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16 April 2009 8:32am

Redeploying workers instead of cutting headcount during tough economic times can save your business millions of dollars in employment costs, according to Human Capital Management Solutions CEO, Trevor Vas.

“Companies that make knee-jerk reactions, such as retrenching staff without considering redeployment first, don’t realise that they could actually be increasing their employment costs, rather than slashing them,” Vas says.

Redundancies, he notes, cost companies an average of $30,000 to $40,000 per employee, not including sick- and annual-leave payouts.

Employers, therefore, must carefully weigh up the cost of retrenchments against the costs of maintaining headcount and, most likely, keeping or building a happy and engaged workforce, Vas says.

“By redeploying staff, organisations can become more agile and better equipped to respond to changing conditions,” he says, “while increasing productivity by redeploying engaged staff that already have knowledge about the company and the work that needs to be done.”

Redeployment guises
Redeployment comes in a number of different “guises”, says UK-based TPI director, Sarah Seabury, in Managing Employee Redeployment – Creating Value through Opportunity.

These include:
internal redeployment or mobility;

transfers to an outsourced service provider or subsidiary;

flexible working schemes, such as part-time work or job sharing;

early or partial retirements;

retraining in other areas of business; and

traditional redundancies accompanied by outplacement services.
A “positive redeployment culture”, Seabury says, will not only reduce redundancy costs but should increase retention of “expensively recruited and trained staff”, reduce future recruitment costs, protect the organisation’s brand and minimise the potential for unfair dismissal claims.

One multinational oil-products business saved millions of dollars in “redundancy cost avoidance”, she says, by moving 420 employees either into positions previously held by contract staff, transferring them to an outsourced service provider or allowing for natural attrition.

However, Seabury notes that a redeployment strategy can be viewed as a threat by employees (who are wary of involuntary changes to their circumstances) if the “negative connotations” of redeployment aren’t mitigated through careful management and communication.

Managers, she says, must always:
include contractors and temps in their analysis. Contractors can often be replaced with permanent staff. Also, in some jurisdictions temps or contractors may be legally deemed as employees if engaged for a certain period of time. All positions must be considered when analysing headcount or cost savings;

check corporate policies before embarking on any action. Rules on leave of absence, training allowances or other factors that might limit the flexibility to redeploy can be amended if addressed early enough;

document relevant meetings, and ensure that documents are signed off by all parties;

be aware of legal requirements and other factors, such as trade-union agreements that might restrict or facilitate redundancies, retirements or redeployment; and

listen to any and all advice from employees, employee bodies, consultation groups and executives. “These stakeholders are often the source of very good ideas,” Seabury says.
Redeployment specialists key
Vas agrees that communication and consultation on redeployment is vital.

“Often this is a very emotive and complex area to work in and it is important that employers and their redeployment teams view staff as assets rather than liabilities and treat them accordingly,” he says.

“Having a dedicated and trained team of redeployment staff is the key to achieving positive results. It’s not something that can be done effectively ad hoc.”

Recruitment departments will eventually become recruitment-and-redeployment departments, Vas says, as more and more employers see the value of reshaping their workforce as opposed to letting much of it go.

Many employers, he says, are starting to get the balance right.

“We are seeing companies within the private and public sectors finding more creative ways of repositioning themselves to bounce back [from the economic downturn].”

Some employers, for example, are reducing employees’ hours to four days a week, redefining roles and re-training staff to work in different departments.

Advertisement: Trevor Vas will co-chair a workshop on maximising ROI through effective redeployment strategies with Human Capital Management Solutions director David Bell at the Australasian Talent Conference in Sydney next month.

by Irina ShamaevaApr 15, 2009, 5:29 am ET

In short, new technologies might create a whole new role, look and process for resumes…

Read this interesting article at

Like it or not, we are now in the era of web 2.0-mediated social media. Already recrutiment agencies are looking harder and experiementing more with online technologies to reduce their cost of delivery and increasing their reach. It wil be an essential technology when we come out of recovery.

The practical question for many players will be: how well do we use the technology? Useful presentation here.

April 15, 2009

About one-third of employees who leave their employers to start a new job weren’t even looking for one.

Research by UniSA’s Centre for Human Resource Management has found that 31 per cent of organisational leavers are lured away by an unexpected job offer.

“With those poaching rates, employers had started to think that high turnover rates were unavoidable,” said Co-Director of the Centre, Professor Carol Kulik. “However that would not be true for everyone.

“For about half of those poached leavers, the job offer was the only factor motivating their move. They had been happy with their current employer until an attractive alternative promising more responsibility or better pay had created an irresistible pull.

“For this group, turnover probably was unavoidable. However, these leavers maintained considerable goodwill towards their former employer and could be a valuable resource for spreading positive word of month.”

On the other hand, Professor Kulik and fellow researchers Dr Gerry Treuren and Professor Prashant Bordia, believe that for the other half of the poached leavers the turnover could have been avoided. In exit interviews, these employees described two things that motivated their move.

“The first was the job offer, creating a pull,” Dr Treuren explains. “They would have resisted the pull, except that it occurred in close proximity to some kind of push experience from inside the organisation such as a bad experience with their manager or the performance appraisal process.

“These leavers consistently said that if the organisation had only addressed that one specific problem, they would have stayed. So if the employer had acted promptly, they might have been able to keep 15 per cent of their leavers.”

The researchers studied exit interviews, in which employees explained their reasons for leaving. The study was prompted by the unprecedented mobility of employees during the past decade, caused by Australia’s skilled and unskilled labour shortage. This research project is just one of several at the Centre that is examining attraction and retention.

The researchers found five distinct groups of leavers. One group was the poached leavers. For a second group, the major reason for staff leaving the organisation was to pursue a plan that pre-dated their employment, for example, to go overseas once they had saved enough money, to start their own business, to move interstate, or to follow a life-long dream.

“For this 22 per cent, the decision to leave the organisation has little to do with their actual employment,” Prof Kulik said.

About 15 per cent experienced a push factor alone – something that made it impossible for them to continue working. Usually the push was something that occurred inside the organisation, but a small number left due to personal factors that caused them to not want to work any more, such as a family illness.

“Another 7 per cent had a bad experience at work, leading them to leave the job without another one to go to yet, while 25 per cent left because they were dissatisfied and had found a new job.

“In this study, just over half of the staff who left the organisation did so because of factors largely not related to their job. But that leaves a lot of other employees who left because of a bad experience such as being passed over for a promotion, or because of ongoing unresolved issues.”

Dr Treuren says that organisations could learn some valuable lessons by studying their own exit interview responses.

“Exit interviews are very useful for an organisation that is trying to understand its turnover. By identifying the incidents that lead to resignation, the employer can design appropriate intervention strategies.”

For more on this:

Email me (Gerry, at for a copy of the paper.
Download a presentation on reasons for turnover from:

15 April 2009 8:40am

Employer branding as a business tool is even more useful in a downturn than it is in a candidate-short market, according to TMP Worldwide’s James Wiggins.

He told last week’s Employer Branding Summit in Sydney that until about a year ago, employer branding was all about “predisposing candidates to work for us”.

But, he says, the same principles apply to employee engagement. “If you think that candidate beliefs were costly when you were trying to recruit them a year or more ago (in terms of advertising costs, recruitment costs, and offering inflated salaries to get them), I’d say that you’re probably wasting at least 10 times that amount through disengagement – by not actually understanding what the beliefs of your people are.”

Understanding employees’ beliefs is the key to reducing costs and increasing productivity, he says.

“For employees – it’s about encouraging them to apply discretionary effort. So if you understand the sorts of beliefs that people have, and the behaviours and decision making that those beliefs are causing – whether they’re positive or negative – you can start to do something about it.”

The actions Wiggins recommends employers take to raise productivity include:

Provide clarity – study after study shows that most employees want to contribute but they feel they can’t, Wiggins says.

What employees want most in order to be more productive is greater clarity about what they need to do, and regular, specific feedback on how well they’re doing it, he says.

“Most organisations don’t give that to their people.”

Conduct a productivity risk analysis – identify which workforce groups are most responsible for output. “Not everybody in the organisation, just by virtue of their role or profession is equally responsible for output. It’s likely that you won’t be able to tackle everything at one time, so it makes sense to focus on the workforce groups that you identify are most connected to output.”

Look at beliefs – listen to employees talk about their day-to-day experiences and what gives them a buzz. “What are their beliefs about leadership, managers and their actual job? What sort of mental and emotional stimulation do they get from it? What pride do they show in the organisation?”

One belief that costs employers money, Wiggins says, is that “if people don’t hear their leaders talking to them in language they understand, about how the organisation is going, and how the individual actions of a person can influence that, they tend to believe that the leaders don’t know what they’re doing”.

He says research shows that some three-quarters of employees haven’t received any communication from their managers and leaders and what they should do to help the company out.

Another problem in many organisations is that leaders are quicker to punish people for wrong things than to reward them for the right things, he says.

“If I believe there’s that risk out there I’ll probably be more careful about taking discretionary action, and making discretionary effort. [That’s one of the] biggest problems in terms of engagement.”

Look at managers – “Most mangers don’t listen to their people; they don’t empathise, they don’t look at what people are doing and how well they’re doing it and provide support and development,” Wiggins says.

It’s vital that employers look at what their managers are doing to influence employees’ behaviour, he says.

Communicate – Most organisations are missing out on the opportunity to use their internal communications as a system to guide behaviours and influence beliefs about why people should “apply discretionary effort and go the extra mile”.

“If leaders all the way down the chain don’t participate, chances are people won’t understand why they should contribute. [Employees think] ‘if I don’t understand where the organisation is going, why would I take the risk of actually exhibiting discretionary effort and taking the effort of sticking my neck out?'”

Focus on the recovery – “the recovery will happen sometime – 12, 15, 24 months from now. The reality is that the productivity growth that will come to our markets eventually will put us back in the same situation that we were a year ago.

“Just because it’s a recession doesn’t mean the candidates out there stop developing beliefs – they still take on things based on what you do and what you say.”

It will take most HR managers about a year to do their research and make a business case to their CEO, CFO or MD for funding for a plan to influence beliefs, Wiggins says, “so it’s important to start now so you’re ready when the recovery takes hold”.

Scott Rochfort
April 14, 2009

HIGH-END recruitment firm Hamilton James & Bruce has offered another illustration of the dire state of the white-collar employment market, after reporting a $5.9 million half-year loss.

The Sydney firm, which has been suspended from trading since early last month for failing to file its half-year accounts on time, released its results to the ASX late on Thursday showing it had been hit badly by the economic slowdown.

“HJB has been affected by the well-publicised decline in trading within the recruitment sector and in particular this has impacted permanent revenues which were down 54.5 per cent on the corresponding period in 2007,” the company said in a statement.

HJB’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said there “is a significant uncertainty whether the company will continue as a going concern”.

HJB, considered one of the conservative recruitment firms in Sydney, is primarily exposed to the banking, accounting and finance sectors. So white collar is the recruiter that it has a policy of forbidding its staff from wearing non-white shirts.

The company failed to explain why its accounts were released six weeks late. Nor did it say when it expected to resume trading.

However, HJB said it had secured “alternative financing” after losing the support of ANZ, with whom it had breached its debt covenants. The company has $3.4 million of borrowings.

HJB management were unavailable for comment. It failed to indicate who the unnamed “potential strategic” partner could be, which it said “would provide a platform for growth and benefits for all stakeholders”.

One likely partner could be the recruitment industry veteran Victor Plummer, who has now built a 56 per cent stake in HJB. Mr Plummer, who funded the bulk of a HJB $2 million capital raising in December, also owns a 17 per cent stake in the white and blue collar recruiter Chandler Macleod.

Mr Plummer also has a 14.5 per cent stake in the struggling recruiter Ambition Group, which reported a $24 million full-year loss in February. It is not clear if he is interested in broking a possible merger between HJB and Ambition or Chandler Macleod.

HJB shares last traded at 3.1c, well down from their $1 listing price in 2000. The company’s loss included a $2.9 million impairment from an “onerous contract” related to its leasing of two floors of office space in the ASX building on Bridge Street, Sydney. The company said it hoped to sub-let part of the office space. HJB declined to say how many jobs it had cut as a result of its “cost reduction strategies”. Despite the dire state of its finances, the intangible assets on HJB’s balance sheet remain largely intact.

HJB has been hit particularly hard due to its exposure to the financial sector. However, other listed recruiters such as Ross Human Directions, Skilled and Talent2 have all suffered large share price falls.

HJB’s troubles could be a worry for the owner of the ASX building in Sydney, the former Allco-aligned Record Realty. Record has already withdrawn the building for sale due to a lack of buyer interest.

Stephanie Peatling
April 14, 2009

THE Federal Government is being urged to consider less onerous conditions for job seekers as part of the transition to a new system for employment services.

Talks with welfare groups have been brought forward by the Government, which wants to hear their suggestions about how to help unemployed people deal with the new arrangements.

“Employment service providers generally do a good job, but the current situation is very difficult for unemployed people and no one seems to be focusing on those difficulties,” the policy officer at the National Welfare Rights Network, Gerard Thomas, said.

The Job Network will be renamed Job Services Australia and all existing employment programs merged from July 1.

As a result of the changes some existing job agencies will be replaced by new operators.

A meeting between the Welfare Rights Network and the Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, was scheduled to be held late next month but will be held this month to help ensure the changeover period runs smoothly.

Welfare groups are concerned the transition period may lead to a higher rate of penalties for job seekers who fail to meet the conditions of their payments due to confusion over the changes.

They want a formal transition period in which welfare recipients have the conditions of their payments eased and penalties applied more sparingly.

The main change that the welfare network wants introduced is a reduction in the number of jobs unemployed people must apply for to continue receiving their welfare payments. “The Government should review in the current economic climate whether it is still reasonable for job seekers to look for 10 jobs a fortnight,” Mr Thomas said.

Other transitional arrangements the network wants include making it easier for job seekers to change case workers if they report to someone they do not get along with.

Employment agencies already have a high staff turnover – about 35 per cent a year.

“This lack of continuity is a major source of complaint for job seekers,” Mr Thomas said.

“It takes a lot for job seekers to tell managers what the barriers to them finding work are. That might be mental illness or a situation of domestic violence.”

Other changes the network wants the Government to consider are increasing the supplement paid to people who participate in work for the dole projects, and directing employment agencies to take a more compassionate approach to job seekers struggling to come to terms with the new system. The Government has already said it is aware of the confusion the changes to the employment system could cause.

Mr O’Connor has announced there will be a one-year transition period to shepherd in the changes but he has not yet announced the details.

At a conference last week he defended the changes, arguing that they were necessary to help the growing number of people who are losing their jobs because of the deteriorating economy.

Teresa Ooi | January 24, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE number of people in the jobless queue is much higher than official figures because more than 800,000 part-time workers are desperate to work more hours.

“Unfortunately, under-employment is an issue that has not been understood by the Government or by those trying to predict the economic outlook for Australia,” Roy Morgan Research chief executive Michele Levine said.

“The Government needs to understand real unemployment and the even more insidious problem of under-employment. There’s a crucial issue of part-time employment (people who are working part-time but want to work full-time, or at least more hours than they are currently working).”

Industries hit worst by under-employment include the retail sector, in which about 170,000 people, or 14 per cent, are part-time workers looking to work more hours, and the hospitality and recreational sectors, which have about 177,000, or 20 per cent, under-employed.

“A further 254,000 people, or 9.5 per cent of those employed in community services, are also under-employed,” she said.

The jobless rate has risen to a two-year high of 4.5 per cent, with more than 500,000 people in the unemployed queue.

The economy shed 44,000 full-time jobs last month, eclipsing a gain of 42,000 part-time positions, but Ms Levine said the unemployment figure was closer to 6.4 per cent in December because Roy Morgan Research classified those looking for work as unemployed.

Ms Levine said 77 per cent of the male workforce was working full-time, but only 48 per cent of the female workforce was full-time.

“One in 10 women are part-timers looking for more work. This is twice the number of under-employed male workers,” she said.

“Public servants are more likely to be employed full-time than those in the private sector. They are also less likely to want to work more hours.

“The public sector is clearly much more comfortable, with 73 per cent in full-time positions and only 5 per cent wanting more hours than their present part-time work.

“Almost one in 10 (629,000) people employed in the private sector are part-timers looking to work more hours while about half that number — one in 20 people (126,000) — employed in the public service are wanting to work more hours.”

The research showed that under-employment was higher among younger people and that 30 per cent of the workforce younger than 24 rented their homes and had poorer education.

Up to late 2007, Australia’s booming economy and relatively low levels of unemployment had experienced labour and skills shortages.

As a result of the global financial crisis and the fallout from the deteriorating economic conditions, the unemployment outlook is expected to worsen.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said recently the Government expected the jobless rate to rise from the December figure of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent by mid-year.

According to the Australian National Retailers Association, the economic downturn has already resulted in the loss of at least 50,000 jobs in the retail sector.

“We are now on the cusp of a recession, with the prospect of even more pressure on retail jobs,” association chief executive Margy Osmond said. “This could be particularly concerning for small and medium retailers, where many of these job losses may occur.”,,24954039-20142,00.html


Reorganizations grab fewer headlines than job losses, but they are common in a recession, and often precede or follow layoffs. And they can be as just as disheartening. It can be difficult to figure out where you fit in as management changes are made, new work groups are formed, and you find yourself working for a new boss. To survive, you’ll need to adapt, while also assessing the future of your job.

Make the most of the first team meeting. “Be bold,” advises Jay Gaines, an executive recruiter in New York. Ask for details about your new manager’s priorities, what he or she plans to keep or change in the department, his or her preferred style of working and communicating, and whether cost cuts are part of the changes. The more you ask, the more forthcoming others will be with their own questions — and the more information the team will have.

Do a self-assessment. Think about what you have to offer to the new team and its leader, advises Licia Hahn, an executive coach in New York. What skills have you been using that will continue to be valuable? And what new skills or expertise do you need in order to be more valuable? “You need to be flexible and nimble in this economy,” Ms. Hahn says. “If the thing your boss needs most isn’t your favorite thing to do,” adjust your attitude and do it — and well — for now.

Schedule one-on-one time. Sit down with your new boss as soon as possible “and treat that first meeting like a job interview,” Ms. Hahn advises. “Show them everything you’ve done in your career so far” and point out what you have to offer in support of the new agenda. Ask the boss about his or her priorities for you. Offer to be available should the new boss have questions about the group or projects, and if you’ve already been through a few reorganizations, what has and hasn’t worked in the past. “Being the boss’s right hand in this way earns huge brownie points,” Ms. Hahn says. Just be careful not to alienate your peers, say, by talking down their pet projects.

Ask the tough questions. If your gut instinct — or the water cooler talk — tells you that layoffs are coming, both Ms. Hahn and Mr. Gaines advise summoning up the nerve to ask whether you will have a job in the new organization and whether your role will be vital or marginal. While an unwelcome answer might be stressful, knowing what’s coming will give you time to plan, negotiate severance and seek out other opportunities.

Accept the new reality. “There’s often what I call the Dilbert effect after a restructuring,” says career coach and author Marshall Goldsmith. “People sit in their cubes and complain about how stupid the people in charge are.” But adapting to the new way of doing things “is the best way to keep your job these days,” Mr. Goldsmith says. He suggests thinking of your new boss, his boss, and so on, as your customers. “You learn to make peace with your external customers’ quirks and you need to do the same with your internal customers.”

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D6

Could HR practitioners be making bad decisions as well?
07 April 2009 6:53am

No matter how bad the economy seems, it’s always a mistake to accept poor-quality clients, says business coach Ric Willmot.

Willmot, the CEO of Executive Wisdom Consulting Group, says some “really bad decisions” are being made in the corporate arena right now – particularly in the professional and personal services sectors.

The mistakes he has witnessed recently include:

reducing or discounting fees;

pressuring the staff left after redundancies to accept increased workloads;

adopting pricing tactics such as adding credit card service and administrative fees; and

sending reminder notices and payment demand letters – or making abrupt telephone calls chasing payment – within 14 days of an invoice being sent.

Businesses will continue to succeed if they can deliver their service to clients in a way that reaches their objectives, Willmot says. “Make the client significantly better because they have you.”

He says businesses should:

Rid themselves of non-quality clients. “I call them X-class clients; those clients who are low value to you and your business. They consume your corporate capacity. Capacity that will be much better served invested in A-class clients who do appreciate your value, and do good, regular business with you, and refer good people to you.”

Be prudent with the new clients they accept. “You do not have to accept every prospect who comes to your door. A poor prospect never makes a good client. It’s not about more business in this economy, it’s about better business. The litmus test: if the economy couldn’t get any better… would you still want them as a client?”

Understand the difference between revenue and profitability. “They are frequently confused.”

Avoid indiscriminate cost cutting. “Now is the time you should be increasing some expenditure, by investing in innovation, product and service development, human talent and retention of staff and customers.”

Re-tool. “This is a term from the days of Frederick Winslow Taylor referring to plant and machinery. I use the term specifically referring to people.”

Build relationships with their clients. “Strong relationships.”

In addition to the above, Willmot says, leaders should realise that procrastination poses a bigger threat to their success than the economic situation does.

To help build business, he says, managers should:
send letters not email if you really want your client to read your correspondence;

speak at business networking functions to expand your reach;

initiate some low-cost PR measures;

reach out laterally to your existing customers by providing additional products and services;

attend a seminar or training course;

write a press release for the local media; and

whether you are travelling across town or across the nation, leverage the trip and arrange to meet other people who haven’t bought from you yet.