Earlier this week I was at St Pancras Station when another woman struck up a conversation with me. By chance would have it, she was a senior HR professional working the civil service. On our 25 minute journey home we covered a lot of topical issues including the subject matter I blogged about earlier this week: the fact that the Govenment is looking at making 40% cuts in their budgets.
These are some of the challenges that my colleague in the civil service is facing:
1. The demographic of the workforce: 45% of the staff are aged between 50 and 60, combined with a length of service of c.30 years. The cuts will enable the organisation to shed some “dead-wood”, but there is also a risk of loss of organisational memory and technical expertise.
2. Another impact of this demographic is the cost of redundancies. Most will be entitled to the full-payout, and in this organistion that’s equivalent to three years pay! The organisation has already taken considerable steps with the unions to negotiate a reduction, but I understand that goverment is frustrated by the delays in this process. So, they have halted the negotiations and instead have announced that they are going to pass a piece of legislation to reduce the redundancy to the equivalent of a year’s pay. But it will be some time before this will become a reality.
3. A third impact relating to the demographic of this workforce is the lack of flexibility. Many of these staff have been based in a local office, perhaps 10 – 20 minutes from their home for 20+ years. Many of the local offices are being closed as part of the cost savings, and the organisation is now asking them to travel 30 – 40 minutes instead. These staff will still have a job, but they are resistent to the change. A considerable amount of time is being spent responding to staff’s queries and questions relating to the relocation (Will I have a car-parking space?). Whilst on the face of it these are minor questions, they matter to every individual who is affected.
4. The attitudes of the senior team: they hold a belief that HR will find a job for everybody eventually. But my HR colleague keeps telling them that this is highly unlikely. The culture needs to shift from being a “welfare” workplace and until that happens the staff on the ground will hear mixed messages, causing greater anxiety and lower productivity.
5. The organisation is already working to make 10% savings year-on-year for the next 5 years. My concern is the approach to making 25% or 40% cuts is different to that when an organisation is looking to make 10% cuts. There needs to be a firm decision about the level of cuts that need to be made, otherwise time could be wasted “tweaking” the edges instead of investing time and energy making significant cuts.
I’ve only touched on the top 5 challenges in this blog, and naturally there will be many, many more. The lady on the train was energetic and spirited about the challenges that lay ahead and I admire this positive approach. She’s got a rough ride ahead.