Common mistakes HR makes during major change

One top lawyer reveals which issues often trip employers up when executing major change initiatives and mass redundancies.

Common mistakes HR makes during major change

Major change initiatives and mass redundancies always come with a whole host of potential legal risks – but which ones are most likely to trip HR professionals up? Here, one industry lawyer reveals the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

“Rushing it and not thinking carefully enough about the business rationale – they’re two of the most common mistakes,” says Hamish Kynaston, partner at Buddle Findlay.

“The business rationale used to be off-limits to the courts so you could put up a really basic proposal and the focus was all on process – but now there is a deserved focus on substance.”

Kynaston, who specialises in employment relations, says some employers still don’t understand that they not only need to think carefully about their rationale – they also need to explain it thoroughly.

“People say; ‘We want to reduce costs so we need to reduce headcount and here’s our proposal,’ and of course cost is a perfectly adequate reason for restructuring but you really need to drill down to that next level,” he stresses.

“It’s fine to cut head count but you need to explain why you are proposing to cut these specific positions and what other things you have considered,” he continues. “Failing to do that work first and then not explaining it to employees – that’s a major mistake.”

Another common mistake, according to Kynaston, comes when employers don’t dedicate enough attention to redeployment.

“A lot of times, the employer might actually encourage people to apply for new roles that have been created even though those people have no chance realistically of getting them,” he says,

“Employers think they’re managing risks by giving people an opportunity to apply when in fact the better approach is to be frank with individuals about their prospects.”

Kynaston encourages employers to tell staff if they shouldn’t apply or won’t be considered but says HR professionals should offer some advice if the employee is determined to apply.

“If it’s appropriate you can say; “Well that’s fine you can apply but just understand that based on your performance or the experience that we’ve had of working with you, these are going to be the challenges for you in securing this position and you’re going to need to address those in the process and at interview.’

“It’s that next level of thinking about clear deployment and managing that quite actively that’s important,” adds Kynaston.

The final common mistake outlined by Kynaston comes when employers treat everyone the same.

“An employer will generally know where the hot points are. You’ll know going into a process where issues are likely to arise and just managing every area and every individual in the same way doesn’t work,” he stresses.

“Employers should be more strategic about putting additional energy and resources into managing the hot spots and not worrying about how that’s perceived from an equity perspective.  That’s where your issues are so it makes sense that you want to invest more time and energy there.”

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