A skills-based approach to workforce redeployment

A skills-based approach to workforce redeployment
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It’s a challenging time for businesses. More than 88,000 workers in the US tech sector alone have suffered job losses so far in 2022.[1]

Nobody likes layoffs. If your organization is in a tough spot, you’re probably trying everything you can to avoid them, including upskilling your employees.

But even if you successfully avoid some layoffs with upskilling, you may still have to eliminate some roles, even while there are open roles elsewhere in the business. 

The good news is that you don’t have to start the search for motivated candidates from scratch. Workforce redeployment can help you.

But what does redeployment mean – not just for individual employees but also for your business and company culture? 

In this post, we’ll answer these questions and show you the steps for implementing a redeployment policy in your organization.

What is workforce redeployment?

Simply put, workforce redeployment is moving an employee from one role to another. The new role doesn’t have to be similar to the previous one – it can pay differently, have different responsibilities, and even be in a different location. Redeployment can refer to either:

  1. Large-scale redeployment, for example, when a project ends and you need to assign the staff to a new project. This is often an alternative to layoffs and redundancies.

  2. Individual redeployment, which involves re-assigning an employee based on business needs and career aspirations.

Here are some examples of redeployment in action. 

Type of workforce redeployment

Example

Large-scale

Your commercial data team is overstaffed, so you decide to redeploy some of your commercial data analysts to similar roles in your product data team.

Individual

You notice that one of the junior employees in your

customer service

team is particularly good at writing responses to customers, so you redeploy them as a copywriter, a role with a clearer path of progression.

What is skills-based workforce redeployment?

We talk about skills-based hiring a lot at TestGorilla because we believe it’s the future of recruiting, but it works for internal hires just as much as external ones.

Taking a skills-based approach to redeployment means you start by looking at the skills overlap between two roles rather than the experience overlap between the candidates involved.

We’ll go into more detail on skills-based redeployment below, but our very own Maria Villegas is a great example of the skills-based approach.

Before working at TestGorilla as an SEO specialist, Maria had studied medicine for six years. We might have missed out on Maria’s skills if we’d taken a traditional approach that focused on CVs. But using a skills-based approach revealed she had everything she needed to thrive in the role – and she has!

What are the rules on redeployment?

You might be wondering whether employees have protected redeployment rights, and the answer depends on where you are in the world.

For example, in the UK, companies must offer “suitable alternative employment” to employees at risk of redundancy if it is available.

What constitutes “suitable alternative employment” is usually assessed on a case-by-case basis should unfair dismissal cases go to court. Rejecting this offer might disqualify employees from receiving a severance package.

In the US, it’s harder to find cut-and-dried legal guidance around workplace redeployment. Still, if this decision is motivated by layoffs, you should be covered as long as you abide by relevant federal and state regulations such as WARN.

What are the benefits of workforce redeployment?

Graphic showing the key benefits of workforce redeployment

The benefits of workforce redeployment are obvious: You fill a role while avoiding the cost and hassle of external recruiting. But let’s dive a little deeper.

Firstly, you can retain internal talent in a tough moment for your business. You get to keep your employees’ skills and institutional knowledge, which is essential for team cohesion and your competitive advantage.

This doesn’t just mean stuff like how to use the filing system on the office server but also things like:

  • Your client base

  • How best to collaborate with senior stakeholders

  • Relationships with existing employees and contribution to the company culture 

  • Which suppliers are the most reliable

This helps you minimize costs while hiring and training new people and mitigate the need to fork out for severance packages by avoiding redundancies where possible.

All of this contributes to one of the most important benefits of redeployment: It preserves your company culture.

It’s hard to lay off employees and remain an attractive workplace, especially since studies show that layoffs have a significant negative fallout for remaining workers. This includes increased supervisor aggression, reduced friendship formation, and fewer advancement opportunities. Redeployment reduces these risks.

Is redeployment a good thing for employees?

We’ve covered the advantages for you as an employer, but what about your employees? 

Do your people feel the benefits of redeployment, or is it just delaying the inevitable?

As it happens, we have direct experience with this scenario. Our product marketer, Nikky, first joined us as an SEO content writer, but her manager looked at her diverse skills and overall career goals and suggested redeployment into product marketing. Nikky hasn’t looked back:

“Having never heard of product marketing before, I researched the role and realized there were more people in the world with similarly broad but odd skill sets to my own. It became an obvious and easy choice to move into the product marketing role.

“Through expertly planned career ladders, solid guidance, and the ability to use my learning and development budget to grow my skills and understanding of product marketing, I can say with confidence that we’ve found the perfect career path for me.”

8 steps for implementing a skills-based workforce redeployment strategy

Graphic image listing the 8 steps for implementing a skills-based workforce redeployment strategy

At this point, you have a pretty good idea of what you need to do to manage the employee redeployment process successfully. But taking a skills-based approach to redeployment is a multi-step process, and you need to be thorough. 

Here are our eight tips for implementing a skills-based workforce redeployment strategy.

8 steps for implementing a skills-based workforce redeployment strategy: summary table

Are you busy right now and need the short version? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. 

Redeployment strategy

Example actions

Create an official redeployment policy

Create a document outlining FAQs, such as which roles are eligible for redeployment; Make this accessible to your managers

Build strong internal networks

Create a culture committee with representatives from each team; Implement mentoring and reverse-mentoring initiatives

Invest time in employees’ career planning and progression

Make career planning a key part of quarterly or annual check-ins between employees and managers

Identify the roles that need to be redeployed

Conduct a skills-gap analysis using skills testing

Match your people to open opportunities based on their skills and aspirations

Use skills testing to notice the skills overlap between open roles and teams that need to be downsized; Use interpersonal knowledge of your workforce to identify which employees’ career plans redeployment could fit into

Manage your communications carefully

Share your redeployment policy widely with your workforce; Give employees who are offered redeployment a clear timeline for decision-making and transitioning to the new role

Give redeployed employees clear performance expectations

Give redeployees a list of responsibilities, including any management responsibilities; Give them a timeline for retraining and assessment

Provide training, support, and coaching during the transition and onboarding period

Assign employees learning and development budgets; Plan training days on which knowledgeable team members can train new employees

1. Create an official redeployment policy

Making a redeployment policy isn’t just about having ideas about how you want to manage the redeployment process in a specific instance. It’s about documenting an overall approach to redeployment that you set out thoroughly, even before redeployment becomes necessary.

We’re mentioning this now before we give you the rest of the tips so that you can keep in mind how each of your decisions about your redeployment strategy relates to:

  • The situation at hand, such as impending job losses

  • Potential situations you might encounter in the future, such as individual redeployment opportunities

  • Your overall company culture

So what does an official redeployment policy look like?

It’s a document that’s accessible by all employees and – depending on how transparent you want to be – maybe even all potential candidates, too. It should cover all possible aspects of redeployment, including:

  • Which employees are eligible for redeployment opportunities – for example, employees who have worked for your organization for at least six months and whose jobs are at risk of elimination

  • What providing “suitable alternative employment” means if you or your employee is in a country that requires you to offer it

  • How the application and shortlisting process works for redeployees

  • What trial period you will offer and when this will be up for review

This lets redeployees know what to expect and gives managers and HR staff a framework for managing the process. For a strong example of a redeployment policy, see this document from University College London.

2. Build strong internal networks

Another key aspect of a strong workplace redeployment strategy is internal networking.

This creates a cohesive culture in your organization so that a redeployee won’t feel like an unwelcome transplant if they’re moved to another team. They’ll be working with people they already know on projects they understand or have even helped with in the past.

There are many ways you might do this, for example:

  • Conducting remote team-building activities like virtual scavenger hunts

  • Implementing mentoring and reverse-mentoring initiatives

  • Publishing an internal blog that puts the spotlight on individual employees’ achievements

  • Creating a culture committee with representatives from every team working together to improve the company culture

  • Implementing regular training or “away days” during which teams are mixed up to receive key training 

  • Promoting company clubs or discussion opportunities for shared interests – for instance, having a Slack channel dedicated to posting memes

  • Creating cross-functional teams for key projects

That last point is a big one because cross-functional teams also drive innovation. According to research by Deloitte, 83% of digitally maturing companies use cross-functional teams compared with just 55% of early-stage organizations.

3. Invest time in employees’ career planning and progression

The need for growth is the top level of what Gallup calls employees’ “engagement needs.” It is above basic needs like compensation, individual needs like tasks and motivation, and even social needs like a strong team. Providing growth opportunities is key to making your redeployment strategy successful.

Pyramid graphic of the employee engagement model. Source Gallup

When combined with a strong internal network, investment from management in employees’ career growth increases the visibility of the talent in your existing network, making redeployment opportunities easier to spot. It also enables employees to envision longer-term futures with your organization.

You can promote awareness of growth opportunities by:

  • Incorporating career planning workshops into your learning and development plans

  • Making career planning a key part of quarterly and annual feedback sessions between employees and managers

  • Connecting new recruits with mentors who hold senior positions in the business to help them with career planning

4. Identify the roles that need to be redeployed

Creating internal networks and promoting individual growth are most important when redeploying an employee who is outgrowing their role. However, they can also help during department- or company-wide redeployment. 

Let’s say you’ve put all the necessary preliminary measures in place, and now it’s time to start redeploying employees. The first thing you need to do is to identify the roles that need to be redeployed, and one of the best ways to do this is with a skills-gap analysis.

A skills gap is any situation in which you don’t have a skill that you need, whether it’s in an individual role, a team, or a department. 

Skills gaps can be minor issues that can be resolved through upskilling, like if a programmer doesn’t know a specific language. However, they can also be critical problems that greatly impact your projects, such as if a lack of project management skills is stalling digital development.

Nearly 90% of organizations say they are either facing a skills gap or expect to in the next few years. 

You can perform a skills-gap analysis by assessing the skills of your existing employees to create a comprehensive skills map of your business. You then use this skills map to determine which low-priority business areas have employees with skills that would be useful in higher-priority ones.

5. Match your people to open opportunities based on their skills and aspirations

This is where a skills-based approach comes into play. 

Imagine you’re trying to redeploy employees from your sales team into your marketing team. If you were taking a traditional approach – that is, trying to find a close resume match to what you’d be looking for in an outside hire – you’d probably come up short.

However, if you instead take a skills-based approach, you might be pleasantly surprised at how many multipotentialites you have. For example, marketing and sales both require good communication skills, but marketing requires a more specific analytical mindset. 

By looking for analytical or critical-thinking skills in your sales team, you can identify strong candidates for redeployment who can then bring their understanding of lead conversion into higher-in-the-funnel marketing activities. You can also use your interpersonal knowledge to consider whose career plan this role could fit into.

6. Manage your communication carefully

To successfully redeploy employees into new roles within your company, you need to carefully manage communication to ensure you never leave them in the dark about the security of their role, particularly when redeployment occurs in the context of layoffs.

One Harvard researcher interviewed dozens of workers about their experiences of downsizing at their workplaces. They reported stress and anxiety due to communication issues, such as when managers:

  • Announced that layoffs were coming but not who was at most risk

  • Laid people off one at a time over long periods

  • Let rumors run amok without confirming or denying anything

If you have a redeployment policy in place, this will do some of the communication for you. When you first mention downsizing, share the redeployment policy with employees so that they know what to expect when you approach them for redeployment.

You should also be clear about the timeline for decision-making. When do the employees need to make a decision? How long will the onboarding process take? What are their options for declining the opportunity?

Clear communication about what to expect is also key for our next step.

7. Give redeployed employees clear performance expectations

You show your workers respect by being clear about what you expect from them when they transition to a new role.

Your redeployment policy should clearly set out the transition process. For instance, stipulate that when being offered a redeployment position, an employee must first be given a job description, complete with:

  1. A list of responsibilities, including any management responsibilities 

  2. The key performance indicators for the role 

  3. How these benchmarks are decided and by who

  4. When these benchmarks will be up for review

Although these elements might seem obvious to someone who is already familiar with the team, a redeployee might not be able to intuit these details. 

The information in a job description could also help the employee decide whether or not they want the role. 

For example, suppose someone is moving from a role in which success is tangible and frequently takes place face to face, like direct sales, to one that has more to do with hitting engagement targets, like social media management. They might realize they wouldn’t find this role fulfilling after learning more about it.

You can’t neglect this part: New hires are twice as likely to plan to leave in the near future if their onboarding experience is bad. Redeployees are unlikely to deviate from this trend, especially if their redeployment occurs in the context of layoffs and general uncertainty.

Crucially, don’t just set up performance check-ins – follow through with them. Organizations with continuous performance processes are 39% better at attracting top talent and 44% better at retaining talent.

8. Provide training, support, and coaching during the transition and onboarding period

Finally, if you’re triaging during a moment of crisis in your business, you might be tempted to skip what you see as hand-holding and rush employees through the process so that they can be productive as soon as possible.

However, to get high-quality work and see the fruits of all the efforts you’ve put in by following the tips above, you need to make time for learning and development, perhaps even more so than you usually would.

This might mean investing in employees by giving them each a learning and development budget on top of their onboarding training. You could also plan training days for redeployed teams in which experienced employees can pass on their knowledge to new team members.

Actions like this signal to redeployees that you actually care about their development and to the company at large that you haven’t abandoned your principles at the first sign of struggle.

In fact, one McKinsey study found that organizations that realign their HR processes to match their employees’ skill needs boost engagement by half, reduce training and development program costs by half, and raise productivity by 40%.

Graphic image showing the impact for organizations that re-align their HR processes to match employee skills. Source McKinsey

Use skills assessments to strengthen your workforce redeployment plans

Times are tough, and you may not always have the financial means to preserve the skills within your workforce. However, taking a skills-based approach to redeployment can help you maximize the value you get from your existing talent.

We’ve shown you:

  • What a good redeployment policy looks like

  • How to prepare for redeployment before it happens

  • How to identify the skills overlap between two roles

  • How to manage the transition period

Now it’s over to you. Get started by mapping the talent in your workforce with skills testing.

Whether or not you’re redeploying your workers, we also suggest checking out our article on how to improve employee well-being.

Sources

  1. Vedantam, Keerthi. (December 2, 2022). “Tech Layoffs In 2022: The U.S. Companies That Have Cut Jobs”. Retrieved December 7, 2022. https://news.crunchbase.com/startups/tech-layoffs-2022/

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