Staff kept in touch all the way in Balfour’s changes

A
change in HR strategy at Balfour Beatty Rail Renewals helped prevent its
closure in 1999 and has significantly contributed to the company’s turnaround
in profitability.

The
company’s HR director explained that it was within six months of closure in February
1999 when it cut 170 jobs, and developed a new strategy to train and motivate
staff.

Speaking
at a performance management conference in London this month, Terry O’Brien
said, "Internal research showed a need for a more profitable relationship
with Railtrack, improved management skills and increased staff identity with
Balfour Beatty as a distinct company."

It
prompted the board – of which O’Brien is a member – to draw up a clear vision
of how the company should operate.

The
HR team then communicated this vision to staff through an HR roadshow that
visited Balfour Beatty tearooms and garages across the UK.

O’Brien
said, "Communication was the key to helping people get on board with
change."

The
research also revealed that staff had the average reading age of
seven-year-olds, so a skills training programme was developed that used keypad
response rather than exhaustive written work.

O’Brien
said, "We put our investment in training to keep people on board. It was a
major success with no disputes and not a single claim."

A
recent survey showed that 72 per cent of staff understand the overall goals of
the business.

O’Brien
said the company has gone from a loss in 1998 to exceeding its targets in 2000.

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