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OPINION | Michael Schuster, CEO Mühlenhoff by Randstad RiseSmart: Personnel restructuring in difficult times

At many companies, crises lead to job cuts and mass layoffs, although there are alternatives such as redemployment. CEO & outplacement expert Michael Schuster explains how it works.

Michael Schuster is managing director of Mühlenhoff by Randstad RiseSmart. His passion for project management and HR consulting led him to the area of ​​staff restructuring and career development with a focus on outplacement and workforce transformation. He has been working here for more than ten years. Randstad RiseSmart is one of the world's leading companies for outplacement, redeployment and career development.

Short-time work and layoffs often determine the picture in companies in times of crisis, but innovation should be the focus now. What is the ideal response to such challenges?

In difficult times it is crucial for companies to remain active and adapt to the new framework conditions. It is true that it is not possible to foresee every crisis and its consequences, but if you are agile, you have the necessary flexibility in critical situations to react faster. This includes creative working time models, home office regulations and internal mobility within the company. It is important to take the workforce with you and to inform them about change processes at an early stage. Employees are encouraged to develop themselves continuously and on their own initiative.

Short-time work and layoffs are still not always avoidable. For the future of companies, it is therefore important to deal with separations at an early stage. With a responsible culture of separation and change, organizations show employees a valid perspective. A high degree of transparency, clear and honest communication and empathy on the part of management and executives are important factors. Organizations prove that we take the professional future of our employees seriously and don't just talk about sustainability.

Why is restructuring so often equated with downsizing?
Are there no alternatives?

The fact that companies constantly have to face new challenges is nothing new - from digitization to automation and robotization. Once a restructuring has been completed, the next one is often already indicated. The demands on companies to adapt to changing markets and customer needs more quickly are increasing all the time. This also changes the demands on the workforce and the job profiles are changing rapidly. At Randstad RiseSmart, we found out in a global study that 60% of all job descriptions will change significantly by 2030. This means that new skills will be required that are not currently available in the labor market. Rather, they have to be developed in-house. At the same time, the study shows that around 75% of employees in companies are willing to significantly further or re-qualify. In principle, these are the best conditions to be able to shape this change yourself and to develop alternatives to downsizing.

In any case, it is not very effective to separate restructuring into separations and new hires. It is better to combine the currently still isolated concepts for career development, internal mobility and qualification as well as creative separation concepts. That means: creating transparency about the development of new business fields, highlighting new career opportunities, informing early about closings or exits from business areas and establishing concepts for internal mobility and further qualification. In this way, the workforce can be kept moving and internal flexibility is created that benefits companies at two ends. First, in the battle for qualified employees, they have to accept significantly less expensive and lengthy recruiting processes. Second, continuous and early changes result in significantly lower restructuring costs. That is sustainable and strengthens employee loyalty.

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What exactly does successful staff restructuring look like in a company and how can this be achieved?

An efficient and successful strategy for staff restructuring must bring together the interests of employees and employers. This is what modern concepts of internal mobility and redeployment aim at. In the first step, companies must identify important future fields. This makes it clear which qualifications and characteristics employees must have in this area. At the same time, it is important to keep employees up to date and to enable them to participate in and benefit from this change.

This is achieved, for example, through intelligent platform technologies for career development which, together with development and coaching concepts, ensure the desired internal mobility. For companies, this also means encouraging their employees to take responsibility for their own careers. They create the right conditions for this by using the internal job search and Casting facilitate. Companies take their workforce with them when changes occur and promote a culture of internal mobility.

To what extent do companies benefit when they enable and encourage employees to change internally?

Anyone who creates space for internal changes not only looks after the individual in an appreciative way, but also has a positive influence on the entire corporate culture. Companies should actively support their employees in their professional development. In this way, both sides can prepare for changing requirements in the world of work. This strengthens cohesion and ensures everyone's future. Other aspects are increased motivation and lower fluctuation. All of this comes with financial benefits for companies. Those who set up their workforce flexibly are under less pressure to recruit in the event of changes. External staffing requirements are reduced and the costs for restructuring are lower.

How do employees benefit from an internal change?

The traditional career path has long since become obsolete. Both the fields of activity and the very individual career ideas have changed. Employees no longer have to, cannot or want to stay in the same job for life. An offer to move internally usually means a new professional opportunity. This gives employees the opportunity to position themselves for the future and to secure their employability.

This step often results in new and exciting options. By changing jobs, employees expand their horizons of experience and develop their own skills. This internal change works particularly well for employees because they can develop further in their familiar environment. At the same time, they can contribute their previous experience, which means that valuable knowledge and know-how are retained for the company.

What are the long-term benefits for companies from redeployment?

Redeployment is never a "quick fix", so not a short-term solution. Rather, it is part of a strategy for sustainable human resource management with which companies position themselves and their staff flexibly and make them fit for the future. With this progressive thinking, companies retain talent and gain new ones. Because investments in the workforce strengthen the employer brand. This gives organizations a decisive lead, especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers. In addition, redeployment helps prevent excess capacities in certain areas from arising in the first place. In the long run, this will save costs for downsizing and restructuring.

What challenges do HR managers in particular have to face in difficult times?

Times of crisis often mean changes. Many people see something threatening in this. I'm not just talking about employees. Managers and executives also experience changes as a burden - especially when it comes to personnel decisions.

I often find that those responsible fear this process, also because they lack experience with situations like these. It is therefore wise to rely on the support of external experts here. The best example of this is the downsizing. The separations represent a deep turning point not only for those directly affected. Uncertainty quickly emerges throughout the workforce. The challenge is to maintain a positive working atmosphere in the company, especially in moments like these, and to understand and design separations as measures that affect the entire company. This requires a sustainable and smart concept to shape this change positively and implement it fairly. To do this, far-reaching questions must be clarified: Which goals should be achieved? With which instruments and measures can the change be implemented at what speed? How are these best communicated? What support do managers need?

External experts can be a key success factor when it comes to ensuring that all these individual aspects flow into a holistic and target-oriented project plan.

What does a positive separation culture look like and how can companies optimally support their employees in the event of layoffs?

Separations are particularly drastic for employees who do not leave the company voluntarily. Often for them it is not only about their economic existence, but also about their own identity and confirmation and fulfillment in their job. If companies deal consciously with this situation, they create an appreciative and respectful cooperation in the separation process. Part of this can be offering outplacement advice. An important task of an outplacement consultancy is to give employees security and confidence in this situation. With advice on professional reorientation, companies support their employees in making a new start for their careers from a separation.

At Mühlenhoff by Randstad RiseSmart, we rely on Touch & Tech - that is, individual support for employees and the use of modern technology. Basically, the consultation process follows an established concept: We rely on a team of three experts. The employees are accompanied by these advisors from the start. They support you with the initial assessment, the professional preparation of the documents for the application, the job search on the open and hidden job market and the preparation for interviews. Our cloud-based technology platform is used in particular when looking for a job, which makes it easier to find a job precisely and efficiently. The conclusion then is the contract negotiation and successful onboarding in the new job. If the company initiates this outplacement process at an early stage, it strengthens the employer brand. This not only has a positive effect on the working atmosphere, but also on the company's reputation and employer brand in the long term.

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