On the 28th of May a panel discussion was held in BIGRAM on “changes and restructuring in companies”, which was organized by BIGRAM outplacement consultants. The particular sessions were held by invited practitioners, individuals with longtime experience in performing the restructuring processes, who assisted organizations in their hard transitional phase. The panel was attended by individuals responsible for HR policies, who actively participated in discussions moderated by the panel curators.
The first presentation, titled “The role of motivation in the restructuring process. A case study”, was delivered by Urszula Druzd-Niedźwiedź, a career coach, professional adviser, and trainer. Her presentation was based on her personal experience as a personnel manager and a member of the management board of a company from the chemical industry. She was one of the persons responsible for the restructuring process in one of the current factories and moving production to a newly-constructed factory. First, together with the participants of the panel she defined what companies fear in the restructuring process. In the course of discussion, several key factors were identified, such as the resistance of trade unions, the departure of the most valuable employees, court cases, a drop in motivation, damage to corporate reputation, bad organization of those who remain after downsizing due to taking over the responsibilities of the laid down, negative emotions, further downsizing. Thanks to the efforts of the operations director for Europe and the Baltic states, a long-term downsizing process was adopted. The plans of the company, the reasons behind the change, and the conditions offered were openly communicated to the employees in the course of the very first meeting. Because the restructuring was meant to span two years, it was crucial for the management that the employees remain effective and motivated in their work despite their awareness of the upcoming downsizing process. In light of the above, the company decided to offer the employees a very attractive severance package on the condition that the annual revenue goal be reached. It was decided that all employees are solidarily responsible for the outcome. Should the company fail to reach the agreed-upon goal, none of the employees would receive their annual bonus. For the individuals responsible for the downsizing process, it was key to maintain such values and factors, as respect toward employees, joint responsibility, transparency of actions, communication, the commitment of the entire team in the process, and an efficient preparation to changes.
The second part of the panel discussion, titled “A monograph on downsizing ‒ law versus praxis”, was delivered by Anna Kasperowicz, a business consultant cooperating with BIGRAM. She discussed how companies deal with the restructuring process. By comparing companies from such industries as logistics / freight forwarding, telecommunication / IT, transport, and energy, the participants were able to acquaint themselves with four diverse approaches to the restructuring process and their respective media coverage. For instance, a telecommunications company decided to downsize about 500 individuals following a merger of three companies. It adapted an open communication policy. The management communicated its actions not just to the employees, but also to the media, which published the company’s open communications. The logistics company, on the other hand, had to downsize due to losing a large client. Despite good internal communication, it was found lacking in external communication and information on the downsizing was “leaked” to the local media. In effect, the local decidents made attempts at changing the company’s decision on the downsizing process. All of the companies mentioned in the course of the presentation made attempts at helping their downsized employees by offering a voluntary redundancy severance package, support in searching for a new workplace in the form of an outplacement program, or, when possible, relocation.
The third part of the panel dealt with legal issues pertaining to mass downsizing. It was presented by Mikołaj Illukowicz, a lawyer with 20 years of experience in the field of labour law and mass layoffs, a Partner from the Illukowicz and Partners law firm. In the course of his presentation, he discussed the entire procedure of mass layoffs and acquainted the participants with the conditions that a company must meet in order to perform the process in the proper legal manner. The participants asked numerous questions pertaining to the particular procedures or phases and shared their own thoughts and experiences associated with mass layoffs in their own companies with the panel curator.
The last presentation was delivered by Irmina Gocan, a business consultant cooperating with BIGRAM, a practitioner with longtime experience, and the co-author of a survey study on layoffs and outplacement in companies operating in Poland. In the course of her presentation, titled “The process of implementing downsizing and changes”, she familiarized the participants with the results of her study and the crucial conclusions of her report on the proper course of implementing downsizing processes in light of labour law and the pragmatics of business. She pointed to a variety of challenges that downsizing companies must overcome and which are the responsibility of personnel managers. These challenges include: loss of human resources (including the most valuable employees, who fear that they might share the fate of their downsized colleagues and for that reason often decide to accept the voluntary redundancy severance package); economic hardship, which results in further downsizing (e.g. a drop in employee motivation, which hurts the company’s bottom line); a crisis of value, which results in a change of employee attidude towards their company, a negative approach toward their superiors and the employer, gossip and speculation instead of efective work. The results also revealed which sector has witnessed the most downsizing, who was mainly responsible for the decisions behind downsizing and for what reasons, as well as whowas responsible for handling the entire downsizig process within an organization.
In conclusion, the issue of downsizing and changes is met with considerable interest on the part of presidents and HR managers and still raises numerous questions and concerns. Companies forced to go through mass layoffs should focus on the entire process ‒ refrain from focusing on legal matters or the downsized individuals and also remember about the remaining employees and ensure that work is not disturbed. According to the panel curators, it is also crucial to ensure well-reasoned, consistent, and context-dependent communication, as well as the effective implementation of of restructuring changes not just in the field of employment, but also in business in general. Thanks to the high interest expressed in this issue, another meeting of this kind is planned for the future.
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