Rio Tinto, an international London based mining and mineral company was severely impacted by the global recession in 2008. Such an impact forced unprecedented workforce reductions worldwide and decentralized HR management had to be brought in under a single umbrella to insure an orderly and efficient system that would support the organization’s future productivity. This new proactive approach to management, utilization of technology, and preparation of the employees proved to help save the company and set the stage for continued future operations.
The entirety of management to engage in strategic human resource planning is what had been revamped in the Rio Tinto organization. Engaging in centralized global planning, maintaining effectiveness, awareness in serving the best interests of the entire organization, and not carrying out decentralized single focused HR at all sixty individual business sites was a positive, yet necessary culture shift leading to increased efficiency.
The intention to control issues and serve the best company interests were to maintain integrity, hold down costs (which could have been in legal fights and time), sensitivity to those affected persons and business units, and establish a data management system that handles international staffing and succession planning.
The role of Human Resource Information System(s) in any organization is to give employee asset visibility to enable management decisions and planning easier.
In a perfect world, all employee records from hire to decision time would give a more complete picture on all employees past, present, and future value to the organization. The comprehensiveness of a database with all the intricacies loaded in to handle future plans, regional requirements, training and education, critical skills, performance data, and succession planning allows managers the ability to see exactly where to eliminate positions and personnel that do not add to organizational productivity.
The first collective employee reaction management will see, whether the entire reduction in force plan is revealed, would be that of the union(s) being up in arms that there will be any employees getting the pink slip. The on the job efficiencies and reduction in productiveness could occur if employees become disenfranchised and are left wondering on whether they have a job tomorrow. Managers and employees who generally have a minor trust issue normally will withdraw from each other, which will result in work team dysfunctional behaviors and creativity will stalemate. If left to its own devices, strikes, walkouts, or employee sabotage could become the extreme results of poorly constructed philosophy, policies, and management approaches.
During the mid-to-end of the 1990s, during my career in the US Army, we had a reduction in force (RIF) that was conducted very poorly. The perceived best interests (Washington politics) for the organization and centralized decisions were implemented without regard for the work units spread across the globe. There was no real use of a common sense approach to succession planning and ultimately we lost an unacceptable amount of mid-level managers that caused a knowledge gap that took nearly ten years to correct. At the time, the HRIS was not fully in place with management understanding the capability of the tools possible in making decisions. Changes since that time have improved in teaching management to leaders and in the near future, a RIF is on the way with the drawdown after we get our forces back here from the Middle East. We should watch and evaluate the historical lessons of the past.