As I promised in my previous blog post, this piece should give you some inside knowledge into situations where true Business Partnering by HR can save money for the company. In the following example of a publishing firm, HR took the traditional role of ‘supporting’ and executing a management decision, without challenging either the manager or the company. The consequences of this action that the company was forced to pay a large severance payment and they also lost a valuable employee.
This publisher is a true believer in management training programmes. In order to find new managers for the future they hired ten new management trainees, all with different backgrounds, directly from university. In the three years that followed, one of those 10, let’s call her Kate, was eager and enthusiastic to accept any challenging projects that were offered. Kate was a true example how successful management training can be.
After the programme Kate was offered a management position in which she would be building a new business unit in a niche market for the publisher. Kate was known for her enthusiasm getting people on board and excellent project and time management skills. By using these skills the new business unit was established and operational in the new market before the deadline. Kate worked really hard with her team and they made this project a success. Unfortunately, due to economic fluctuations and an organisational change, the company wanted to sell this business unit to a partner. Although she had to let go of her ‘business baby’ she just found out that she was pregnant and so it was agreed with her manager that Kate would work with the partner until her leave and he would find her another project when she returned from maternity leave.
When Kate returned she heard about the challenge the publisher had finding somebody to lead their online business. Fortunately for Kate, the Executive Manager employed her in this position and she was working four days a week in the most challenging job at the company.. Although it was difficult, Kate and her team found a way to attract the target groups and increase the number of online sales.
The announcement of a new reorganisation and change of management changed everything and within a few months Kate was unemployed! What happened?
A new manager took over the business division and became responsible for Kate’s unit. Within days he had acquaintance meetings with all the managers(including Kate) and his first question was whether or not she was suitable for this role with her other responsibilities as a young mom. Kate was completely surprised about this as she had her annual performance review three months previously in which her former manager wrote down that she is an example for the whole organisation to follow.
In the weeks following, it was perfectly clear that this new manager had his mind set on the fact that Kate was not the person for the job. After a few other incidents - such as him scheduling meetings on her part-time day, Kate requested a meeting with the new manager and HR but in her case it was the worst thing she could do.
Although she had been a valued employee for years, which was known by HR, they just agreed with the manager and didn’t act as a mediator during this meeting. This resulted in the manager coming out and saying that he could not work with Kate and sent her home with the remark that HR will contact her to let her know what’s going to happen. The next day she found out that he had already hired someone from another division, with no background in this position.
You would think this could not happen and that they would need grounds for such an action. I can see you thinking, Kate must have done something wrong or that there was something else going on, like headcount reduction, I can tell you, it was not. Kate reached out to her former manager and even he was disappointed to learn the news, he also gave her some insight into the workings of some managers and that sometimes you can come across a manager who doesn’t use the capabilities of an excellent employee for his own benefits, but instead feels threatened and makes sure that this employee is removed from the company – which was Kate’s situation.
I think that the worst thing is, that HR could not act as a mediator and ensure the manager that employees like Kate are key to the progression of the company.
Naturally, this ended up in a legal situation which cost the company a large sum of money and a valued employee. Kate now has her own successful company which aids in advising and establishing strategies surrounding online marketing for companies.