Staff at Fairfax Media will be told today how the company plans to restructure its newsrooms to survive in the digital age. Already a round of voluntary redundancies has been announced to start in July, while overall more than 1,900 jobs will go over the next three years.
During any planned downsizing, a question for HR and employers is always whether to opt for a voluntary or forced redundancy process – but for one HR expert, opting for voluntary redundancies means “you’ve got rocks in your head”.
Voluntary redundancy is a process common in the public sector, and can have the benefit of taking less of a toll on workplace morale. Yet, it comes at the cost of reduced control over the process and many claim it is fundamentally flawed because those who are confident they will quickly find a new job – ie. the best performers – will leave. “In my view, if you go ahead with voluntary redundancies you’ve got rocks in your head,” Tim Roche from HR consultancy Right Management said. “I saw it a million times in the early ‘90s dealing with public sector privatisations; they’d conduct these voluntary redundancies and all the talent would take the money and walk out the door because they backed themselves to find another job, and in the meantime you’re left with the deadwood.”
According to Roche, in all but exceptional business circumstances, forced redundancy is the smarter business move.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) told Fairfax union members in a note that the round of voluntary redundancies will start in mid-July and applications will be taken for four weeks from the date. The note also said Fairfax bosses are working on suitability criteria to decide who will get a redundancy, and the union will be consulted in the process.