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Transport for NSW: Managing staff in a major restructure across multiple public sector agencies

By Nicola Vass - 12th June 2018  |  Government , Workforces for the Future

Managing staff in a major restructure across multiple Government agencies.

The CEO of NSW based people management and career transition firm, INS, says it is possible to cost effectively manage many staff during a major, simultaneous restructure of several departments or subsidiaries of private firms or of multiple Government agencies.

Sophia Symeou says INS helped the NSW Government to do just that several years ago, despite complex industrial relations agreements, when it created Transport for NSW and privatised Sydney Ferries.

INS successfully tendered to provide career transition services for people no longer required in their roles across seven agencies over a four-year period.

The challenge: No forced redundancy

Most staff worked for RailCorp. Under RailCorp’s then Enterprise Agreement, its staff were not subject to forced redundancy nor forced relocation. Many staff were on above average salaries for the sector. INS were charged with helping to:

  • Increase the uptake of voluntary redundancies
  • Decrease salary maintenance periods and containing associated costs
  • Minimise industrial action and negative productivity in a highly industrial environment
  • Support employees with positive career transition.

INS Solution for Change

INS managed the entire voluntary redundancy and redeployment process for all agencies.

“All employees were managed off site, at the INS Jobs’ Club, eliminating internal onsite management costs and reducing productivity impacts on remaining staff,” Ms Symeou says.

A tailored career transition model was developed to include:

  • A two-week program of workshops and coaching on change management, resilience and well-being
  • Resume writing and interview skills workshops
  • Customised employee skills assessments
  • Daily role matching by a dedicated Career Placement Officer with a priority assessment process for NSW Government roles
  • Ongoing coaching and support with job applications, resume writing and interview preparation.

Results

Referrals to INS Voluntary Redundancy Redeployment Forced Redundancy Other TOTAL
837 621 173 25 6 825

More than 800 staff were managed by INS during the program.

Ms Symeou said, despite the difficult IR environment and change process, staff were highly satisfied with the career transition services with 97% of employees ranking them as good to excellent.

“Staff reported a significant increase in self-confidence to apply for roles and identify and present transferable skills applicable to all sectors,” she says.

Issue Number
Performance improvement 14
Redeployment strike 10
Discipline 4
Union contract 138
Disputes 8
Ministerial 1
TOTAL 175

For those who took voluntary redundancy, 94% remained satisfied with their decision to take voluntary redundancy six months after.

Having an external expert also facilitated time savings and cost savings according to Ms Symeou. There were 138 instances where unions contacted INS but, in most cases, a brief discussion was sufficient to mitigate further industrial action. All forced retrenchments were successful with no decision over-turned.

“We have expertise in industrial relations, not just assessment, coaching and career transition, which helped ensure early resolution of most industrial matters.”

Keys to success

Ms Symeou says there are some important keys to success for any firm or Government embarking on such change.

First and foremost is taking a multi-disciplinary approach with expert staff in counselling, psychology psychotherapy, rehabilitation, facilitation, HR, industrial relations, recruitment and vocational placement services. She says an agreed change management plan, including a communication plan, with buy in from heads of all agencies or departments is critical.

She believes INS’ off site, one on one support from a dedicated Career Placement Officer proved successful.

“Ongoing job seeking coaching, including resume and application support, from someone whom staff know and trust works best.”

The addition of temporary work placements provided staff with new skills and ongoing work experience, which Ms Symeou says is important particularly for staff who have worked for an organisation for a long time, often in the same role.

Finally, but most importantly, is treating people in career transition with great care, respect and understanding.

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