Implementing a Reduction-in-Force: Important Reflections From the Field

Implementing a Reduction-in-Force: Important Reflections From the Field

Thomas J. Shindell (Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6155-2.ch036
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The organizational change initiative presented in this reflective case history is a large reduction-in-force (RIF) in a public sector state department of K-12 education due to budget cuts in 2011. The author was on the executive team that designed and implemented the RIF. A previous RIF occurred on 2003 that had major implementation issues that negatively impacted the agency. A high-level seven step process is presented along with intended and unintended outcomes. The seven process steps presented includes 1) implement a hiring freeze, 2) design and approve process, 3) collect data, 4) determine which positions to eliminate, 5) notify directors and managers, 6) implement RIF, and 7) notify employees.
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This reflective case history explores a legislatively required Reduction-in-Force (RIF) in a public sector organization. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the state department of K-12 education for Texas and implements the directives of the State Board of Education, which has statutory responsibility for establishing classroom curriculum standards and approving textbooks. TEA also has responsibility for distributing funding, monitoring grant programs, monitoring compliance with federal education standards and responding to parent, student and teacher complaints for over 1300 kindergarten through 12th grade public school districts and charter schools in the state of Texas in the United States. I served as the Director of Organization Development and Agency Wide Services (DOD) during the RIF and was responsible for guiding and facilitating an executive workgroup through the RIF from beginning to end.

As a result of the 82nd Texas Legislative session in 2011, TEA’s full-time equivalent (FTE) employee authorization was reduced from 1038 FTEs to 826 or a 21% reduction in staff. Enlarging the challenge was TEA’s last RIF, conducted in 2003, which had serious design, coordination and implementation shortcomings. Employees RIFed in 2003 learned their employment was terminated when they tried to log-on to their computers. When unable to do so (as their accounts had been frozen and locked for security purposes), they called information technology (IT) for support and were directed to human resources. They were often informed over the phone by an IT person that their access was denied because their employment was terminated. This lack of coordination between IT and the human resources division resulted in word quickly spreading throughout the organization that, if one could not log in, one was terminated. Further, the RIF demoralized the remaining staff with many choosing to leave TEA. Following the 2003 RIF, TEA struggled to fulfill its duties and responsibilities. Employee satisfaction survey data post 2003 RIF indicated a significant drop in employee satisfaction, a drop in satisfaction with management, and an overall culture in need of much improvement. This was the organizational backdrop against which the next RIF had to be planned and implemented.

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