Former UK HR Director
Engaging the workforcein the shadow of redundancies
Alliance Medical is the leading independent supplier of medical imaging services in Europe, with 2,000 staff across the continent – 600 of whom are here in the UK.
Founded in 1989, the company grew rapidly for 20 years until changes in the market forced management to take drastic action and implement a round of clinical redundancies – the first in its history.
Alliance Medical brought People Insight onboard to assess the mood and help drive change. While the first survey’s results were, as management will admit, pretty disappointing, since then business is booming and staff are more engaged than ever.
Pete Winchester, from Alliance Medical, explains. “There have always been two sides to our business – mobile sites, where we drive our scanners to a hospital for a few days a month, and static sites which are in situ full time.
“It became clear 18 months ago that the mobile model we operated wasn’t working because of fundamental changes in the market and also that we needed to put more drive and energy into the static model. Unfortunately, that resulted in a cutback of around 25 per cent of our mobile workforce – a workforce which had enjoyed 20 years of success and high achievement. Along with the redundancies our teams also had to improve productivity in our static sites; changing working hours, extending the working week and providing a more flexible service so this side of the business could thrive: so you can imagine the impact this had on the staff.
“Alliance Medical has always been committed to the people who work for it but naturally these moves led to a lot of anger and upset. We were entering uncharted waters but were determined this was not the time for the management team to hide ourselves away.
“A lot of businesses face tough decisions and a lot implement them with little team engagement. We wanted to be different. Even though we had to make some challenging decisions we knew the right thing was to talk with our teams every step of the way.”
Engaging a demoralised workforce is never easy, especially in the shadow of a redundancy exercise.
Pete continued: “To say the staff were initially sceptical about the survey is something of an understatement but we knew the only way we could deliver change – and a more positive future – was if the people were engaged in what we were trying to do.
“It is often difficult for management to hear what their teams think and it’s even more difficult to act on those suggestions, but we have tried to be true to our word and put the staff at the centre of everything we do – no matter how difficult the decisions are to make.
“We knew instantly from the feedback that however right our strategy had been it was affecting engagement and morale across the board. Yet, vitally, it also enabled us to identify areas of improvement and what the staff wanted from us.
“Over the last twelve months we have implemented a whole series of initiatives including action planning, executive updates, monthly team briefings and a comprehensive development program for frontline managers – the first ever in the history of our business. We have just done our second survey and every single measure has improved dramatically. That’s not to say there aren’t still difficult areas to tackle but it shows that communication is vital in everything we do.”
The statistics speak for themselves. Out of the 80 redundancies made, all but one was voluntary. And with new changes also being made to employees’ terms and conditions, 98 per cent of the workforce has so far voluntarily accepted the proposals.
“We are trying to instil a culture in our managers that it is okay to pause, listen and respond. We don’t know everything and it’s important to take notice of the experience on the ‘shop floor’.”
Although the company was able to make a pay award to staff in April 2012, Peter believes money is not the most important factor when it comes to motivation.