Exploring organisational right-sizing, whilst retaining critical skills at an engineering consultancy in South Africa.
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Organisational right-sizing (upsizing or downsizing) has in recent years become a global phenomenon across all sectors of the economy. The unrelenting pursuit by shareholders for improved resource utilisation, higher revenue and profits supported by lower costs of production have presented the right-sizing model as a multi-purpose vehicle. Irrespective of the firm’s structure (size), this is deemed the solution for sustained competitive advantage. However, the literature confirms that less than seventy per cent achieve the desired results post right-sizing strategy implementation. This study aimed to explore the factors that surround right-sizing and the implementation process aligned to retaining critical skills within an engineering consultancy in South Africa. Organisations propound that talent management delivers a sustained competitive advantage. Communication on right-sizing creates a plethora of employment-related insecurities that result in special talent taking flight from the firm. The theoretical framework of the McKinsey 7-S model evaluated the strategy implementation by assessing the hard and soft elements of the firm’s design. The study engaged a qualitative research design, administering a semi-structured interview instrument to eight participants who hold management portfolios. Participants were selected by a purposive sampling method, which contributed rich insights towards the study. The interview transcripts were coded, followed by a thematic analysis that identified three main themes containing ten sub-themes. The findings identified that strategy implementation is a complicated exercise which requires a strategy consultant to implement. Another finding was related to management’s communication, as the implementation phase was challenged by resistance to change arising from ambiguity over the implementation vision. The results acknowledged that the retention strategy was limited to financial remuneration. The literature reviewed and the study results confirmed growth in the support for a non-financial retention strategy. Finally, contrary to the respondents’ view that resources are critical to the firm’s success, the firm lacked talent management and skills development policies. The recommendation was made that the talent retention strategy requires a guiding organisational policy offering transparency.