Public sector cuts – 5 ways to downsize without losing skills and knowledge

By | October 12, 2010

public-spending-cutsThe country is bracing itself for the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October.  And local government and NHS trust bosses are looking at how they shed large numbers of highly experienced employees without threatening the long term health of these very organisations.

Publictechnology.net highlights the point that a large proportion of the redundancies will result in a vast knowledge base going out of the door.

Organisations need to take steps to capture that knowledge quickly and deliberately and transfer it to those that will be responsible for running these organisations in the coming years.

In my own work with the NHS I come across many managers who started their careers as clinicians.  In the reorganisation it is likely that a proportion of these managers will be re-employed in their original discipline.  This is a group that, going forward, will still have a strong relationship with the organisation and their previous managerial experience could therefore still be useful.

The people that are moved on and downsized out of the organisation are the group that should be recognised as having a significant contribution to make – before they go.

Cutting costs and maintaining good working relationships in the current economic environment does present some challenges but it is possible.

1. Work with people who are leaving

Embarrassment and emotion directed to those who are going is unproductive – ‘positive sensitivity’ is a better approach.  In organisations that are stressed, it may feel uncomfortable to engage with the people who are losing their jobs but this is something that every public sector organisation in the country needs to face up to in the coming months.

2. Value those who are leaving

Employers should demonstrate they still value these employees for the skills they have to pass on to others

3. Set up systems to capture knowledge

People are not leaving overnight.  They will be still be around for a while so tap into their views and experience formally and informally while you have the opportunity

4. Talk

Don’t be too scared to talk – instead learn what you can, while you can

5. Positive morale for those staying

Turning a negative into a positive improves morale for remaining employees and makes those who are going valued for their contribution.

Consider this scenario: an NHS Trust that is required to be more efficient and effective previously employed two clinical directors. Going forward only one will be recruited – what could be more wasteful than to watch the knowledge and experience of the other vanish from the organisation?

Bradford University School of Management is compiling and sharing best practice to help this country minimise the damage of the public sector cuts.  Please share your thoughts and tips with us.

About Julian Rawel

Julian Rawel is Director of Executive Education at the School of Management. He has previously held positions of Groups Sales and Marketing Director, Eurocamp plc and Marketing Director, Royal Armouries Museum. Julian has been a non executive director of travel industry bodies ABTA and AITO. He has a BA in Geography from Leicester University and an MSc in Tourism Management from Manchester Metropolitan University. Julian is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Chartered Marketer.

Specialties:  Consumer and business marketing, Branding, General management, Management development