Workforce Planning and the Prospect of Restructuring

Workforce Planning and the Prospect of Restructuring

* Last Updated 14 April 2020

 

Planning

Over the past 4 weeks we have all become somewhat accustomed to constant and rapid change. We’ve learnt pretty quickly to take a step-by-step and day-by-day approach to avoid wasting time and energy on plans that quickly become irrelevant.

 

But, having dealt with the blow of the lockdown, the time has come to get ready to adapt and adapt again. Having contingency plans in place will be essential for you to navigate the next 12-18 months by being nimble and flexible.

 

A good starting point is to map out at least three possible scenarios – perhaps starting with a best case, worst case and a middle ground. These might include:

  • Best case – Level 3 after 4 weeks of lockdown. Reverting to level 2 the following week. No further lockdowns eventuate. Borders remain closed, but non-essential national travel re-starts in June. Government stimulus packages are relatively successful and the economy, including your industry, shows promising signs of recovery.
  • Middle – Lockdown is extended to 6 weeks. The country remains at level 3 for an additional 6 weeks, with some businesses needing to remain closed. National non-essential travel is restricted on and off throughout the year, there are regular school closures and occasionally it looks like another lockdown is possible.
  • Worst case – NZ returns to Level 3 after 4 weeks but it’s too soon or community transmission of Covid-19 has sprung back under the radar. After a few weeks at Level 3, another lockdown is announced and this one continues for another 6 weeks. After that, Level 3 with heavy restrictions for a further 6 weeks. Your business is unable to open properly at Level 3 but can operate to a limited extent on-line, but your industry has been heavily impacted. Sales are virtually non-existent.

Now think through what impact each scenario will have on your workflow and cashflow. Then, how will you need to change or downsize your workforce to match this footprint? What will be the triggers (sales figures, production levels, cashflow) that will force you to look at headcount reduction? Consider how you can avoid ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – where you need to downsize, will it be possible to make a more significant change to avoid constant redundancies and hours reductions.

 

Restructuring

Having completed the planning, you should have a clearer idea of the conditions and thresholds that may necessitate a change process. Or, in some cases, it may be clear that you already need to consider the prospect of restructuring your organisation and reducing your employee numbers. This is a complex and difficult process.

Here is a step-by-step overview of what you will need to do next:

  1. Plan
  • First, you will need to write a business case for why you believe change is required. Include important details such as sales figures and projections.
  • Next, write a communication plan – who is potentially impacted by this proposed change and how will you communicate with them? Individually, team meetings or a company-wide briefing? Will anyone be on leave during this time? How and when will you communicate with them?
  • Finally, get your ducks in a row. Review Individual Employment Agreements, read Job Descriptions, pull payroll information to double check details such as pay, titles and hours. Run a risk assessment for each – is the role you are considering to be disestablished similar to another role in the business? If so, do both employees need to be included in the consultation process as two positions becomes one?

 

  1. Consult
  • Draft up letters for all affected employees. The letter must:
    • Explain the proposed change
    • Outline the proposed impact to their particular role
    • Give the reasons for this proposed change
    • Say what will happen to them if the change goes ahead
    • Include the details for how the employee can submit feedback and the deadline for this
    • Either propose a time for a meeting to hear feedback, or offer the opportunity for the employee to book a meeting if they want to ask questions or provide verbal feedback
    • Emphasise that no decision has been made, and that this won’t happen until you have received their feedback
    • Give details of a proposed timeline. Seek feedback on this as well
  • Hold your consultation meetings.
    • Ideally, where only a small number of people are impacted and redundancy is a possibility you will hold these face-to-face. You can set this meeting up ‘informally’ by simply inviting the employee to a meeting, but we recommend that you let them know that what you need to discuss may impact their role, and that they are welcome to bring a support person – allowing them time to arrange this. In large company-wide restructures, and with the Covid-19 restrictions, this will not always be possible.
    • Ideally, read through the letter
    • Answer initial questions, but try not to get into receiving feedback in this meeting
  • Hold feedback meetings. Often questions will be raised at these meetings. If you don’t know the answer, commit to coming back with it as soon as possible. You must remain open, honest and communicative throughout. If you take too long to respond to questions or do not answer them at all, you risk an argument that the deadline for feedback should be extended.

 

  1. Consider Feedback
  • It is important to consider feedback in good faith. If, as a result of the feedback, you want to make changes to the proposal you need to decide whether to go back and consult on the new proposal.
  • Give yourself time to adequately consider feedback – usually 48 hours
  • If you’ve received a lot of feedback from numerous employees, group it into themes and write out your response to each ‘thread’ and any changes to the proposal made as a result

 

  1. Confirm
  • Having considered any feedback and made a decision, you need to draft up a second letter outlining your decision. This should include:
    • A summary of feedback received and your response
    • Any changes made to the proposal as a result of the feedback
    • What your final decision is, and the outcome for the employee’s role, including timing. If applicable, you may include details around final pay
    • If redeployment is an option or a selection process will follow, provide the details for this
    • Consider what outplacement support you can offer and outline this in the letter – this could include career coaching, assistance with writing a CV, an interview technique workshop, and financial planning resources.

Change processes can be very complex and are difficult for everyone involved. Emotions are likely to run high and it is so important that you get it right. Positive People can help. Email us at info@positivepeople.co.nz or call 09 445 1077 for a confidential discussion.

PositivePeople October 2, 2019 No Comments

AVOID THE PITFALLS OF RESTRUCTURING

“This gradual but prolonged economic slowdown is at risk of ceasing to be about the data and starting to become about the people.” Sharon Zollner, ANZ economist.

With a sluggish economy impacting businesses across the country, the unfortunate reality is that restructurings become an option for businesses who find that the way they are structured is not optimal, resources exceed the work available, or the business is being sold, partially transferred or outsourced.

However conducting a successful restructure is not as easy or simple as it seems (READ MORE LINK) and because of the adverse consequences experienced by affected employees they have a high risk  of resulting in a Personal Grievance.

  1. Its critical to correctly move through the actual restructuring process. This can be a minefield in its own right as each step needs to be carefully planned and also set out in writing.
  2. Each person potentially affected should be treated with compassion, care and fairness.
  3. Make sure that other employees watching from the side lines can see that the process and approach taken by the management is one of sincerity and fairness so that after the process is complete no lingering feelings of dissatisfaction exist.

A restructuring has many elements in it that need careful consideration.

The first critical point to make is that any change, first and foremost, is a proposal only. It is not simply a case of a management decision that is then communicated with those affected. This mistake is often made and results in problems for the employer.

The second important point to make is that there must be a genuine commercial reason for the restructuring. It cannot be about individual or group performance. Any performance related actions that management wish to take need to be dealt with under a Performance Management framework.

The third essential point is that a full and fair consultation process must take place with those employees potentially affected. This requires a set process be followed that allows for representation, time to consider the proposal, time to provide feedback and the opportunity to suggest alternatives to a redundancy or to the change itself, or in fact, feedback on any aspect of the proposal.

Once these steps have taken place, then, and only then, is the employer in a position to decide about whether the proposal will proceed as originally outlined, be modified in any way or scrapped.

It can happen that management wish to modify a role. Usually a change of 20% to the role is the guide as to whether the role has changed significantly. Consultation around this change should be conducted as well. If it is marginal, then giving the employee the choice of either accepting the new role or of taking redundancy can be the prudent decision.

If new roles are established, then there is a need to work out how to fill the new roles. Options here include the placement of employees whose roles are disestablished into the roles, running a recruitment process internally or of advertising externally. This aspect of a restructuring process can be very complex, as you have to ensure you offer the right options for each employee and needs to be planned and managed well.

A key element of a successful restructuring process is in the planning. The planning needs to be meticulous so that the commercial reasons, the actual step-by-step process, the paperwork, the scheduling and a compassionate approach is thoroughly thought through and combined to achieve the desired result with minimum risk.

The paperwork and communication around restructuring is a critical element to get right.

Some employees in specific industries are afforded special protection in restructuring situations.

Because redundancy is such a life changing event for those affected, emotions can run high with both those affected and their unaffected colleagues. In this situation waters can be muddied. In an attempt to be compassionate, steps can be missed, and the process placed at risk.  This is exactly where a solid plan will stand you in good stead as you methodically work through a fair process.

Ultimately what you are looking for is an outcome that sees improvements required for the business come through as fairly and as compassionately as possibly with as little adverse consequence to those affected, and to the organisation’s morale and reputation.

Speak to us.

We have extensive experience in guiding you through these highly complex and risky situations. Contact us now if you need help.

Change Management

Making Changes Smoothly and Without Drama

Plan a smooth restructure that enhances the business and allows the future to be tackled with confidence.

Sometimes it is essential to make changes in your organisation. Markets shift, customers demand more, technology advances and business practices move along. It is imperative that organisations stay ahead of the game and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

Making changes within your organisation to meet these challenges can often involve difficult decisions that will affect your people’s employment.

It is not just the human side of the changes that can keep you awake at night, but also the legal risks involved. Additionally, a badly handled restructure does your employment brand no favours. A badly handled change initiative can sully how attractive your business is to work for as well as negatively impacting on your current team’s satisfaction, engagement and retention.

Successfully navigating your way through a restructure, relocation or major system or process change requires expert planning and careful implementation. A fair process throughout is essential.

Once the decision is made to explore the possibilities of a change, then a proposal needs to be developed which explains the background, provides the genuine commercial reasons and provides a justification for the proposed changes.

Any changes contemplated must be for a genuine commercial reason.

A key element to be aware of is that from the moment a change idea is conceived until after all relevant feedback has been received is that it is only a proposal. Only after a fair process has been conducted, and all relevant feedback received and carefully considered can a decision on the proposal be taken. Up until that time the change contemplated is simply a proposal, nothing more. This is still the case even if you’re facing a certain change – for example, the lease running out on a premises meaning that some sort of change is inevitable.

The people affected need to be provided with a fair opportunity to provide their response to the proposal. If redundancies are a possibility then all alternatives to redundancy need to be explored to see if any people affected by the changes could be accommodated elsewhere in other roles, or other working arrangements introduced.

Once the decision on the proposal is made, then those affected need to be informed.

Throughout the process everyone affected needs to be treated with the utmost care and consideration. Suitable support in the form of the offer of counselling and CV/career path assistance should be offered to those affected. This will reduce your risk, but also ensure you are acting as a good employer and looking after your employees.

Because the discussions that are held are confidential, it can be difficult to maintain the engagement and morale of the rest of the team in the organisation as they naturally want to know what is going on. However, there is little choice but to wait until the whole process is completed before information like a new organisation chart and role descriptions can be shared.

If your Company is committed to creating a work environment where open dialogue, honest discussions, trust and fair processes are nurtured and promoted as part of the organisational culture, you and your team are most likely to come out of a restructuring process with a sense of optimism.

Following these guidelines should help you emerge from any change program with minimum risk and ready to take on the future with confidence. Positive People are well experienced in guiding, assisting and providing support to companies who need to make changes. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss the details.