A leading university had to move its 5,500 members of staff from nine pay-grade structures to one in order to achieve fairness and satisfy equal pay legislation. Every job, from professor to gardener, had to be defined afresh, evaluated by reliable and consistent means and located within a new pay structure.
Hundreds of managers in academic and administrative departments faced the prospect of dealing over many months with staff who knew their pay might be frozen or cut. There were widespread suspicions about motives, processes and likely outcomes, and a huge communication challenge both for the HR professionals and for managers across the institution. How should managers deal with the business of informing individuals about the results of this massive exercise for them personally? Emotions would be running high and there was a risk that bad news on pay would lead to unrest and a serious dip in performance.
The university’s HR chief called on VOX to deliver a series of three-hour sessions over three days for 500 managers. These were the objectives:
- To highlight what the face-to-face communication challenges would be
- To explore communication techniques that would help and ones that would hinder
- To show managers how they might deal with the tough conversations ahead
- To engage managers in the whole process and unite them behind common goals
- To give them the skills and courage to tackle difficult issues honestly and effectively
A team of VOX coaches – all seasoned performers – brought a variety of possible scenarios to life through drama and involved the audiences in analysing and learning lessons from them. There were no lectures, homilies or PowerPoint presentations, just genuine engagement leading to real learning.
As ever with VOX, these sessions were novel and lively. The feedback from HR was that they made a substantial difference to managers’ ability to take this daunting responsibility on board and see the process through to a successful conclusion. It had become clear that simply sending managers written material and pointing them at guidance on a special website was not enough: essential messages had to be conveyed to them in much more imaginative, interactive and memorable ways. That’s where VOX came in.