Within a business context, an ‘organisational restructure’ can have negative connotations, with many associating it with mass redundancies and change- not usually for the better. Sadly, restructures are inevitable for any organisation going through periods of growth and development- a regular occurrence within the public sector. They can also be a necessary measure for survival during economic hardship. As the country rebuilds from COVID-19, many organisation’s are looking at restructuring as a way to save costs however, while a restructure can pose as a legitimate ‘threat’ to an individual’s career prospects, it can also provide great opportunities. For those worried about a potential restructure in their workplace or are going through one currently, Public Sector People have collated some advice steps from HR and management experts, to help you navigate through the process.
What is an ‘organisational restructure’?
When employees hear the word ‘restructure’ minds can automatically go to ‘redundancies’ and panic can set in. However, restructures and redundancies although related, aren’t dependant on one another. An organisational restructure or reorganisation refers to changing the operational set-up (structure) of an organisation to improve the way the business runs, delivers products or services. It often involves configuring roles in a way to ensure maximum effectiveness both financially and in terms of output and consequently involves adding new roles, merging two or more existing roles, disestablishing roles that are a surplus to requirements, or a combination of any of the above. There needs to be a genuine reason for a restructure, for example, a change in market demands, financial constraints (two issues which many organisations have experienced this year due to COVID-19) merging with another company or wanting to outsource certain business functions.
A redundancy is a direct outcome of a restructure; where a role or position, rather than a person is surplus to the business’s needs. A role can be made redundant for a number of reasons; perhaps technology and automation processes were able to replace the responsibilities of an employee, or an organisation merged with another company and then found itself having two employees performing the same role. The crucial factor with redundancies is, that if a person’s role is made redundant, they can’t then be replaced with someone else in a substantially similar position, with a different job title. And most importantly for organisations, redundancy should always be treated as a last option. It should only be considered after all reasonable alternatives are explored.
Which is an important point for employees to remember when they hear the word ‘restructure’ make its way through the office rumour mill. There are other outcomes organisations can explore when looking at a restructure and are often considered first.
Possible alternatives to a restructure
A common alternative for many organisations is redeployment and retraining- this is especially common in local government, where many departments regularly work with each other and employees develop strong transferable skills. Redundancies can become quite costly for a business when all of the severance payments and outplacement costs are considered, not to mention the lost investment from hiring, onboarding and training those now redundant employees. Redeployment however, gives an organisation the opportunity to retain this knowledge capital in-house, by providing an alternate career path to employees who’ve made it known that they’re interested in staying with the organisation and have the necessary skills or potential. Of course for this to be a viable option, there must be available roles in another area of the business or perhaps an increased level of demand that requires more resources. The employee in question must also be able to perform the new role due to their skills and previous experience or with a reasonable period of retraining. All of this aside, redeployment and retraining are great ways for an organisation to retain its talent, boost overall morale within the business and provide employees with a new career challenge.
Another option organisations could consider is to alter the work hours and responsibilities of employees. One way to do this is through job sharing; splitting a full-time position into two part time roles. The work is often divided in two ways; the ‘islands model’ in which each individual will take responsibility for separate tasks depending on their individual strengths and capabilities, or the ‘twins model’ where they share the same workload but simply divide up the days. Alternately you can alter roles from full-time to part-time, even just temporarily. The added benefit of this is that everyone retains their own position meaning there is less potential for confusion and it is easier to transition people back to full-time once a company is able to. Reduced hours and job-sharing won’t be an ideal option for all employees, but have become increasingly common for those looking for more flexibility in their workplace; perhaps they need to take care of a dependant, are trying to put more time into a side-hustle they have or are going back to school and need to dedicate more time to their studies. If an organisation is facing a restructure, it’s worth exploring these options and seeing if it would work within an organisation as opposed to making certain roles redundant.
Another option, which has been a direct result of the economic strain businesses are experiencing due to COVID-19 is the government initiative JobKeeper. Essentially, if a business has been affected by the coronavirus, they could be eligible to access the JobKeeper payment; a wage subsidy that is paid to an organisation in order to help cover the cost of wages the organisation would then pay it’s employers. While there are certain restrictions on which businesses can be eligible for JobKeeper, it can be a great short-term business option for organisations who are looking at a possible restructure due to financial difficulty. According to the Australian Government, JobKeeper will be available to businesses’ until March 28, 2021.
What to do if you know your organisation is facing a restructure
While they can be stressful, if you’ve received a formal confirmation from your manager or leadership team on an upcoming restructure, it doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence for your career. Experts in management and HR consulting suggest the following step to help you navigate through the process in one piece.
If you’re looking for new career opportunities within the public sector and interested in finding out what else is available, or simply looking for some career advice, don’t hesitate in reaching out to our specialised consultants.
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