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Workforce Consolidation – Oil in Water?

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

When a large oil producer announced in 2012 that they were relocating and consolidating all their employees to their headquarters in Houston, TX, it was met with great resistance and frustration. Nearly 2,100 employees, their spouses and families were faced with the reality of a new life in Texas. Over the past year here in the Washington, DC region, I have had several friends and colleagues who have been affected by this move and have been leaving the area.

I’ve worked with many companies that have gone through this transition over the past several decades and it seems that no matter what, your workplace is inevitably affected in ways both good and bad.

Over the past three decades many organizations have built business models that ensure a physical presence in many locations across the nation. With the rise of technology and an increase of remote working environments, many companies are re-evaluating the cost effectiveness of relocating employees while they explore the feasibility of instead moving them to a remote workforce.

There certainly are pros and cons to both strategies. In the past, I’ve written about the upside of a remote workforce and remote leadership teams. So for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to focus on two things that may give organizations pause before deciding to relocate everyone to a single location.

You will probably need to replace some of your best employees

Asking a sizeable portion of your workforce to pick up and move their entire lives will inevitably result with employees that decide the move isn’t worth the personal sacrifice. Sometimes there is no amount of compensation in the form of relocation bonuses that is enough to move the needle when you are asking your employees to move their families, change jobs, schools, etc. Ultimately, organizations need to be prepared to recruit and subsequently train a new batch of employees.

Your workplace culture will change in ways you never expected

Regardless of the size of an organization, it’s extremely difficult to implement a standardized workplace culture. Different offices, different cities, different vibes impact different locations with sometimes stark contrasts when it comes to workplace culture. Uplifting and reintegrating an amalgamation of multiple cultures, personalities and outlooks can lead to a challenging work environment. Organizations need to be prepared to take great strides to implement programs to ensure that relocated employees feel a sense of satisfaction in their decision to move.

No organization makes the decision to centralize their workforce lightly, and we’d be naïve to suggest that organizations shouldn’t make this choice if it’s helping the bottom line. However, while HR will often be at the forefront of making this move happen, they shouldn’t be solely focused on the relocation portion of this endeavor. They need to be thinking beyond the relocation to what inevitably may be the most challenging aspect of the entire move, the impact on the employees, and what can be done to mitigate any challenges that arise as a result of the relocation.

Summer Workplace Fashion Musings

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

With Memorial Day in our rear view mirror, summer is finally here! That means vacations, flexible work schedules and a relaxed dress code, right?

I was in NYC this week for a client meeting and was sitting in a café eating breakfast.  There was a group of individuals at the table next to mine and it was obvious that they were preparing for a presentation. Everyone in the group had on dark suits, white shirts and/or blouses and ties. The same goes for here in Washington, DC., as it tends to be very conservative looking. However, I have a colleague who is based in Silicon Valley and won’t be caught dead in a suit and tie. Even when he travels to Washington, DC, “dressing up” means putting on a sport coat over his jeans.

What’s right? What’s not right? What works for your organization? Why should we even care?

They’re all great questions that my clients and colleagues have all the time. With the pending summer months, discussions have revolved around what’s appropriate for summer? Should there be a more relaxed dress code? What is considered appropriate business attire?

Let me give some practical thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with a casual dress code in the summer, but it’s helpful to communicate what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. For example, jeans are fine, but jeans cannot have holes or tatters in them. T-shirts are acceptable, but they must have sleeves.   Sun dresses can possibly work, but if it is the same dress you are wearing to a night club after hours, perhaps select another option.

The importance of clearly articulating dress code “Do’s and Don’ts” is that it avoids anyone claiming interpretation of what they are wearing due to other circumstance, i.e., an employee says that they are being reprimanded not for their dress, but for other motives.

Most importantly, know your business. If you have clients that regularly come into your office and you have an open office space, maybe a casual environment isn’t appropriate. Or, if you have regular meetings with individuals who dress casually, jeans and sneakers might be appropriate.  There’s a lot of studies and individuals that advocate one way or the other on how dress codes impact workforce performance, happiness and productivity, and frankly, I’m not here to argue one way or not. If you think your employees can be professional, maintain their level of productivity and increase their workplace happiness by allowing a more relaxed dress code in the summer (or the entire year) go for it!

Happy summer all!