Business Times, Dec 1,2015

Taking good care of staff – even when parting company

THE writing is on the wall. For the rest of this year, at least, businesses will continue to face challenges, and right-sizing or cost-management measures, whatever term one chooses to use, will be initiated. There will be job redundancies, and more will join the ranks of the unemployed. For many, it could very well mean losing their only source of livelihood that feeds the family and pays the mortgages.

Most times, when staff retrenchment is impending, HR will endeavour to redeploy employees occupying redundant job roles. Sometimes, this effort results in "saving" some employees, but most times, retrenchments are carried out as soon as the decision is made, and there is insufficient time to try to redeploy employees affected by the move.

This need not be the case if companies are pro-active in putting in place a career planning/management process.

Career planning/management

Forward-looking companies do this, and more can join their ranks. HR puts in place career planning/management programmes that allow employees to proactively plan and manage their careers. In doing so, the responsibility of managing one's career falls squarely on the shoulders of each and every employee, which is the proper thing to do to begin with.

Some companies are concerned about doing this as some (valued) employees might choose to voluntarily leave when they do not see alignment between their career aspirations and the future direction of the business.

On the surface, this might be perceived as a "negative" thing for the company, but if we think about it carefully, it is a "win-win" as there is not much point in trying to retain talent whose heart might not be in their jobs, and who might otherwise leave anyway as they are unable to find long-term career satisfaction.

Employees will be grateful to their employers for providing the infrastructure and support that allow them to be much more aware of their interests and career goals, as this empowers them to proactively manage their own careers.

It will be a helpful and value-added initiative by their enlightened management. The market-place will get to know of this, and project the company as a preferred employer to job-seekers.

From the company's perspective, they will be better off hiring replacements that have a better job and company fit.

When the company faces a business need to restructure and right-size, that very career planning initiative will see employees take charge and look for alternative roles within the organisation.

And this should be the way to go - HR should not be held solely accountable for finding alternative jobs for impacted employees. This (HR-taking-the-lead) approach is a double-edged sword. Employees who succeed in moving into new roles within the company will, of course, be grateful to HR. Those who fail to secure an alternative role are likely to blame HR. It is more appropriate that employees be responsible for their own career.

Employees who have been managing their careers should possess more than one set of transferable skills that will allow them to undertake roles that are not part of their domain expertise as well. In the context of our working world, this need to acquire a multiple skills set, and maintaining employability in the process is not a "nice to-do" but a 'must-do'.

Outplacement support

Employees that are unable to identify and/or secure alternative roles within the organisation themselves should ideally be provided with professional outplacement support services, paid by the organisation.

Outplacement services provide both emotional and practical support to the affected employees who aim to ease their career transition out of the organisation. "Taking good care of our employees" is a value that many employers espouse. This should hold true even at the point of employment separation.

Self-management of one's career, and self-initiated 'within the company' redeployment should be put in place and supported by management. This will go a long way to mitigating the risk of a company being perceived as an employer that "hires and fires". This is an area that HR can, and should, see the value-add they can provide.

The writer is the founder of Next Career Consulting Group


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