HR’s prudent actions avert disaster after leak to press

Prudential’s HR team launched a successful contingency communications plan
to brief staff in the wake of job cuts being leaked to the press.

Prudential is cutting 850 of its UK call centre jobs and transferring the
work to India. But prior to a company-wide announcement, the decision was
reported by newspapers, TV and radio.

HR director of operations at Prudential Matthew Starks said the company
planned to brief most managers on Monday 7 October, and to announce the plans
to staff the following day.

However, after the news broke the previous Sunday afternoon, Prudential’s HR
and communications team worked through the night so staff could be briefed on
Monday morning.

Many managers were to be briefed at a hotel near Heathrow on Monday, but key
staff were contacted Sunday night and told to be at the Reading headquarters at
8am the next day.

Once the cuts were outlined to managers in a 40-minute session – instead of
the planned four hours – staff were e-mailed and told to attend meetings. A
Tannoy announcement at 8.45am alerted staff to the e-mail. However, the job cut
announcements were done face-to-face.

"I am passionate about that," said Starks. "People should be
briefed by the right people at the right time."

Prudential employed an independent counselling consultancy which established
a hotline to answer questions from staff and offer advice. "By the end of
the Monday, we had met our objectives," Starks said.

The job losses will reduce the number of staff at the firm’s Reading
operation to 1,400. The company said restructuring will cost the £20m by the
end of 2004, but this will be offset by annual cost savings of £16m from 2006.

Most of the savings will come from lower wages and the redundancies will be
staggered over two years, said Starks.

By Quentin Reade

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