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What lessons can be learned from Boris Johnson’s resignation?

This post is originally from Croner-i

Mass resignations have rocked the structure of parliament, ultimately leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister as leader of the Conservative Party and a new leadership election. In situations such as this, there are key lessons to be learnt for both private and public sector organisations to ensure their long-term success.

Company culture trumps priority lists

Losing one employee can cause a significant impact on business operations. But resignations similar to the unprecedented rate seen by the Government can grind functions to a halt. Whilst this can happen for a number of different reasons, one cause might be attributable to a wider cultural issue. Where this happens, HR teams should work with senior leaders to investigate the root cause and take appropriate measures to alleviate the problem. Otherwise, businesses may quickly find themselves with no staff.

Companies that develop a culture which lacks integrity and respect could see employees join forces and take collective action to temporarily stop working or permanently resign. Should this happen due to the behaviours of a leader (eg CEO), a board may be forced to address the issue, no matter how much they don’t want to or how unpleasant it would be. In situations where the concerns impact the owner of the organisation directly, the possible action taken against them may be more limited, although the owner will only hinder themselves in the long run. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that sufficient reporting channels are in place so staff aren’t afraid to raise issues and know that they will be taken seriously.

Pay will, undoubtedly, remain forever near the top of employees’ priority lists, especially as the cost-of-living crisis continues. But, where there is a poor organisational culture, staff may be more inclined to look for external opportunities on lower wage rates, if they facilitate an effective work-life balance and offer genuine support. Where an employer places their people’s health and wellbeing at the forefront, and implements measures to directly meet staff needs and expectations, they are more likely to reap the rewards of an engaged, motivated and satisfied workforce. In turn, this contributes towards improved productivity and reduced turnover rates.

Importance of succession planning

Unlike the Government, employers will usually have time to prepare and manage an employee’s departure due to well-constructed statutory and contractual notice periods. All going well, this time can be used to find a suitable replacement. However, employers suffer from having to not only uncover someone which meets the technical requirements of the role but also fills the gap of the predecessor as being an idea-maker, problem-solver, innovator and confidante. These soft skills are all things an employer can come to rely on and, often, take for granted. As such, the recruitment process can be lengthy and difficult, and the time taken to build new relationships can be detrimental to the organisation. Therefore, businesses may want to proactively implement a succession plan, so they are prepared if a key person were to leave.

Similarly, new concerns over how government will run and if there are sufficient staff levels to facilitate basic operations are now being raised by Members of Parliament. This further highlights the importance of having an effective succession planning strategy in place to ensure there are trained and capable individuals ready to take over the role of a departing employee. This becomes increasingly important for senior leadership positions.

Successful succession planning may involve a pre-made handover outlining the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly duties of the individual, as well as an overview of how these duties are completed. The employee should also outline any relevant login details and passwords for the various platforms they have access to, including on internal and external systems. Contact details of people they regularly need to speak with can also be useful, as can a list of company equipment which may need to be recouped should they leave. Doing so can make a leadership transition easier and quicker for all.

Supporting staff through top-level leadership changes

Of course, when one senior employee leaves, the impact can be significant. But, where multiple management-level staff members resign, the knock-on impact for those remaining can be devastating. As such, employers must ensure they have adequate measures in place to support people who stay, including management of both their workloads and their personal wellbeing.

Employees may find themselves with overwhelming workloads to try and cover for staff shortages, which can quickly lead to burnout and stress-related absences. Although employers may be tempted to ask staff to complete as many projects as possible, requiring them to juggle too many things at the same time will end up causing more problems than they started with. As such, it’s important for them to quickly prioritise essential tasks and leave others to one side until there is sufficient resources to handle them.

Opportunity for restructure

This being said, a staff exodus of this nature can provide a unique opportunity to review existing functions and implement a dynamic restructure. MPs have already called for a revamp of the number of ministerial positions and the requirements of their roles. Businesses may want to adopt a similar approach and utilise disruption to create a more efficient structure.

This might be by introducing more middle or senior managers, or removing a hierarchical structure completely. In any case, where changes impact employees’ existing terms and conditions, employers must first get their agreement to implement them. The same applies where an employer wants a staff member to take on a new or promoted position. If an employee refuses the changes, employers should proceed carefully and ensure they have strong, justifiable reasons for enforcing differing T&Cs.