How TelstraClear is gently wielding the axe

Imagine having a say in how your employer is restructuring the business. Imagine having this opportunity even while your organisation is being taken over by another.

Imagine having a say in how your employer is restructuring the business. Imagine having this opportunity even while your organisation is being taken over by another.

This is the unusual situation at TelstraClear, where the newly-united telco is working out how to edge out staff surplus to requirements within the next few weeks.

TelstraClear’s management believes that by giving staff from the merging companies, TelstraSaturn and Clear Communications, input into the takeover, a more effective organisation will result. It also believes that offering range of support services and other benefits will leave departing staff feeling goodwill towards TelstraClear, which will pay dividends in future.

TelstraSaturn has 850 employees and Clear 750. Media “speculation” predicts about 600 redundancies, says TelstraClear spokesman Ralph Little, but no final figure has been announced as the company is still working with staff to develop an “optimum size”.

Just before Christmas, Clear made about 160 people redundant. Thomas says the majority have since found work, helped in part by outplacement consultants the company employs. At the start of March 68 people “left” the company, says Little, with 129 confirmed in new roles, though some of the 68 are also applying for new roles at TelstraClear.

HR manager Duncan Thomas confirms there will be redundancies through duplications, process changes and strategy shifts. Some jobs will stay, some will be merged, others will go altogether, he says. New jobs will also be created.

Before the company set about on its four-stage process for the staff restructuring — which it hopes to complete by early April — new chief executive Rosemary Howard appointed her senior leadership team.

Stage one of the process, which involved deciding on the smaller business units employing up to 20 people, such as public affairs, marketing and legal affairs, and those staff whose jobs are largely unaffected by the takeover, has just been completed.

Stage two, which involves moving people into new jobs, and stage three, dealing with people in “disestablished” jobs, are under way. Earlier this month, meetings were held with business sales, networking, customer service and, last week, information services.

Stage four involves confirmation of the final structure and positions, and helping those made redundant get work outside the company.

A centrepiece of this communication has been Project “Tuitui”, a company intranet, whose name in Maori equates to “coming together”. In the past six to eight weeks, the website has received 65,000 hits, he says, with each visit lasting an average eight minutes. The intranet, which was developed by five HR department staff and three from communications, including a graphic designer, took three days to create. Content on the intranet includes “Rosemary’s Round-Up”, an update on the merger process and the rational for change; a forum for questions, which can be anonymous; and areas for personal issues and news of the affected or unaffected departments. Some 350 job descriptions are also posted on the intranet, and other structure details, inviting feedback.

“A whole bunch of people are running around with the feedback,” says Thomas, holding a file of over 500 responses. He says Howard read every line and senior management read through departmental feedback. As a result, 25% to 30% of the proposed structure changed, he says.

In addition, says Little, proposals to move the Paradise ISP helpdesk to Auckland was dropped and Paradise will remain in Wellington “for the foreseeable future”.

Little says the company is working through the restructuring as quickly as possible to give staff certainty. TelstraSaturn has lacked certainty since its former chief Jack Matthews left in October, he says.

The selection procedure, says Thomas, is based on “structured behavioural interviews” — half based on professional and technical knowledge, the other half on TelstraClear values of “empowerment, leadership and teamwork.”

These include outplacement consultants to help the redundant find other jobs, free counselling for staff and their families for six weeks after they have left the company, and naturally the HR department ensures staff receive their entitlements in terms of holiday pay and the like. Redundancy pay is also awarded, with amounts varying on whether the departed worked at Telstra or Clear.

TelstraClear has also changed its policy so the redundant receive their expected annual bonuses, whereas previously if they were made redundant before it was awarded, they did not get it. “We see this [package] as the least we can do,” Thomas says.

Little says TelstraClear believes it is important departing staff are treated with respect, even in these “tough” times. “These individuals will definitely become our customers and partners,” he says.

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