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Leaving the door ajar

All businesses need at times to review their organisational structures to maximise efficiency and lay the foundations for future growth. The difficult economic circumstances have forced many businesses to re-structure and this has inevitably led to redundancies. Cameron Bird, HR Operations Director, Santander UK.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the cost of making a single worker redundant can be more than £16,000, making it an expensive option for employers who may need to recruit staff at even greater cost when business improves. On top of this there are hidden or indirect costs resulting from the effect of redundancy on survivor employees, such as higher labour turnover and a fall in staff productivity. Moreover the time and energy invested into training an employee is completely lost when they leave the company.

Recruiting externally is also expensive. Many of these costs consist of management or administrative staff time but direct costs can also be substantial where advertisements, agencies or assessment centres are used in the recruitment process. So how can companies avoid waving goodbye to highly skilled and expensively trained people? Companies wanting to minimise these costs should develop a well thought-out redeployment strategy that aims to minimise the negative impacts of the restructuring process.

It is important to act early and to develop plans which enable you to see clearly what the potential opportunities are for redeployment. In a large organisation such as Santander, which has many office sites and branch locations, this can be a complex process. To enable us to view the situation clearly we undertake ‘structural mapping’ to get a clearer view of where job opportunities exist, and where vacancies could be filled within our existing talent pool. Of course it is important to be able to review your redeployment needs on an ongoing basis. Many organisations set up committees which meet regularly to analyse current staffing needs and to discuss redeployment options.

Managers ought to be encouraged to take an open-minded approach when considering the suitability of employees for different job roles. Often they become too focussed on a candidate’s job title and they neglect to look more closely at the skills that the candidate offers which could be easily transferred to another role. It is our job as HR professionals to engage and educate managers about the benefits of looking more generally at the skills and personal attributes a candidate could offer. In my experience it is better to upskill people from within the business who may not have all the skills currently but could be trained, than to recruit someone externally who is unfamiliar with the company’s working practices.

At Santander we have successfully redeployed 30 percent of employees affected by business changes last year, many of which have moved into different job roles. For example, we have transferred many employees who previously worked in our call centres to customer service roles in our branches. There is a similar challenge in persuading employees of the benefits of remaining at an organisation – the opportunity to learn new skills and to take on new challenges. So the role of the manager as a coach and mentor is vital in this process.

HR professionals should also look to drive contract flexibility across the business. Far too often a lack of flexibility in this arena can prevent employees moving between job roles. Contracts should enable transitions between one job and another or between one professional status and another. Historically there has been a stigma attached to redundancy. Many people who have been made redundant feel that the decision reflects on their own personal performance. It is important to remind them that it is the job role, not the person that is being reviewed.

Communicating effectively with employees whose job role is under review is vital therefore in keeping up their morale and motivation at the company. It is crucial that someone in the HR team talks to the employee directly. They need to highlight the opportunities to remain within the business and ask them what their preferences would be with regard to a new job role. It’s then the job of the HR professional to pro-actively match the right candidate with the right job roles, fast tracking them through to interview stage where appropriate. Providing employees with up to date and relevant information is vital to keep them engaged. An online portal which enables employees to view vacancies and recruiters to upload opportunities is an excellent tool to aid this process. At Santander we are developing a dedicated intranet portal for our redeployment talent pool.

It is also important to communicate the benefits of redeployment to senior managers. Particular success stories should be highlighted, as examples of best practice, which bring to life the benefits of taking this approach. There are many practical reasons therefore that companies should look very carefully at redeploying or “re-recruiting” employees. Substantial redundancy and recruitment cost savings can be made which can make for impressive reading in the boardroom. But perhaps it is the hidden or indirect benefits which have the most impact – the influence on staff morale, the re-energising effect moving job roles can have on employees. Companies that take a proactive approach to redeploying staff will reap the benefits; creating a dynamic working environment for employees that inevitably helps the business to succeed.

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