Uncertainty can have huge impact on staff performance, TUI HR boss tells HR Forum
David Woods, May 07, 2009
Nothing is certain in UK business given this year's recession but HR professionals have been warned they must manage staff uncertainty differently from how they manage change.
Speaking to a packed conference room at the HR Forum on board the Oriana, Jacky Simmonds, HR director for the UK and Ireland at TUI, warned delegates: "While change will have an outcome, uncertainty has no end state and this breeds behaviour among employees that can impact on performance."
First Choice and Thomson hit the newspaper headlines in 2007 when they merged to form TUI in the UK - and media speculation and leaks had a massive impact on staff engagement, according to Simmonds.
She said: "Staff were desperate to have a degree of certainty about their future in uncertain times and, as a result, they made assumptions based on gossip, which we called ‘crooked thinking'. The key for HR and business leaders is to focus on fact and communicate with staff regularly - even if they have nothing new to report."
She explained line managers in the organisation found it difficult to focus on their teams and long-term plans because they didn't know what was going to be happening to the business. Simmonds added: "During change, it is wrong for business leaders to tell staff it is ‘business as usual' when the situation is anything but that. But they must ensure staff are delivering as usual."
Syimmonds also advised HR not to forget the role of senior management during periods of uncertainty. She said: "Senior staff need support from HR to agree what they need to deliver. HR needs to engage employees and must not put succession plans on hold."
She reminded HR leaders to make sure their own HR teams are properly trained and prepared. "Employees will assume HR knows more than they do, so HR departments must have clear plans in place."
Two years on from the merger, 97% of TUI staff in the UK are reported to be engaged with the company, 74% would "go over and above what is expected of them to make TUI a success", staff are more open to change and communications across the organisation has improved.
Finally Simmonds warned HR professionals: "Change in business is something that never stops. You must always be focusing on improving your business."