Re-assess your talent: redeployment rather than redundancy

Insight shared by:

Kiddy & Partners

As we continue to respond to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations that were previously in a period of growth and recruitment have had to furlough staff and are considering options including redundancies as a means of survival and recovery.

However, research has shown the adverse effect that reducing headcount has on the employees left behind and that retaining talent is a vital strategy to survive a recession and succeed afterwards [1]. As we discuss in this article, redeployment can be an effective strategy for developing and retaining talent, helping organisations to recover and thrive.

Redeployment as a means of protecting investment in talent

Redeployment involves relocating employees to other parts of the business with areas of growth or strategic importance, offering the potential for significant cost savings when used as a retention strategy to avoid redundancy and recruitment and training costs [1]. It also ensures that the highest levels of expertise are retained and targeted where they are most needed as well as protecting the investment in skills required for recovery [2]. 

Creating organisational resilience through redeployment 

A recent Forbes article highlighted that 22% of survey respondents saw COVID-19 as an opportunity for organisations to cross-train employees and add new skills to their workforce. Redeploying staff not only offers the opportunity to expand their skillset and experience but also - through a greater understanding of how other areas of the business operate - prepares them for future roles in the organisation, potentially more senior roles with a greater strategic overview. Using redeployment as a talent development strategy and technique for upskilling and developing people enables organisations to be resilient, flexible and innovative when responding to challenges by having a workforce with diversified skills, sharing their talent and expertise across the organisation [3]. 

The benefits of redeployment on morale and motivation

Reducing headcount during times of economic downturn can have significant negative impacts on those employees who ‘survive’ the downsizing - sometimes referred to as ‘survivor syndrome’ [1]. These employees often experience lower morale, motivation, engagement, organisational commitment and productivity [4]. In a previous article, we discussed how a reduced workforce provides an opportunity for those employees not furloughed to develop their skills, to get involved in different types of projects, which can increase their motivation and engagement [5]. Therefore, whilst redeployment may be driven by financial and operational requirements, it can also be an effective strategy to solve issues of morale or capability where employees are in roles they don’t enjoy, are not committed to or not best suited to, and where their talents could be used more effectively elsewhere [3].

Key considerations for effective implementation of a redeployment strategy:

  • Communicate clearly and regularly: an individual’s commitment and wellbeing can be greatly impacted by the way change is communicated [4], and frequent communication during a period of change can help to maintain engagement levels [6]. There is likely to be some anxiety for people around moving from their old role to a new one, and it’s important that individuals have a clear understanding of why a decision has been made, including the long-term strategy behind decisions [1].
  • Align with development plans: look at where opportunities exist for redeployment: which areas of the business have gaps that need to be filled? Matching the redeployment opportunity with an employee’s current skills and competencies provides the greatest chance of successfully redeploying the employee, increasing the likelihood of engagement and motivation in the new role.
  • Provide training and support: sufficient training and support will enable individuals to be as effective as possible in their new role, as well as helping to relieve anxiety about being redeployed.
  • Planning for long-term: if the redeployment period is short term (for example, to add resource to a particularly busy area of the business during COVID-19), there needs to be a clear plan in place for how work is redistributed and the transition back into the ‘business as usual’ role. 

Cutting investment in talent development during times of economic strain limits an organisation’s ability to survive, recover and succeed when times pick up [2]. Investing in talent development is essential as a means of creating an energised, motivated and skilled workforce, committed to the organisation and helping it succeed through hard times. Explore possibilities for redeployment as an alternative to redundancy to provide some cost savings whilst simultaneously developing your people. Continuing to develop your talent, despite the uncertainty and ambiguity that a situation like coronavirus brings, could be key to recovery.

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[1] Chubb, C., Reilly, P., & Usher, T. (2010). Learning from the downturn: Key messages from an employer perspective. Institute for Employment Studies, Brighton.

[2] Usher, T., Dewson, S., & Cox, A. (2009). The recession: policy and employer responses. Institute for Employment Studies, Brighton.

[3] Mackay, A. (2007). Recruiting, retaining and releasing people: Managing redeployment, return, retirement and redundancy. Taylor & Francis.

[4] Wolfe, H. (2004). Survivor Syndrome: Key Considerations and Practical Steps. Brighton, England: Institute for Employment Studies.

[5] Sonnentag, S. (2017). A task-level perspective on work engagement: A new approach that helps to differentiate the concepts of engagement and burnout. Burnout Research, 5, 12-20.

[6] Frauenheim, E. (2009). Commitment Issues – Restoring employee engagement. Workforce Management, 88(12).

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