Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Archive for the ‘Resourcing’ Category

Prospect statement on Vodafone job cuts

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Prospect has reacted angrily to yesterday’s announcement of job cuts in Vodafone [registration required; limited viewing time; alternative source].

Steve Thomas, Prospect’s National Officer for Vodafone, has contacted the company to express serious concerns over the cuts themselves as well as the complete lack of consultation, Prospect having learned of the cuts via the media. We are also disturbed about reports that individuals are being asked to leave the business without notice.

You can read the full statement here.

Vodafone needs to learn that, whatever co-operation Prospect members are prepared to provide over resourcing decisions, the quid pro quo for that is decent treatment and respect for the contribution they have made during their lives in the company. Where that doesn’t occur, the price of that amongst those left behind is lower morale, lower productivity and lesser co-operation.

Written by Calvin

10/03/2010 at 11:30 am

AOL and Time Warner split: why again do mergers fail?

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AOL and Time Warner have completed the demerging of their interests, some ten years after the two businesses first sought to merge with the aim of bringing together old and new media as preparation for a converged world in which the winners were going to be those with both ‘pipes and poetry’ (or in somewhat less floral language, networks and content).

Clearly, this didn’t happen (at least, it hasn’t happened for AOL Time Warner). This is largely for reasons that the bursting of the dot.com bubble shortly afterwards destroyed shareholder value (which evidently hasn’t recovered – albeit in the midst of cold winds blowing globally, the value of the demerged businesses is currently one-tenth what it was) and also because technology advanced in a different way: both of which Rory Cellan-Jones highlights in his thoughtful online piece for the BBC.

At the same time, and more generally, some 60-80% of mergers apparently fail and available research indicates that the largest factor in this is a failure to deal satisfactorily with the related employee issues, as this particular piece from 2003, aimed specifically at AOL Time Warner (and produced following the announcement of the departure from the merged operation of AOL’s Steve Case), indicates:

Mergers have an unusually high failure rate, and it’s always because of people issues.

Here, it’s cultural issues which are largely to blame, with the essential lesson that companies merge so as to provide identified or anticipated product or market synergies, but frequently fail to acknowledge other than in words that it is different corporate cultures that militate against those synergies being realised in practice. Resentment and shrinking productivity are often the result as employees engage in ‘psychological protest’ about being given ‘little information about the turn of events until well after the deal is settled’.

Other research concurs with the line that it is HR failures that determine whether or not corporate mergers are successful:

… it is how effectively the people from the two organisations are brought together that will ultimately determine whether the merger will be successful.

Failures in HR can be anticipated in advance, and measures put in place to ensure the HR strategies are sound enough to deliver a successful merger – yet it is true that the importance of people issues, with a human resources profession which is still suffering a crisis of trust and a loss of legitimacy vis-à-vis major stakeholders over its role, is too often realised too late in the day to prevent problems arising in the first place.

Written by Calvin

09/12/2009 at 7:15 pm

Secondment in BT

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Connect has issued guidance to reps on the external secondment programme in BT. As part of the company’s headcount reduction plans, we have been seeking to ensure that the company retains a focus on redeployment and re-skilling, and have reached an agreement with it on secondments – opportunities for people in the company’s redeployment unit to work in a separate organisation while remaining BT employees.

The company has operated secondments for years but this is a significantly stepped-up programme arising from its current difficulties. The agreement contains a number of safeguards for members and a commitment from the company to review its operation with us every quarter. It is also of a fixed term duration – it will end in two years.

Job security remains a key concern; the agreement on secondments seeks to deliver this, allowing redeployee members to stay in work, maintaining and improving their skills, while accommodating BT’s desire to reduce headcount.

Written by Calvin

18/05/2009 at 12:12 pm

National Work From Home Day

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The fourth National Work From Home Day is tomorrow, 15 May as part of Work Wise Week. The aim of the day is to encourage people to work from home for the day rather than commuting into their usual place of work as part of a wider initiative to encourage people to adopt smarter working practices.

Technological advances and the shift in the nature of work to the knowledge economy means that homeworking opportunities are opening up to a wider number of people – and this blogger is a committed and long-term (six years plus) homeworker. Working from home on a permanent basis is not for everyone: you have to be disciplined at both ends of the working day; you do need to have careful regard to the ergonomic aspects of working from home – you should be in a properly equipped office, not on the settee with a laptop, and you should pay attention to the need for regular breaks from your desk; and you do need to maintain regular contact with office colleagues.

But, for those whose jobs can be done from home and for those who make suitable homeworkers, it does save the pain and the expense, and the environmental costs, of the daily commute: and you can usually get a bit more done, too.

So, in commemoration of National Work From Home Day, why not think about giving it a go?

Written by Calvin

14/05/2009 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Resourcing

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Job cuts in BT

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BT has this morning published its preliminary full year accounts for 2008-2009. You can access its own Press Release here and comment at the usual range of newspapers – e.g. The Guardian or The Times.

Media comment has evidently focused on the 15,000 job losses that the company is likely to make over the next twelve months in its global workforce – an understandable media comment in the face of rising unemployment and recession. BT has its own reasons for being seen to do something about its results – which were very bad indeed – and jobs are often, in such a situation, the first port of call in any cost cutting exercise.

At the same time, this is likely to be a worrying time for many of our members and Connect has issued guidance (members only; log in required) to its reps on the job cuts programme. BT’s programme does appear to be a step-up from the 10,000 reductions that the company announced in November last year would have occurred by the end of this last financial year, even if the company is claiming that 15,000 posts actually disappeared in 2008-09 (divided between 5,000 full-time posts and 10,000 agency staff or third party contractors). So, in practice, it may not be – although the past year has been a tough one for our members not least concerning the application of the performance management process.

The main points to note about BT’s job cuts programme would, from our point of view, seem to be these:

– the cuts will not all occur in the UK: the 15,000 reduction is in its 160,000-strong global workforce of whom less than 90,000 work in the UK

– the company will step up controls on recruitment and on third party labour

– there will be a focus on flexible resourcing solutions, including external secondments and voluntary hours reductions

– redeployment and re-skilling remains a key focus.

Connect will continue to press for all reductions to be made on a voluntary basis and for the company to stand by its commitment to preserving jobs for permanent employees: job security will remain a key concern.

At the same time, it is also evident that agency staff and contractors cannot bear the brunt of this sort of programme into the future: temporary staff account for around one-third of BT’s staff (source: Lex column for the Financial Times; subscription required) and, if they take the same share of the 15,000 job losses anticipated this year, they will soon be down to one-quarter.

We believe that, despite the evident and temporary problems in one of its business units, the company as a whole remains profitable, successful and with positive prospects for the future.

Written by Calvin

14/05/2009 at 11:28 am