arrangements and delegated authority, there may be a need for additional Remuneration Committees for approval of redundancies.

Keep the plan up to date and well communicated to all concerned. It will give stakeholders and wider core change transition team members confidence that all of the activity led by HR is well planned and on track. Have a visual plan.

Get the balance of planning and doing right. Once into making the change happen, the plan remains important, but getting things done starts to take precedence, especially if the timescales are challenging.

4.      Consultation period

Get this right. Know the legal requirements (where redundancies are likely) and come to an agreement with the TUs if possible so that partnership working is healthy from the start. 30 days (for 20 to 99 possible redundancies) seems quite short, but for a fairly straight forward change, it may be sufficient. Consider if the consultation period includes a major bank holiday and allow for this. 45 days (it was 90 when I originally wrote this) may be required, but if it is not legally, and the only reasons it is being suggested are historical, or based on an argument of giving staff, who may become redundant, longer on the payroll, consider a compromise.

The agreed number of days (which could be less than 30 if the proposed redundancies are fewer than 20) should give enough time for everyone to get their comments made, whilst avoiding an overly long consultation that starts to drag on towards the end. If the deadline for completion of the change is challenging, a long consultation can mean that the appointment process afterwards is truncated and has to be completed much more speedily than is desirable or good practice.

5.      Voluntary Severance Schemes

Evaluate the likelihood that offering these will reduce compulsory redundancy versus the HR, Finance and governance (very high) workload required and possible demoralisation of staff whose applications are refused. 

If offering voluntary severance, make sure you understand the scheme fully and that you have well developed eligibility criteria. Look at staff shortage groups, to ensure that you do not agree to applicants, who then leave vacancies that cannot be filled and need to go to external recruitment after the change is implemented.

Attention to detail is vital here, as accurate quotes will be needed for staff. Get access to specialist pensions advice for staff.

Be absolutely transparent about decision-making processes. Don’t use this as a way of no longer needing to employ ‘difficult’ staff. If there is a pool of VR applicants who are doing the same sort of role at the same pay grade, either accept or reject all of them (unless agreed, and previously communicated eligibility criteria includes consideration of sickness or performance.)

6.      New Structure

Are the roles in the new structure really new or are they sufficiently similar to existing roles to consider slotting in or ring fencing of post holders for certain roles? In XXXX, we said no slotting in and this made a lot of additional work. That consideration aside, Organisational Change policies can allow for slotting in processes and % of similarity between an existing and a future role are clearly shown. Whether slotting in is used or not, and for which roles, will depend on the nature and scope of the change. If it is not used, time must be given in the schedule for robust appointment processes to take place.

In part 3, governance, upwards management, analytics and legal considerations.


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