All Change in the Workplace, in a Changing World…

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Arab Spring, China’s Babies, Brexit and ‘Trumpdom’… what’s the relevance to your workplace?

This Blast is specifically for HR professionals interested in HR strategy and business planning. Unlike many of our other Blasts, it is not generally intended for practitioners with no interest in strategy.

At the end of 2016, we thought it timely to write about change in the workplace. We support hundreds of organisations around the UK and further afield and see some organisations coping with the volume and pace of change, whilst others are seriously struggling.

So what is going on? What can you do to better position yourselves for what is to come? How can you develop leaders’ and managers’ confidence so they make timely decisions and are seen to be firmly in control? It’s all a bit of the unknown, but here we give our best ideas and hopefully provide a little food for thought…

It’s been a few years of massive change for society but what does this mean for your organisation? Are you going to carry on just the same, managing staff next year just as you’ve done this year or are you ready to bring in huge changes too?

Tempted to simply not think about what changes might be needed given all that is changing in the world? Then we’re sorry, but you’re in danger of doing both yourself and your organisation a massive disservice. The time for burying heads in the sand is long past.

A Few Milestones

January 11. Beginning of Arab Spring in Tunisia, after a man burnt himself to death in protest at police. Spread as far afield as Syria, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain etc. but with reverberations around the world. It has been estimated that from Syria alone there are 4 million who are now refugees in others countries and at least 250,000 killed.

April 15. Merkel invited immigrants to head to Germany. She thought about 800,000 would take up the offer but in fact over 2 million did. Merkel proclaimed ‘I’m happy that Germany has become a country that many people abroad associate with hope’. However, it is widely viewed that her invitation to ‘come to Germany’ has led to much of the widespread dissatisfaction we now see, just one consequence of which has been Brexit.

October 15. China announced the end to its one-child policy. Across 35 years of this policy over 400M children have not been born, who otherwise would have been. An estimated 80M baby girls have been killed after birth or aborted. China will have over 450M people aged over 60 by 2050 with a declining younger population to support them. They have around 30M+ young men who will never find partners due to so many girls having been aborted or killed. One consequence of this may be as The Guardian stated ‘It would be unwise to ignore research that suggests that large numbers of unmarried men are more likely to pursue aggressive, militarist foreign policy.’

June 16. Brexit. With Britain voting to leave the EU, emotions have run high with swathes of the political and business elite suggesting the voters were ill-informed and misguided. In reality, it will be years before it becomes really clear what the consequences of voting to exit will be and as with Merkel, what one nation decides, often has enormous consequences for other nations. In this case, it could be a rapid collapse of the whole EU.

What is becoming clear, though, is that potentially in April next year when May intends to trigger Article 50, all Britain’s EU derived laws could be nullified. This will require huge quantities of new laws to be drafted, passed and introduced rapidly providing an opportunity to dramatically change the way Britain is regulated.

Interestingly, a lack of foresight on the part of the EU leadership has resulted in a woefully inadequate exit process being in place for the exit of any member. An added challenge is that all 27 member countries have the right of veto on any or all of the terms on which Britain exits which could result in a never-ending stalemate of what happens next.

November 16. ‘Trumpdom’. As with Brexit, the successes of Donald Trump bring an equal measure of euphoria and anticipation on the part of some, but uncertainty, anxiety and doom-mongering on the part of others. Passions are running high and populations polarised in their views of what is right and what is wrong. Again, only time will tell whether a wall is built between Mexico and the US, whether travel from ‘terror prone regions’ to the US will be impacted, whether illegal entrants do get sent to prison for 2 years if this is the second time they have tried to get into the US, and whether billions of dollars will not be paid to the UN as planned, but instead get siphoned off into the US for internal infrastructure projects etc.

Our Workplaces

So, what does this all mean for the workplace? Our principal interest at Jaluch is on the management of staff in the workplace. What impact on resourcing (how many people you need and how you recruit them)? What impact on the day to day management of staff including what laws are in place and what employee relations issues are causing concern? What changes in the workplace?

A look at some of the issues relevant to our workplaces…

Arab Spring:

  • Large numbers of educated refugees desperate to find work, providing a huge pool of talented employees – if right to work legislation is changed to permit this.
  • If right to work legislation isn’t changed then black market labour availability would increase, creating various problems for both the workers and society, but opportunities for employers with no/low ethic.
  • Large numbers of displaced men isolated from their families and home countries possibly resulting in increased aggression, conflict and stress in both society and the workplace.
  • Isolation of Muslims in society and workplaces due to perceptions of their ability to integrate into wider society, their possible radicalisation and language or cultural barriers.
  • Increased security concerns for those travelling around the world on business.
  • Disruption of some business markets impacting business success and sustainability and requiring identification of new markets.

China:

  • Increased emigration of young men seeking wives/partners creating an educated and talented pool of international workers, but perhaps not always the easiest integration due to major cultural and language differences?
  • Increased aggressiveness in Chinese government policies? Possible impact on trade deals, security, diplomatic relations etc.
  • Lack of progress in China, with diversity initiatives and equality of treatment due to gender imbalances? Impact on global progression of equality initiatives?
  • Greater taxation of young to support ever ageing population? Resulting possibly in ever-increasing financial burdens of young driving them to seek best (or better) paid roles around the globe?

Brexit:

  • Rapid legislation changes creating enormous legal and admin burden for employers – which may not be achievable given that so many organisations operate leanly.
  • Staff who often struggle to deal with change, finding the pace of change both stressful and challenging… creating pressure on absence levels and staff morale.
  • The Polarisation of staff with some actively seeking change and others resisting it. Increase in intolerance of people ‘not like us’ which in turn impacts numbers of discrimination and bullying claims.
  • Responsibilities on managers and leaders with so much change so quickly, increasing significantly. This coming after many years in most organisations of very little management and leadership development.
  • Lack of business certainty caused in part by current legal challenges, but also unknown time lag required to make changes, making long term planning and decision making difficult.
  • Future resourcing challenges for businesses using immigrant labour – who will and who won’t be given the right to work in the UK and how different will that be to current practices?
  • Market challenges for businesses that rely heavily on exports, driving a need to explore new markets. Need staff who are comfortable with change and endlessly flexible and adaptable.

‘Trumpdom’ – a harder one to gauge but….

  • Encouraging/supporting worldwide resurgence in nationalism? Possibly resulting in short termism, overly localised approach to business planning which impacts security/longevity of US owned businesses operating in UK.
  • Impact on global trade deals/partnerships impacting clarity around markets and understanding the need to identify new markets or build existing.
  • Isolation from global markets and global labour with unclear consequences.
  • Impact on global equality/diversity drives if Trump demonstrates a lack of commitment to this.
So, in summary of what you need to be thinking about:

HR

  • Highly competent HR staff will be essential.
  • Need to plan for a number of urgent reviews of employment documentation, including handbooks and contracts of employment.
  • Need to increase your budget for HR support during rapid change.

Employee Relations

  • Develop strong competence in how to manage and support staff during a period of rapid change to reduce impact on productivity, retention, absence levels etc.
  • Put staff representatives in place to support with change. Train them to do their job well.
  • Review the security of your staff who travel regularly or live internationally.
  • Put resource and energy into ensuring the integration of all cultures/nationalities across the organisation to minimise isolation, bullying and discrimination.

Recruitment

  • Analyse your workforce so you are clear where your risks are. Identify a plan to replace any workers no longer having the right to work in the UK and identify who might be used to replace them
  • Understand the make-up of your international workforce and understand current visa and right to work requirements.

Training

  • Identify what training and development your leaders need to have the competence and courage to lead through challenging times.
  • Identify what training and development your managers need to support your leadership team at this time.
  • Think about your diversity training. Is there something you can do to deliver training that increases tolerance amongst staff, educates everyone about cultural differences, rather than just focusses on the law. Consider unconscious bias training too.

During tough times and fast changing times, these are just a few of our ideas. Please do share your own ideas as this is all a work in progress!

Jaluch is able to support with both day to day HR issues including legal support and contract reviews and the creation and delivery of training. Why not take a look at some of these courses:

If you would like to speak to one of the team about anything covered in today’s Blast, please get in touch.

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.

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