Stepping stones

Breaking news with seemingly contradictive meanings can be a sticking point for a company’s HR department. The surprise announcement that British Gas owner Centrica is to cut 6,000 jobs, coupled with report of doubling of profits in the first half of the year brought shockwaves throughout the business community. To ensure British Gas doesn’t lose its star players, the HR team will need to deliver a watertight change communication strategy. After all, employees know the truth, so transparency is absolutely vital.

At a glance, it may seem a juxtaposition of commercial interest. Why would a company make 6,000 redundant when it’s doubled profits? But more importantly, how are British Gas employees keeping their spirits high when so many fear losing their livelihood. The reality is there is a much bigger risk at stake.

Reportedly, a disengaged employee costs an organisation roughly £2,183.67 for every £6,422.55 in annual salary . If you consider the widespread coverage surrounding this news – which states a majority of the 6,000 job losses, will be in the UK – there will be a considerable amount of employees worried and disengaged.

There will need to be some serious and immediate actions made by British Gas’ HR team to protect the wellbeing of their employees and employer brand. Make one mistake and the whole house will come down.

In this instance, a company’s change communication strategy needs to inherently be transparent; the tone must not be ‘we’ but centred on ‘you’. After all, it’s about the employee – not the company’s welfare. Communication needs to be confident, absolutely no apology should be made. This would only lose trust in the workplace and more importantly disengage employees.

British Gas must be clear that when companies make difficult decisions like this, it isn’t something that’s written on the back of a fag packet. It’s a planned and structured process which considers the overall health of a company’s performance. Is it sustainable? Are there emerging threats in the market?

More importantly, the HR team need to be strong but caring in tone of voice. Make certain employees understand difficult decisions need to be made but it’s for the greater good. This will only embed a culture of trust again. Finally, if what the papers are saying is true, build upon the fact that there are jobs to be created in growth areas. This will serve to motivate and engage employees again. Proving all is not lost and there is much to gain.

Caburn Hope
Rusbridge House, Rusbridge Lane Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2XX, UK

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