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Pre-existing policy on dealing with personnel change prudent practice

DOWNSIZING, streamlining, restructuring, repositioning, rationalisation … all words familiar to most in business. No matter what term a company chooses it inevitably means change and, to make sure that the company moves forward, employee management is crucial.

This subject was discussed at a recent Australian Human Resources Institute seminar, which dealt with the topic “Reinvigorating your staff after downsizing”. At issue was how companies that fail to deal with impending change may expose themselves to further costs.

ORS Group senior counsellor Dorothy Lavell said the cost to a company that failed to manage change was very tangible and included: increased sick leave; money to hire and train new staff; increase in workers’ compensation claims; loss in management time dealing with problem people; and a loss in productivity.

“If employees see the change as imposed change than they will see it as a ‘bad’ thing. If they are survivors of that change they will be sceptical of their own role,” she said.

“There is the perception that there is less staff, more work, and more pressure to perform, which has the potential of a $30,000 stress claim.”

A restructure of the Government Employees Superannuation Board started two years ago and human resources manager, Michelle Gilmore, said the organisation used ORS Group to help its employees through the change process.

“There was a change from top to bottom, just about everybody had to apply for their job,” she said.

“What we’ve achieved is a more competitive and customer-focused organisation.”

Ms Gilmore said the cost of using such a service was worthwhile.

“It has paid for itself with low complaints and a reasonable acceptance of the change,” she said.

Ms Lavell said companies with HR strategies linked at board level and those that outsource counselling work on a permanent basis would fare better than companies that didn’t.

“Research shows that best performing companies have HR representation at board level,” she said. “What is required is an independent person or organisation that people can trust, and who is not perceived as promoting the employer’s interest. People don’t seek assistance readily because they don’t believe anything can be done to hep them.

“The earlier an independent, trusted provider is brought in, the better chance of the resolution of people problems.”

Department of Justice executive director of prisons Terry Simpson is part of a management team that restructured the public prison system which, in effect, had to make it “better, cheaper, smaller”.

He said managers implementing “change policies” needed to make their employees aware of its inevitability.

“You need to make your staff aware of the inevitability of change, it’s going to happen. People often think that if they resist long enough that it just won’t happen,” Mr Simpson said.

“Important to any major change process and policy is first and foremost a clear vision of when you want to implement change and why.

“Poor communication inevitably means you get more resistance. Among all the vision and communication, your people need to see a future that they can identify with.”

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