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Carnival of HR: Can Hiring Surplus Staff Propel Your Career?

Career Innovations is proud to host this week's Carnival of HR.  Carnival of HR is dedicated to bringing together the best posts from the HR blogging community! This post was submitted by Ian Welsh, based in Toronto, Canada, who focuses on providing creative solutions to your HR needs, including blogging and internal communications support.


My second HR job was HR Supervisor reporting to a senior HR Manager in another branch of the company responsible for the division I was attached to. I had been in HR for less than 3 years, so I was very happy with my new job and increased responsibility. Luck was with me, and within a few months corporate reorganization resulted in my division being made independent (reporting directly to corporate) and I was promoted to HR Manager. It was a quite small Chemical sector manufacturer, but with a strong union and significant health and safety product related issues.

I was HR Manager, but with no staff and needing to set up a divisional HR function. It was possible by using resources (e.g. secretarial) made available to me, and others I collaborated with, but it was tough. I had to do all the work and get ready to negotiate the next collective agreement with the union in less than a year.

I pleaded, for staff, at least an assistant, but there was no budget. However, another internal reorganization resulted in one secretary being freed-up and she was transferred to HR as my assistant. I had no choice. I was unable to hire someone from outside with HR experience. I could not search internally for someone with HR interest. I got my assistant because she was surplus - she was simply assigned to me, but it was one of the best moves of my career. We worked together closely, she enrolled in external HR studies and became proficient in many aspects of HR. As she became increasingly involved, her style changed from being an obvious support person to being a front line person independently respected as part (50%) of the HR team. Within a short time she became a very proficient HR professional and was subsequently promoted to another corporate division.

The next addition to my start-up HR function, was a surplus Production Manager, more than 30 years my senior and close to retirement. There were sensitivities, of course, but we talked it through and he was a winner in every respect. Together we made great advances in health and safety issues, including meeting many union challenges based on dangerous chemicals and processes. The most unlikely conventional hire, but we became a great team, built on (my belief) mutual respect and at the same time significantly expanding my technical understanding of the operation.

For my first 10 years as HR Manager, for different organizations, I obtained my staff in a similar way - people who were available internally and in many cases surplus. They all worked out very well - mostly superbly. I believe they helped me advance my career, partly because their knowledge of the organization/people was broad and HR implications of issues were far easier to understand and respond to.

Later in my career, when I was directly responsible for reorganization, downsizing etc., I placed significant emphasis on attrition and redeploying as an alternative to termination. In general, it worked out very well. Financially it was a corporate money saver and functionally it added to the overall corporate feeling of oneness and to the credibility of HR. There was sometimes significant opposition to this practice and focus on “out with the old - in with the new” but when employees acknowledged the good faith of the company in redeploying to the extent possible, change transition was smoother and continuity of the organization was achieved with less bumps due to skill retention and overall continuity.

If you connsider the high failure rate of external recruiting, particularly during a period of instability, it seems far better to redeploy displaced employees and continue to benefit from their loyalty and commitment. It can also be stimulating and reenergizing to introduce them to different facets of the business and new experiences. Certainly, it requires effective managers to handle redeployment issues and also a strong organizational learning environment to support the transition, but the benefits can be considerable.

I strongly believe that the surplus employees who became part of my HR department, early in my career, not only fast tracked progress of the HR function, but also directly assisted the advancement of my own HR career. Does that make sense? What do you think?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian's Blog

Original Post


A blogging carnival is a social media meme in which a group of bloggers submit blog posts to a “host” who compiles the posts into one collection that they then publish on their site on the prearranged day. The posts and bloggers are generally focused on an similar area of interest, such as Human Resources, and may or may not have a theme which unites the posts on a specific question or topic. Carnivals occur on a regular schedule, monthly/biweekly/weekly, and the carnival hosts change after each event. You can find more information about blog carnivals here.


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