Healthcare giant opts for outplacement help

Jane Lewis finds out how one
company extended a caring role to its staff when it exercised a radical
overhaul.

HSA, a market leader in the
healthcare cash-plan industry, embarked on a series of redundancies as part of
sweeping changes accompanying the arrival of a new chief executive and
management team four months ago.

"On arrival it was clear
that some radical change was needed in terms of people practices and systems
and processes," says HR and customer services director Mark Day.

"We recognised there would
have to be a number of job losses. There were some people in the wrong
location, but beyond that we wanted to re-energise the organisation and put in
new brand awareness. We needed a different kind of skill set.

"We had as
many as 12 layers between top management and frontline customer staff. That’s
now been reduced to four. So [there’ was] some pretty big fall-out."  

He claims the
company’s outplacement programme, led by HDA, has been critical in supporting
both those who left and those who remain.

"The manner in which you
perform redundancies has a major impact on morale."

Outplacement
wasn’t just a question of lining up the next job, says Day. It also offered
valuable counselling and career management advice.

"One manager said he had
always wanted to run a post office or a shop – and that’s exactly what he’s
doing. The outplacement role really is critical. This is a grieving process
they’re going through. Someone has to help them come to terms with the emotions
they’re dealing with.

"We tried to
articulate to the organisation as a whole the purpose we were trying to
achieve."

This included educating
managers and leaders on how to gee up survivors: informal sessions with
speakers like Denis Beard, who used to run Reading University’s MBA programme,
and John Perry, psychology lecturer at Bournemouth helped significantly.

Unlike many
companies determined to screw out the last drop from departing employees:
"We allowed them to leave without working notice". To do so would
have been as unfair as it was unrealistic. "It’s bad enough that you’re
taking away someone’s employment. You don’t have to take their dignity as well."

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