Career development and downsizing

by 24 Feb 2009

QI am an HR generalist with more than eight years’ experi ence. I have a pretty good handle on the requirements of my role, because my business has previously been in growth mode. My business is now heading towards a contraction. Will I be equipped to deliver whatever is required? What areas of career development will I need?

AA. Obviously, many HR professionals are considering these questions. How do you ensure you are delivering to your employer in the short term, while “bullet proofing” your career by developing appropriate skills for the future?

As always, the answer to delivering superior HR generalist services in this cycle is to provide fast, efficient and professional support to match business needs. This cycle will focus on areas such as:

• Change Management – restructuring and rightsizing;

• Organisation Design – structure and position design;

• Employee Relations – business and employee interfacing;

• Communications – updates and forward direction;

• Performance Management – expectation management; and

• Mergers and Acquisitions – transmission of business and people 

These areas have a technical underpinning that is not always under stood – nor appreciated – by business leaders (and even some HR profes sionals). The comment that HR isn’t “rocket science” belies the impor tance of technical, legal and compliance requirements when supporting management through a contraction.

While technical knowledge of contraction cycle activities is important, it’s the development of higher level behavioural capabilities to deliver serv ices which is the key to HR success. For instance, mastering relationship management of large groups, influencing decision-makers, and critical de cision-making will be vital. Another important, yet rarely recognised capa bility to grasp is that of “staying centred”.

What does it mean to “stay centred”? Clearly “staying centred” is a mindset which allows experienced HR professionals to handle the emo tions of difficult people situations in a fair, balanced and professional manner. Staying centred requires a reflective approach – whatever we do will be evaluated by people both internal and external to the organisation in the short, medium and longer terms.

The capability to manage the big picture with the here and now, com bined with fairness principles, and commercial reality is a tricky balancing exercise for HR professionals to achieve.

Some of the techniques to staying centred include:

• Having a framework to work through a difficult discussion;

• Having a clear set of principles to balance both organisational and individual needs with fairness;

• Having a clear context of the message the business wants to relay; and

• Having an enquiring approach with a clear set of questions.

“Staying centred” may just be one of the most vital capabilities for any HR professional to develop and master. When the business is wavering in its principles, a consistent approach from HR will be highly respected and “staying centred” will be the key to achieving your future HR career success

By Craig Mason, managing director, The Next Step


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