CASE STUDY 8
Redundancies at MacDonald
Dr Dorothy Wardale
-review questions 1-10 (where 10 is that the redundancy
I What redundancy programs do you program was respectfully managed
have knowledge of or have personally experienced? and achieved the organisations goals)?
9 How would you rate the redundancy program you know about on a scale of Please justify your rating.
MacDonald University along with many other Australian and overseas universities, has beengoing through a period of transformation. This transformation is driven by a decline in public funding to universities and an increased need for accountability across all areas, including teaching and research outputs. Each of these, along with the requirement to compete with limited funds and resources, have necessitated many universities to look for ways to cut costs and focus on areas they perceive will bring the best return on investment. At MacDonald University this transformation has been
realised in several ways, including a series of redundancies to academic and general
Across the various sectors and industries in the economy, redundancies are managed in a variety of ways, with a multitude of impacts on the organisation and its staff. At one extreme is an email sent to the staff member outlining the date and terms of the redundancy. A security guard then arrives at the staff member's desk and they are escorted out of the building with little time to say goodbye to people or finish tasks they and their team had been working on.
A more positive scenario for affected staff members is voluntary redundancy where the organisation provides information on and evidence of positions that are surplus to requirements and staff are asked to self-nominate for redundancy. If they meet the organisational requirements then they are informed that they will be made redundant at a time to be negotiated. Some people-focused organisations ensure that staff receive the maximum remuneration available, even extending the date of termination by weeks to ensure that full anniversaries of work are achieved and therefore extra payments made. This also allows staff time to process the changes and plan for their new future.
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520 PART 6 INTEGRATIVE CASE STUDIES
MacDonald University's redundancy program fell somewhere between these two approaches. At MacDonald, as for most universities, staff are largely categorised as being either 'academic' staff (those who lecture and research) or 'genera or professional staff
who perform the other tasks involved in rung a large organisation. These two groups experienced a somewhat different press ofdredundancy, as described below.
PART 1 — ROUND 1 — THE GENERAL STAFF The redundancy process was presented with a clear statement of intent to reduce the workforce after extensive consultation with general staff to find out the full their roles and the implications for stakeholders. The consultation was conducted in a similar way to a job-analysis exercise, with small groups of experts (those people in the various roles, along with internal and external clients of the position and line managers) being interviewed by senior staff and consultants to find out about each role, and any inefficiencies that might be present. This data-gathering process took almost one year.
Part way through the process it became clear that it was not as consultative as it had been initially promoted. The vast majority of general staff were invited to meetings and asked to comment on the importance of their role, tasks performed by them, how their role might be streamlined and whether they knew of role duplications across the various schools and faculties. However, people with a mandate to reduce staff numbers and look for similarities of roles conducted the consultative meetings. Thus, while the consultation was billed as looking for better ways of working and being more efficient, what gradually became apparent to those staff involved was that the data-gathering exercise was to reduce staff numbers. The more staff became aware of this, the less they participated in the process, either by not attending consultation meetings, or by attending and not contributing. Fearing significant job losses, general staff called in the unions and the process became very adversarial.
It also became clear to those staff involved that differences between the roles and responsibilities across faculties and schools would not be taken into account. A one-size-fits-all approach to staffing would be developed to address all student service staff, another for all online learning and development support staff, another for all personal assistants and so on.
Ultimately, the university determined the 'right formula' for staff. A 'Change Process' was documented and widely distributed. The process allowed for the university's position
to be presented to affected staff and other interested parties; those people would have 10 working days to respond. The collective comments and -responses would guide the final outcome and eventually a number of redundancies would be offered.
In reality, the process was followed to the letter, though the comments and responses did not have any impact on the final outcome. Many staff interpreted this they weren't taken into considerationmean that to
in the determination of the final outcome. Instead,
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Case study 8 Redundancies at MacDonald University 521
the university provided further rational justification of its position via a second document. In no cases were the original proposals altered.
Shortly after the finalisation of the change process, one-on-one meetings were organised for the majority of general staff. The notifications for the meetings indicated
that they were one-on-one information sessions to discuss staffing implications for each school. In actual fact, they were redundancy meet'
room with three senior universi s. The staff member went into a ty personnel: their Head of School, an HR representative
and a member of the faculty's executive who was in charge of the efficiency drive and redundancies. Each of these three people was in a senior position visa vis the staff member. The staff member was given a sheet with their redundancy financial package and termination outlined, thanked for their service and asked if they had any questions. Each meeting was allocated 30 minutes but most lasted only 5-10 minutes.
The termination dates for most staff were set for one month later, with no option of time in lieu or flexibility of working arrangements. All staff were directed to remain at work. No negotiation took place regarding the date, except where some staff were offered jobs outside of the university and were authorised to leave ahead of the redundancy date. No one was permitted to stay on for any amount of time to claim an extra year's work anniversary or to handover to contractors who would be fulfilling part of their role.
Morale was low; productivity was poor. Feelings of survivor guilt were present for those staff who were not made redundant. Other feelings of anger and resentment also emerged from some staff who would have liked to have been made redundant but weren't.
However, the month's reprieve did allow for people to say goodbye. Several informal functions were organised to help with the grieving process. The various schools put on their own final events to celebrate the good work and lasting relationships of those leaving.
Several months went by before an abridged version of the process was enacted, this time with academic staff. The data-gathering/consultation period was shorter and less inclusive. While most general staff had been invited to the job-analysis type meetings, there were only sample cohorts of academic staff invited to the same type of meetings. The result was the same type of 'one size fits all' approach for all academics, regardless of
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Review questions For Part 1
1 What are the advantages and disadvantages of voluntary redundancy for the organisation and the individual?
2 We know that some people can 'resist' change. We also know that there are key strategies for dealing with
resistance to change. Refer to the relevant section in the text and compare how the redundancy program was rolled out against the identified good practices for dealing with resistance.
PART 2 - ROUND 2 - ACADEMIC STAFF
522 PART 6 INTEGRATIVE CASE STUDIES
whether they taught mainly postgraduate level students or undergraduates; whether they were lab-based tutors, field-based tutors or humanities tutors; whether the teaching was conducted largely online or face-to-face; or whether the school ran sununer classes or trimesters versus the traditional semester system. All academics were categorised according to their level and whether they were more teaching- or research-focused. Essentially the same 'Change Process' was implemented, with the same level of transparency. The same one-on-one meetings took place to inform staff that their position was surplus to requirement. Professorial positions were targeted the most as
they were expensive to fund.
One significant difference with the roll-out of academic redundancies was the addition
of 'voluntary redundancies' whereby academics could self-nominate to take a redundancy package. On the one hand this was welcomed but on the other hand some felt it placed pressure on them to self-sacrifice for the good of their peers (more on this in Part 3). The other significant difference was the strong and early involvement by the union. By now, academic staff had seen how the general staff had been regarded and they were not prepared to accept similar management. The process was somewhat adversarial from the start; academics did not want to participate in the change process, partly because they wanted to focus time on their research and partly because they saw the process as
The termination of academic staffs contracts took longer than for general staff and was timed to coincide with the end of semesters. The same loss of productivity was observed and there was a similar decline of morale. Academic staff did stay on to complete their teaching requirements to a high standard and to the/beSt of their ability; however, their research output fell, as did their commitment to any school initiatives.
-,Niew questions for Part 2
I Compare the case study with the section in Chapter 8 on downsizing (under the main heading `Restructuring organisations'). In that section five key steps are identified. Discuss how you would rate MacDonald's approach to the
redundancy roll-out in terms of the theory.
2 If you were leading the redundancy process at MacDonald, what three changes would you have made to the roll-out process for all staff (academic and general)?
PART 3 — IMPACT ON PEOPLE
Throughout this organisation-initiated change, individuals dealt with the impacts in diverse ways. Let's examine the story of three quite different people in three quite different faculties and the ways they each dealt with the change.
Professor Gerry Brown is from the School of Engineering. Gerry is a 58-year-old career academic who has spent 38 years in universities, with the past 20-plus years exclusively
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