It is the nature of business that, based on the needs of customers and the need for flexibility, that the needs of the business will change over time. All businesses face times where they must take stock and assess the business structure, direction and operations. It is important in these situations to ensure that the business understands and complies with the requirements around consultation. The importance of consultation on workplace change will be the focus of this weeks HR Highlight.
Business Need: A need for change
The impetus for workplace change can come from many sources: changing customer requirements, increased competition, market changes, new management with a fresh approach; a new location with differing physical requirements; or even from the workforce itself. The most common reason for workplace change, however, is that there is a business need. Whether it is a need to shuffle or delete departments, a need to move towards more flexible work hours and customer contact, or the need to fundamentally change the offering to customers, it is identified that there is an advantage to the ongoing health of the business in altering its structure, work patterns, offerings, location or workforce.
In terms of managing the workplace change process, it is imperative that the business can clearly articulate the reason behind the change. What situation is the business responding to, or what opportunity is it taking advantage of with the change? In the initial stages this impetus for change and the businesses commitment to exploring change as a possible solution will need to be communicated to the workforce. Later in the process, further articulation of the business need and selected responses will be required.
Having identified that changes are likely to respond to a business need, general information should be provided to the whole workforce. A call for comment and consultation along the lines of:
“based on [business need] the business is reviewing options to respond to [business need]. These options may include restructuring the business or the work patterns. As this process progresses if it becomes likely that your department, workgroup or tasks will be affected you will be asked to consult with us more closely, in the meantime we invite you to forward any questions or comments to [change management agent].”
After reviewing the comments from the workforce, and exploring the options to respond to the business need, management will need to articulate the solution or change and why it was selected (e.g., location change or work hours change). These options may include restructuring the business or the work patterns. As this process progresses if it becomes likely that your department, workgroup or tasks will be affected you will be asked to consult with us more closely, in the mean time we invite you to forward any questions or comments to [change management agent].”
After reviewing the comments from the workforce, and exploring the options to respond to the business need, management will need to articulate the solution or change and why it was selected (e.g., location change or work hours change). In the initial stages this Articulation of Purpose occurs at the board or management level only, while the options for solutions and responses are explored. Later in the consultation process this Articulation of Purpose will form the central pillar of conversations with staff and clients on the workplace change, so spending some time getting it right is worth the effort.
Consultation: Buy In
Once a solution has been identified the business can begin to map which staff, departments and tasks the change will affect. At this point closer consultation with staff is required. The business should formally communicate the Articulation of Purpose to these staff and outline some of the possible impacts on the staff directly, while calling for more detailed comment based on the likely impact. All comments from staff should be noted and discussed at a management level, and all meetings on the change should be clearly minuted and discussed. It is imperative to provide feedback to affected staff on their comments and the decisions of management.
Once the business has consulted with likely affected workers and has made final decisions on the nature of the change, further consultation on the outcomes will need to be undertaken at a whole of business level and with those staff affected. Management should roll out the Articulation of Purpose to the business and make clear what has initiated the change, what options were considered and why the solutions that are being pursued were selected. Effected staff should be notified of how the changes will affect them and any retraining, redeployment or redundancy elements addressed in these meetings.
Any workplace change can be stressful and emotional for management and staff. Be prepared for elevated emotional levels and allow staff member’s time and support to process changes, and privacy to articulate those changes.
Where job roles are no longer required, as tasks are not required or now under another job role, redundancy is an option. However, under the law, redeployment within the business must first be explored, even when retraining would be required. There are also additional considerations when looking at redundancy when the employee is over 65.
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HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of the ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $880 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR and IR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.