An effective Tupe transfer can make a significant bearing on the success of an outsourcing initiative and that means taking into consideration the emotional response
by Beverley Thompson
20 October 2006
The transfer of staff is a common occurrence within the FM industry; whether employees accept or resist change, all have a similar emotional response. To ensure that transfers are as quick and successful as possible, companies could consider using or placing greater emphasis on a number of enablers of change.
Lack of effective leadership inhibits change. Inspiration and vision help employees start to engage with a new company - but one great introductory speech is never enough. Leadership messages need to be reinforced over a period of time to be effective.
Great care needs to be taken that operational managers are on board with the transfer as often they are being transferred themselves. They are vital for reinforcement of leadership messages and the managing staff through the transfer process.
Whichever change management guru or text book you go to, communication will be cited somewhere as a key to realising effective change. John P Kotter, in his noted article for the Harvard Business Review and subsequent book Leading Change commented that, "without credible communication and a lot of it, employees' hearts and minds are never captured."
Communication with employees is technically not difficult these days. Yet despite this, many organisations still rely on selling the transfer by holding introductory meetings and sending out a couple of follow-up memos - only to be astonished when people don't seem to understand.
Frequent two-way dialogue with transferred staff, specifically about their feelings and concerns, assists the transfer process enormously. Managers often leave this 'soft stuff' to HR, but managers need to initiate discussion and not just rely on the 'you know where to find me' approach.
Transferred staff are, in essence, new starters (with the twist that they never really wanted to join). They need to learn and understand company practices, values and processes. Time and resources need to be made available for high-quality induction.
No matter what is said in however many meetings, memos and emails, if words are not followed by congruent actions and behaviours the messages will be valueless and will contribute to greater distrust and disengagement. It is the psychological contract that develops between employer and employee, not the paperwork, that drives loyalty and commitment and the willingness to perform. A new employer needs to set out its values and what it delivers/offers to employees as well as what it expects from them and follow such words and promises with actions and appropriate behaviour. There are often noticeable shortfalls between words and reality.
Nothing costs nothing and investing nothing results in very little. Organisations continue to underestimate the cost of business change. In a recent study from employment intelligence firm IRS, three in 10 organisations said that there had been no budget for their change/restructuring project and a quarter didn't know if there was a budget - suggesting that there was no budget or, if there was, it wasn't taken very seriously. Of those that did have a budget three in ten said that the project had gone over budget. Managing contract cost is obviously important. However, short-term cost needs to be evaluated and offset by longer-term business gain.
Plan for longer
Taking more time to plan is a good tip to heed for most projects of this nature. However, this advice refers to planning actions and activities for a longer period post transfer date. Employees won't even start to change mindset until they are contractually transferred, but this is the very point where many Tupe project plans stop. Planned engagement activity needs to continue beyond that and be continually monitored to ensure it is having an effect.
The facilities management companies that appreciate that engaging employees is a priority and an essential precursor to delivering high-level service and are prepared spend time and effort during and after the transfer date are likely to achieve better contract performance and build greater business success as a result.
Beverley Thompson is a director of Humanics Limited
Research indicates that part of the communication issue may arise from a mismatch in perceptions. In a recent study of employers and employees, employers believed they were involving and communicating with employees at a considerably higher level than was reported by employees. Employers who go the extra mile to communicate will encounter greater success.
FM QUICK FACTS
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Tupe) Regulations 2006 came into force on 6 April and replaced the Tupe Regulations 1981. Visit www.opsi.gov.uk for more details
While the failure to consult in redundancy cases appears more serious (no job) than in a Tupe transfer (job secure), the legislation treats both equally seriously
Tupe transfers affect thousands of facilities management and facilities services contracts such as cleaning every year