Transitioning a Workforce: Effective People Strategies

How does an organisation maintain its product or service to customers, its sales and revenue focus, as well as its commitments to shareholders during periods of change? When a business goes throughs a significant organisational structure change part of the strategic planning process involves the development of a people and workforce transition plan. This plan lays out the actions and initiatives needed to shift the business from its current state to the new model whilst maintaining business continuity, minimising risk and setting the foundation for future success. [Read more]

A workforce transition plan is essentially the guidebook that helps an organisation navigate the people, cultural and process aspects of change. The workforce transition plan identifies the challenges involved in moving to a new operating model and establishes appropriate controls to reduce risk and potential business impacts.

Having a well thought out workforce transition plan is essential to maintaining employee, management and shareholder confidence. All too often we read about organisations who embark on significant structural change to gain immediate expense reductions, only to realise they have overlooked important industrial relations obligations or eroded employee confidence by not communicating effectively.

The key areas to consider and plan for during times of workforce transition are:

  1. Job Impacts: An analysis should be conducted to define the degree of change in positions from the current to the future structure to determine the transition involved for each position and plan accordingly.
  2. Redundancy: Significant change in a position’s requirements may trigger role redundancy. Thought needs to be given to the process and timing for communicating these impacts to those affected by the change It is important to understand legal and IR responsibilities in this process.
  3. Redeployment: If roles have been made redundant, a process that actively seeks to redeploy people into suitable alternative positions needs to be considered and planned for.
  4. Retrenchment: The financial impact of making positions redundant during the change needs to be understood, business costs forecast and payment timings determined.
  5. Retention: A successful workforce transition plan also includes talent retention initiatives to secure critical talent who offer capabilities (e.g. client facing / revenue generators / future leaders) needed in the new structure. Financial and non-financial retention initiatives should be considered in the plan.
  6. Retraining: A training strategy that identifies the initiatives needed to skill people in new business processes or technology is a critical element of any workforce transition plan. The training strategy should have a dual focus on the initiatives needed to build base skills levels as well as plans for embedding the change over time.
  7. Leadership Support: Strong and visible leadership is critical to maintaining confidence and to meeting the overall transition goals. Leaders should be involved in both the planning and implementation process for the change. The right Leader support tools and initiatives need to be planned for to ensure an equal focus on delivering the change as well as on building their new team for the future.

What underpins all of these elements is the ability to communicate effectively with all stakeholders and to ensure that people are consistently treated fairly and with respect. This is not an easy time for leaders or team members and ensuring that an effective workforce transition plan is in place will assist leaders, as well as employees, understand how the change will occur.

Another key consideration in the workforce transition plan is the approach to external communications. The timing, tone and content of external messages to stakeholders such as customers, industry bodies and unions are important elements to manage in the change process. A well thought out workforce transition plan will ensure bad press is avoided. Negative publicity consumes energy and takes the focus away from the benefits of moving to the new operating model and structure.

Defining the workforce transition plan should be a collaborative effort. Senior management, HR professionals, Change Managers and Project Managers should work together define and agree the initiatives, sequence, timings and messages needed to implement the change. Investment early in planning process will secure business continuity and importantly maintain employee, customer and shareholder confidence during the transition.