HR strategy forumOn 23 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Askour experts. Personnel Today would like readers to send in their strategic HRdilemma. All questions will remain anonymous and will be forwarded to our strategyforum members, two of whom will provide step-by-step advice in the magazine.Send your dilemmas to [email protected] dilemmaCommand and control culture A call centre employing 500 people has been in operation for five years, butforms only one division of a financial services business. It offers a 24/7service to customers and has managed to achieve high levels of customersatisfaction. It has an annual employee turnover of 45 per cent and has difficultyrecruiting the right calibre of staff. It is situated in an area of lowunemployment and faces increasing competition for the pool of available labour.It offers reasonably attractive salaries for a call centre and its terms andconditions are quite generous, when compared to its competitors. However, there are some serious issues around management style and a culturethat is more command and control than empowering. The business environment isbecoming more competitive, putting increasing strains on senior management.This strain is being transmitted down through the very minimal layers ofmanagement and supervision and is resulting in disgruntled employees seekingthe support of a union. However, the company does not currently recognise theunion. There is a shift system in operation and many are employed on part-time andquite flexible contracts. There is a large number of graduates and young mothersand the age profile is low. You are the new HR director. The managing director, who was not happy withthe way HR was dealing with the likely encroachment of the union, squeezed theprevious incumbent out. What are your priorities in your new role? Solution 1 By Ralph Tribe Ralph Tribe is vice-president of HR, Getty Images Step 1 Although the MD’s reaction to the possibility of trade unionrecognition is important, attempting to ‘fight’ the union is almost certainlythe wrong thing to do if your ultimate intention is to avoid a recognitionclaim. You need to mobilise the MD and senior team in devising an HR strategythat addresses the employment issues and work environment that are causing theworkforce to seek the support of an external body in preference to themanagement team. Step 2 So forget the trade union, and get the management team focusedon the rather more important issue of how much money you are losing by being atbest, an average employer. How much could the business could be making if it becamethe best employer in the region? Concentrate on the costs associated withturnover, retraining and low productivity. Identify the revenue andproductivity gains associated with high workforce loyalty, engagement andcommitment. Step 3 Having secured the senior team’s commitment to improving yourorganisation’s employment proposition and brand, you need to start talking tostaff quickly. Avoid falling into the trap of corporately defining what theorganisation’s new, compelling employment proposition will be from a ‘top down’perspective. The employees need to define it – your role is to provide a methodor tool that allows the organisation to capture and prioritise its feedback. Step 4 Having done so, you need to lead the process of building aplan that quickly delivers improvements in the four to six areas the workforcehas defined as being most important. If your objective is to differentiateyourself from other employers in the region among a young workforce, you mustkeep the plan simple and obvious, as they are likely to have little basis forsubtle comparisons. Step 5 If empowerment (or the lack of) comes up as an action item, aquick win with obvious bottom-line benefits might be to engage staff inidentifying opportunities for simple cross-selling or outbound selling in thecall centre environment. An improvedsales model offers the opportunity for more challenging and interesting work aswell as improved, affordable financial rewards for employees in the form ofsales incentives. Solution 2 By Paul Kearns Paul Kearns is director, PWL The solution offered here is based on an assumption that you have carriedout your own analysis of problems facing the business. Like most call centres,this is still a relatively young business and, as such, has had little or nostrategic HR input. Step 1 The first task is to bring the board up to speed from astrategic HR perspective. This will include taking a longer-term view, so thatsome of the underlying management issues (that is, management style) can beaddressed. You should also link whatever you plan to do directly to businessperformance indicators. Any HR strategy should be able to articulate how itwill impact on costs, efficiency and customer satisfaction in the medium to long-term.This is crucial for board commitment and buy-in. Step 2 The priority will then be to get an agreement from boardmembers that the union is not a welcome development. You must add, though, thatthe union, per se, is not the real issue but a symptom of it. The real issuesurrounds loss of trust and motivation in the workforce, which is having adamaging effect on the business as a whole. HR strategy is always about dealingwith root causes. Terms and conditions are already at an acceptable marketlevel, so the underlying issue will not be related to pay or conditions.Nevertheless, these may well become issues if employees achieve unionrecognition. Step 3 Once the board is behind you in principle, you need toidentify the key strategic steps. This might include identifying sections wherethere are serious cases of employee disengagement. These should be identifiablethrough inefficiencies or deteriorating levels of service, absenteeism orhigher turnover. A big strategic question is: do the managers who helped setthe business up have the right skills for managing in a much tightercompetitive environment? Step 4 One advantage you have as the new HR director is that youcould address a meeting of all employees to give your personal commitment andthat of the board to trying to resolve their problems. This may buy you sometime so that the big question of union recognition can be delayed long enoughfor you to be able to put your strategy into effect. How the forum worksThe HR Strategy Forum, which is supportedby some of the industry’s most experienced people (see below), is PersonnelToday’s major new initiative to help readers become more strategic in theirday-to-day operations. Over the coming months, Personnel Today will give a unique,developmental opportunity to hone your strategic skills using a wide range ofHR scenarios submitted by senior HR professionals. Each week, our panel ofexperienced practitioners and consultants will provide solutions to a typicalstrategic HR dilemma. You can get involved by sending in your own problems,marked ‘strategic dilemmas’, to [email protected] Brown, Assistant director general, CIPDPaul Kearns, Director, PWLJim Matthewma,n Worldwide partner, MercerHuman Resource ConsultingAndrew Mayo, Director,MLILouise Allen, Director, LAPartnersPenny Davis, Head of HR operations,T-MobileMarie Gill, Head of organisationaldevelopment, AsdaNeil Roden, HR director, Royal Bankof ScotlandRalph Tribe, Vice-president of HR,Getty ImagesDilys Winn, HR director,Gloucestershire County CouncilMargaret Savage, Head of HR strategy,BT Comments are closed.