· Features

Hot topic: Do you need to fire staff to take a business in a new direction?

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter wasn’t without controversy. After taking control, 4,000 employees were let go within his first week as the self-titled “chief twit,” or CEO, sought to take the company in a new direction.

Was this a necessary step to take? Or can long-term goals and significant change be achieved by making use of institutional knowledge and experience?

Twitter backtracks after P&O style redundancies

HR lessons from Twitter and Meta layoffs

Achieving the sweet spot – the balance between people needs and business needs


Idris Arshad, people and inclusion partner, St Christopher’s

Nobody can determine the future 100%, so we anticipate where we want to be and how we are going to get there. 

Change is not one plus one equals two. We can look out for people if we want to, maximise their skills, give them new ones and develop them to fit the change we need instead of jumping to redundancies.

I have been involved in restructures and seen examples whereby you are thanked for helping them find a new career or just for the way you communicated with them. 

So, the answer is yes. If the strategy is changing, change to staff needs to happen to align them to this otherwise in theory they are won’t be meeting the new strategy. But we don’t need to be like Zuckerberg [who also made redundancies at Meta] and Musk, we just need to love for others what we would love for ourselves.  


Sally Austin, chief people officer, Wincanton

When a change of business strategy comes into play it prompts many questions from the workforce. There are those employees who relish the change as they hope it will bring opportunity not just for business investment, but also career development and new opportunities. 

It can however also create uncertainty, especially for employees who may see vulnerability in their skill set. 

With the current economic backdrop and record low levels of unemployment, companies are keen to retain their talent, especially those with high demand skill sets. I don’t think businesses necessarily need to change staff in the first instance, but they should assess the skill sets of those in the business to understand where skills acquisition and re-training is needed. 

The choice around employees then becomes: do they want to rise to the challenge and the opportunity of skills growth? Or would they rather move to other organisations more suited to their current role?


Ciprian Arhire, group head of people experience and HR transformation, Entain

Companies don’t need to change staff but in certain circumstances it might be useful as part of your talent and change strategy. 

First and foremost, it depends on the type of refresh we’re talking about. If it’s a strategy update where we’re looking at enablers and accelerators to support our current direction of travel, then there might be some small adjustments looking at the new capabilities and what is no longer supporting the organisation. 

In other situations that require a new strategy, for example changing organisational operating model or even service delivery models, organisations may need to reorganise multiple aspects of their company to remain competitive, which will directly affect your required capabilities and talent. 

However, in the past few years alone, we have seen new business leaders taking over organisations and trying to change the strategic direction of travel and the organisational culture by exiting waves of people.

Sometimes referred to as strategy reboots, they have significant implications for the stability of the organisation and its culture.


Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder, 10Eighty 

No, this doesn’t make any sense. It’s hard to source, recruit and retain talent at the moment, and HR strategy has to be an integral part of strategic long-term planning for any enterprise. Quite apart from anything else, it would simply take too long to replace a significant number of employees while rebooting strategy.

Your brand as an employer will, inevitably, be damaged when you make mass redundancies and treat workers as an easily replaceable and unimportant element in the grand design of your enterprise. 

Firing people by email, firing executives who refuse to fire staff, firing workers who you then have to ask to come back, firing workers who criticise the redundancies – none of this will win you friends. 

Word of poor employment practices gets out, making it harder to attract and recruit talent. If your employment brand is damaged, it could have serious repercussions - candidates care about your reputation in the employment marketplace, they will do their research and discount an organisation if they don’t like what they find. 


The full article of the above first appeared in the November/December 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.