Global Energy and Petrochemical Company – Change Management and Career Transition

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This best practice model for transition success saw engagement rise, despite major change for outgoing and remaining employees.

Client Challenge

This global energy and petrochemical company owned and operated several key oil refineries at various sites in Australia. The most complex of these refined more than four million tonnes of crude oil every year, with feedstock and products imported through the terminal for transfer to the Refinery.

The refinery & terminal had around 310 employees and an average of around 200 contractors on site at any time. The refinery and terminal operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Due to the persistent strong Australian dollar, challenges with capital equipment and competition from new Asian refineries the difficult decision was taken to convert the operation to a terminal only.

The conversion of the Refinery into a terminal was to be taken over an extended period of between 18-24 months. This created many challenges for the organisation to maintain productivity, ensure safety was paramount and continue to engage all workers in a period of uncertainty.

Solution

Critical to success of the transition was the engagement of Right Management in the early planning stages before any announcements had been made in order to develop a tailored comprehensive program of support for employees on site. The solution was holistic and covered a two year closure period.

Overall there were three key streams of support provided to the Refinery employees and leadership team.

First was support associated with announcement day which involved briefing of the leadership team to assist in their preparation to deliver the difficult messages and to handle employee reactions and questions. This was supplemented with onsite consultant presence for the day of announcement to support employees as they processed the news. Right Management partnered with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) onsite to provide comprehensive employee support.

Second was proactive change support for all levels in the organisation. For the Refinery Leadership Team this was aimed at ensuring their engagement and vision for the site, coupled with successfully dealing with their own reaction to the change. For the next level leaders, in addition to change support, a facilitated peer networking group was established where they could benefit from sharing each other’s experiences and raising concerns in a safe environment.

The remaining Refinery employees were also provided various support mechanisms including workshops and training engagements on resilience, stress management, managing change and leading change.

Finally the focus of our support moved to the career transition phase where we worked extensively with employees at all levels to assist individuals in achieving their desired career outcome. This covered redeployment, career workshops, career centre, one on one coaching and a career fair involving many local and national employers.

The success of the project was achieved through several key elements:

  • The organisation’s readiness to involve Right Management in confidential discussions early in the planning phase

  • Involvement in the planning by both parties leading to a co-designed solution

  • Embedded our consulting resources at the organisation’s site – being able to act as “one of the team”

  • Regular transparent communications allowing for a flexible approach that was adapted as required

  • Allowing each party to challenge the status quo.

This resulted in an enhanced relationship between Right Management and the organisation.

Results

The conversion of the site operations from a Refinery to terminal over such as extended period has been lauded within the organisation as one of the best examples of implementing this difficult transition. An employee engagement survey comparison from before the announcement to one during showed that engagement had increased during this period.

The company was delighted with these results along with the fact they reported no injuries during this conversion period and productivity levels remained consistent to those pre-announcements.

The transition is being used within the organisation as a best practice case study on how to undertake significant change projects of this nature.

“The closure of the refinery without significant safety incident, disruption to supply or industrial action was viewed internally and externally as a major success. Right Management played a role in this success by partnering with the Refinery Leadership Team at both the strategic and operational level to help deliver change management activities that maintained and even increased employee engagement during a challenging and difficult situation for both leaders and employees.”

HR Manager for Refinery