My company has grown and developed, and taken on a new business stream. I need to restructure the team and change the job descriptions of my staff. Can I just do this?

It depends how significant the changes are. Job descriptions should always contain a degree of flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you can expect staff to take on completely different work. Changing the nature of an employee’s work may require them to utilise different skills, take on additional responsibility and may affect the reasonableness of their pay rates.

The easiest way to bring about this type of change is through mutual agreement. Talk to your staff, enthuse them about the changes within the business and seek their agreement to change their work. Think about who is best suited to the types of work available, and refer to your appraisal scheme if you have one.

If promotion opportunities are part of the changes, you may need to consider how you fairly select who takes on the extra responsibility. Consider whether any of the changes require new skills for your staff, and if so how you plan to equip them with these.

If the changes are minor, and it’s the same type of work but with different customers, this is likely to be within the realms of what’s reasonable under your employees’ contracts. If the changes are fairly significant, this is likely to require a formal variation to staff contracts and job descriptions. If there is mutual agreement, this is fairly easy to achieve. If you face some resistance, listen to what your employees’ concerns are.

Ultimately, you will need to consider whether your contracts and job descriptions contain sufficient flexibility to enable you to impose the changes. If you don’t have written contracts or job descriptions, this doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, as all of these terms will still be implied within the employment relationship, and you’ll be less able to rely on flexibility clauses if they’re not written down. You may need to consider whether significant changes actually render existing jobs potentially redundant.

Significant job changes can effectively lead to dismissals, and even if re-engagement on different terms is then offered, the process needs to be undertaken fairly and legally. Totallyaboutpeople can assist with this type of scenario if you feel you need additional support.

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Some of my staff have told me that morale is low on the shopfloor. I can appreciate that times are hard at the moment, but we need to pull together more now than ever before. How can I raise their morale, when I can’t afford to offer them anything extra? If we can just get through the next six months, I think that business may start to pick up.

Probably the most effective tool you can use to raise morale within your team at the moment is communication. Arrange to spend time with them, listen to their concerns and genuinely try to address them. If you can provide them with reassurances about the future then do, but be careful not to mislead them if your hopes are unfounded. This will only further affect morale and will undermine your credibility with them. How much more you need to do with them will depend on what they tell you.

Often the solutions will not require additional expenditure. There may be some ideas for ‘quick wins’ amongst their ideas, or you may need to consider some ongoing alternatives for how to reward and motivate your employees through difficult times.

Possibly the worse scenario to your current predicament is if your employees are not forthcoming about their issues. Low morale without open and honest dialogue can be damaging to productivity and reputation, and can lead to health, absence and performance issues. Consider other ways of giving them a voice – either through a suggestion box, an intranet portal, employee survey or focus groups.

All of these may depend upon the size of your workforce and the nature of your organisation. As far as possible, design these so as to extract constructive responses and suggestions, rather than just the gripes and moans. Totallyaboutpeople can help to design these ways of re-opening the lines of communication, and can add an objective element to it. An impartial listening ear is sometimes what’s needed to persuade people to open up.

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