People not just resources

Do we deal with resources or do we deal with people? retrenchment

As HR professionals it is important to be conscious of the dramatic impact that some decisions will have on people.

There is no doubt that HR’s purpose is to support the businesses and organisations at the various leadership levels. We are being involved and consulted at the very highest levels to value add to management decisions, and rightly so. We are or should be involved in every aspect of the employee life cycle.

We must also remember we are here to support the people in our organisations. We do this by ensuring they have a safe working environment; that people are treated fairly, equitably and with respect; help develop skills and knowledge; and facilitate the pursuit of better working conditions and recognition.

These two pursuits are not at odds, business need people to achieve their goals and people need businesses to earn a living, to pursue a calling or be part of something they believe in. The employment contract should be one of mutual respect and understanding.

‘Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.’

It is in the best interest of organisations to look after their people, not just because it is legislated but because they matter to them. Employees are not a number or a resource that can be moved aside at the end of the life cycle although this has been seen as the case in recent times.

Before making retrenchments with such short notice businesses must consider the long-term costs from the side effects, their obligation to corporate citizenship and that they are dealing with people not just an inanimate resource.

Let me clarify; I am not talking about poor performing employees that have gone through an open, fair and justified performance management period and let go because of no improvement or of those that have a case of serious misconduct which has gone through a process of natural justice. Yes there are bad people or unsuitable people that need to be moved on from time to time.

What I am referring to are those good people that the organisation has decided they can no longer afford. A structural review or budgets cut that results in redundancies. How do we treat people who have worked in our organisations for a number of years, some their whole working life, and what advice should we be giving as HR professional.

Unfortunately more recently we have seen what I believe is poor HR advice and decision making around this area of redundancies. We have all seen it on the news, heard about it through a friend or worse seen it in our organisation or have had it happen to us. People who have come into work one day to be told they are no longer required and expected to pack up their desks and move out that day or with very short notice.

Have these decision makers not considered the bigger picture, the long-term effects, or just what is fair to those who have worked in the organisation?

What does this do to the psychological contract for those remaining at the organisation and what has prompted us to do something that we would not want done to our selves?

I believe they have forgotten the human factor, the huge impact it has on those who are leaving, their families and the impact it will have on everyone in the business.

I understand that there is a bottom line that needs to be managed and in doing so we need to make changes in the workforce from time to time; this inevitably means that people will come and people will go. I also understand the risk of giving people a period of notice and the possibility of negative actions some might take; however, this should not base our decision to act in a way that we know and is seen by the community as unfair.

There are three aspects that are not being considered in this shock method of redundancy.

The first are the intangible effects that will ripple through the organisation. Little consideration could have been given on the effects in performance on other staff due to their stress level, their attitude towards the organisation, how they will talk to others out side of the organisation, their engagement in work and commitment to the organisation.

An effective way to measure an aspect of engagement is through a simple question ‘would you recommend this organisation as a place of work to others’ what do you think the answer to this question would be after the action and such treatment to fellow workers.

The second is the additional and unintentional turnover that this will cause due to the attitude of staff from the first point discussed. The cost of turnover can be measured and is a considerable to any business. HR is employed to monitor and minimize this; and although this may not happen immediately due to the economic situation it will happen.

The third reason is one of fairness, should we treat people like this?

‘Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.’

We need to be smarter in the advice we give and consider the long term effects and costs; we need to be able to show an emotional intelligence at an organisational level; and appreciate our human resources as people.

People have long memories; the short sightedness of redundancies in this manner will do more damage and cost more in the long run. The cost to goodwill, attitudes, and buy in from those that remain need to be seriously considered before this action is taken. Remember we are dealing with people not just another resource.

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