How to select people for redundancy – use 360’s?
We know that we are in increasingly difficult times for many businesses and organisations. With many having to both “down size” and “right size”. This means identifying the roles that have to go. In the UK it is illegal to make people redundant – it is the jobs that go.
This month has seen an interesting article published in People Management (the journal for the CIPD the UK’s professional body for HR professionals) entitled How to… use assessment for redundancy .
In the piece the author Helen Bradley outlines how assessment can help ensure the right choices are made. However this piece has drawn considerable concerns from other professionals in the assessment & HR/ OD arena.
One of the reasons the author gives for using assessments is
“Keep it legal
An employer is legally responsible for ensuring its assessment processes are fair to all parties and follow best practice. For example, if you appear to favour older or younger people, you open yourself up to possible claims for discrimination or unfair dismissal under UK employment law”
This statement seems to ignore the fact that it is jobs that are lost not people. One commentator – Harvey Bennett replied with a short piece entitled Don’t employ 360s for redundancy selection. If it can be clearly shown that the jobs going are for whatever reason are no longer required and they happen to be staffed predominantly by one demographic, then that is unfortunate. Not illegal.
What is important is to ensure that all jobs that go are not “mission critical” for the future needs of the business. Where the number of roles in a given area are being reduced, then people should be evaluated by performance to date and abilities for the future. Some assessment criteria is important – but not 360 tools. The tools should be objective in nature not based on the opinions of others who may also be “at risk” or have a grudge against an individual.
My reply on one of the HR forums was:
We need to look at this (selecting assessment tools and identifying people to leave an organisation) from a long term OD perspective to understand the issues here – and not just at a tactical response level.
Some years ago I was training manager just after a large “right sizing” operation, where members of staff were actively involved in the decision of who should stay and who would go – sometimes directly, but often indirectly by service type through a series of “brainstorming” sessions looking at service provision – much like an individual contributing to a 360 review of an individual.
The trauma and guilt left in people that survived lasted almost 5 years – this is a nasty and dangerous strategy for survivor survival. The mental health and wellbeing of “survivors” will determine the make or break of the resulting organisation.
Once people know that a 360 feedback is PART of the process you will change people’s behaviors (forever) about how they provide feedback – some will be overly negative about others as a defense to ensure their score is better than others – others will not like the idea of this and provide overly positive feedback.
Sorry but this (using 360 and associated tools for selection for redundancy) is VERY wrong at so many levels.
On the surface and at an intellectual level it seems like a reasonable course of actions, however when we look at the emotional and psychological aspects of the whole process we realise that it is prone to failure and potentially ensure the death of 360s from that organisation for 5+ years.
We are HR/ OD professionals need to start to advise managers about the real impact of making decisions like this.
?? Data Protection??If people contribute to this (a 360 process) under the expectations of “development” and the data is then used for “selection/ de-selection”, I suspect that this is then in breach of the data protection act – or at least is highly unethical and unprofessional.
Comments from others on this subject include:
“I have found a 360 process, if managed well, to be a good development tool but would not use it in this way! “
“As someone who has just gone through redundancy with many of my colleagues, balanced feedback and honesty on how an organisations sees your future is important to your personal decision making, particularly if individuals are asked to apply for new/other roles but there are ways of doing this without 360. I have often found people hide behind the 360 tool and it therefore has a tendency to become corrupted especially when referenced outside of development scenarios”
“I firmly believe that 360 should be used as a developmental tool and in my experience can be incredibly powerful when used as part of a coaching or wider OD programme. To use it as a tool for redundancy is wrong and will only encourage negative feelings for those subjected to it in such a manner in the future”
So if 360 tools are best not used for selecting people when having to lay people off, what is a good approach?
If the business has been managing people and roles well through a business aligned performance management system, the decision should be easier than if performance management has been poor.
Many of the “assessment centre” approaches seem to focus on skill and competence. This is all very well but when aligning an organisation for the future, the skills that got the organisation to where it is now will not necessarily be the skills it needs for the future. It has been said by many that skills and competence can be developed more easily that attitude, so if focusing on skills for retention it may lead to poor performance in the future. People with a good work attitude and ethic tend to perform and learn well no matter what the task – they learn the skills required quickly.
Bennett in one piece put it so well that I shall repeat his comments here:
The advice that it give to my customers when supporting them in the introduction of 360 is:
- Don’t link 360 to individual reward decisions
- Don’t link 360 to redundancy selection decisions
- Don’t link 360 to disciplinary/disciplinary situations
- Do use the tool for professional and organisational development purposes
- Do make it clear to the people who will be the subjects of 360 feedback what are ‘the rules of engagement’ – voluntary or mandatory participation, who ‘owns’ the data, who will see the data, for what purpose will individual data be used, for what purpose collective/aggregate data be used (e.g. an organisational training needs analysis), assurances about anonymity and confidentiality, and support through facilitation, coaching, etc.
Putting a system in place to “arse cover” or to enable managers to dodge the decision making process is wrong. Yes it is difficult – very difficult, and one of the reasons managers get management pay is to make tough decisions. Individuals need to take responsibility for the decision for an individual to lose their job – not “pass the buck” by being able to say “well I wanted you to stay but according to the system…..” Its almost as bad and the early approaches to redundancy – “last in first out”.
Managers it’s time to step up to the plate