It seems that employer insensitivity knows no international boundaries. In August of 2015, employees of the Australian company Hutchison Ports, received notices that they were losing their jobs first by SMS text, followed by an e-mail confirming their job loss. To make matters worse, the messages were sent at 11:30pm directly to affected employees.
Not surprisingly, reaction to this approach by the employer was swift and viral.
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Clearly, the human element was not evident in the implementation of this downsizing plan. No matter what difficult decisions are made by senior executives we, as HR Professionals, must ensure that these decisions include consideration for the dignity and respect of all employees.
The approach by Hutchison Ports created a huge backlash that continues to impact the organization’s international reputation and their profitability. Rather than having to clear up the reputational mess that they find themselves in after the fact, it might have been better for Hutchison Ports to allocate a more time towards their communication strategy up front.
And, it might have been helpful to spend a few minutes reflecting upon the humans involved before someone hit ‘send’ in the middle of the night.
- What advice would you, as the HR practitioner, have given to the CEO of Hutchison Ports?
- What would you do if you received a notice, via text, that your employment was terminated?
- Identify two or three practical HR initiatives that employees should have had access to in this case.
- Identify three alternative approaches the employer could have used to communicate with employees about downsizing.