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Professor Paul Sparrow
Director Centre for Peformance Led HR
Professor Paul  Sparrow

Understanding the Deal

Authors: Professor Paul Sparrow Professor Paul Sparrow, Director Centre for Performance-Led HR at Lancaster

17 November 2010


I was very fortunate recently to be able to say a few words at the Work Foundation’s partnership workshop on 'Understanding the deal – a framework for a healthy employment relationship'. My congratulations to the researchers. There was some useful feedback, and it made me reflect about the issues. 

The tool is not just designed for the organisation but also for the individual. Of course, this then means that HR functions want to see the tool 'translated' into the context of change and their own language! It is a fair point. For many organisations, and certainly in the public sector, change is being driven not just by the traditional cost pressures associated with recessions, but by quite fundamental alterations in the business model. This has two main effects.

First, it changes the power of certain groups of talented people, and this increases the pressure to individualise many deals. The more idiosyncratic deals become, the harder it is to hold the line of perceived fairness for others.

Second, it means that you start to hit people’s basic value systems, and their sense of identification with what the organisation is supposed to be about. The bottom line then – and there is a bottom line impact of this – is that you have to build a sense of collective belief amongst your workforce that the organisation has the strategy, resources and wherewithal to deliver in the new world.
I think the reality is that the toolkit has to be aimed at line managers – the people who are the ‘jam in the sandwich’ - sitting as they do between the strategy and individual change agenda. They need guides like this to judge just how onside people really are and to focus their management skills to the real individual agenda.

However, the question as always is, good tools aside, just how skilled or motivated will the ‘jam in the sandwich’ be to engage with these difficult questions when they too face the challenge?