Thursday, 1 March 2012

Turning it around

India’s economy is looking decidedly less flashy, and the over-hyped middle class is turning conservative in its spending patterns to cope with the high inflation and slow economic growth. The hard fact is that we are going to be looking at a period that is going to be full of uncertainty and an economic growth in the range of six per cent. This in turn would mean many organisations would put aggressive growth programmes on hold and prepare for turnarounds once demand picks up and the economy in on the upswing again.

Interestingly, when we talk about a successful turnaround we would either talk of charismatic leaders, or easing out of dead products or straightening out cash-flow issues, almost never about Human Resources. But, if we do look deep at the history of turnarounds, we will see at the centre of most turnarounds there has been a people strategy that has played a key role in delivering the results. Yet, if we look around we will see turnaround experts of every hue, finance, marketing, product management, operations, but very few in Human Resources.

From an HR standpoint, an economic as well as organisational turnaround causes many challenges. In the case of an organisation that is attempting a turnaround from the verge of failure, HR has to work on multiple fronts to help the turnaround team. In the case of a typical failing organisation, turnover of high-performing talent is high, communication channels are broken, and key executives are not connected to operations and business needs. It is the HR’s responsibility at this stage to design a workforce requirement plan for all the turnaround stages and implement the same with the leadership team at the helm of the turnaround. There is a tendency amongst organisations to attempt across the board lay-offs at such a juncture, which has more often than not proven to be counter-productive. HR also has the difficult task of managing to retain high-performing talent and ease out below-par performers. As the turnaround starts taking effect, the requirements of management keep changing in terms of talent and training, and the human resources team needs to be prepared to provide the right support at the right time. The rejuvenation of an organisation is also not complete till such time that the members of the turnaround team is reassigned to growth-oriented roles, our community is best placed to help in this transition.

In this edition, we have brought forth the turnaround experiences of a wide gamut of people from the industry, across both public and private sector. The academia has also chipped in with their analysis of successful and unsuccessful turnarounds. We believe you will find this issue impactful and of use.

Every failing company attempts a turnaround, but the success rate remains in the range of 25 to 45 per cent. Knowledge of the turnaround process can only help in turning the ratio to the successful side. It is our hope that when the time comes our HR community will be ready with the skills and knowledge required to help make an organisation turn around. Happy Reading!

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