Lois Melbourne on work force reorganization Featured

8:01pm EDT October 31, 2011
Lois Melbourne Lois Melbourne

Whether you’re rebuilding an engine, painting a house or reorganizing a company, the amount of prep work you put in at the beginning makes all the difference in the project’s outcome. That said, let me ask you about your last reorganization:

-          Has it been successful?

-          Is the new structure outperforming the old?

-          If not, how much focus was placed on “putting the work force back together” before and during the “taking it apart” process?

Companies spend a lot of money on their on-boarding practices, performance reviews, succession planning and other initiatives. But when it comes time to lay off people, they too often look only at the numbers and focus on getting the cuts done as quickly as possible. Many times, they’re left with too few workers or too few workers with the skills and knowledge that they need to make the reorganization worth it. On the other hand, companies who devote time up front to work force planning for their post-reorganization needs have better results than those who quickly make cuts based solely on financial numbers. According to Peter Cappelli’s 2008 book, “Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in the Age of Uncertainty,” two-thirds of U.S. employers fail to plan for their talent needs.

Why work force planning is more effective than indiscriminate number cutting

The corporate machine doesn’t grind to a halt during layoffs and reorganizations. Even while downsizing, there are still widgets to make, software applications to code and marketing plans to execute. Keep that in mind as you create your work force plan.

Start by asking yourself what your company will look like after this reorganization. If you’ll still be in the widget business, it’s to your benefit to select the widget makers you want to keep. Will you be producing the same software applications or will you be dropping some of them? I’d suggest you seek out the coders who have the best skill sets for the new strategic plan — whether or not they are currently working on projects that will go forward.

There’s more to work force planning than terminating all employees attached to a product line that will be dropped. Do some research first and take the time to get input from managers — you’ll identify standout employees you’d like to find a position for somewhere. And the new company will be all the better for it. 

Whatever happened to the ‘P’ in ERP?

The “P” in ERP is supposed to stand for planning. Not all technology facilitates work force planning. Too often companies simply don’t plan when they execute mass changes — they run some reports, analyze some numbers and make sweeping cuts. That may be considered planning for the terminations, but it’s definitely not planning for the next phase of your organization.

Here’s a checklist to consider for a more successful reorganization outcome.

-          Before making cuts, begin work force planning for the company redesign.

-          Run work force scenarios to see more than just financial numbers for the emergent organization.

-          Model what the organization will look like, then step back and make sure the work force chemistry can still work.

-          Plan for various work force scenarios in the redesign.

-          Incorporate the go-forward plan during termination selection.

-          Use your talent tools to guide you in the termination decisions as well as the restructuring of the work force.

Before your next reorganization, make time for the work force planning prep work. People will protest that there’s not time for it, but just like all the sanding and taping prep for painting a house, the results will be cleaner, more effective and last longer.

Lois Melbourne is co-founder and CEO of Aquire, a work force planning and analytics solutions company based in Irving, Texas. Visit www.aquire.com for more information.