News & Views Back

Managing HR Challenges During Periods of Significant Expansion & Contraction


At our recent HR Forum, discussion revolved around the HR challenges encountered during significant periods of expansion and contraction. Both scenarios bring their unique set of hurdles. 

During expansion, the surge in hiring can strain resources and dilute company culture, while contraction often involves layoffs that can damage morale and productivity, leading to a potential loss of valuable talent. Successfully navigating these challenges requires strategic HR management to maintain stability.

We were privileged to have two distinguished panellists on the panel: Michelle Aitchison, SVP and Head of Human Resources at Lionsgate, and Nicky Chapman, Head of Talent at Channel Four. 

Michelle Aitchison: Adapting to Change at Lionsgate

Michelle began by explaining the significant changes Lionsgate underwent during COVID-19. With cinemas closed, their content shifted to TV, leading to a major restructuring in their UK office. Despite being a relatively small team of just over 100, and compounded by a significant business acquisition, they faced the challenge of integrating new staff and systems swiftly. This rapid change required them to adapt to new cultural and operational dynamics quickly.

One of the biggest challenges, Michelle noted, was managing people’s expectations and integrating them into a unified culture. Communication and transparency were key. Weekly company meetings, lunch-and-learns, and being accessible to employees helped maintain morale and keep everyone informed.

Nicky Chapman: Strategic Pivoting at Channel 4

Nicky shared Channel 4’s journey, which began in 2019 with a strategic shift to establish a national HQ in Leeds and creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow. Just as they were settling into this new structure, the COVID-19 lockdown hit, leading to further disruptions. As Channel 4 relies heavily on ad revenue, economic downturns significantly impacted their funding. Additionally, the shift in viewer preferences towards streaming created a need for a new strategic direction focusing on digital-first content.

Channel 4 responded by promoting internal hiring, offering interview clinics, and providing outplacement support to ensure employees were prepared for potential changes. Nicky emphasised the importance of aligning new strategies with the company’s core purpose to engage employees effectively during transitions.

Key Takeaways: Preparing for the Next Pivot

Both Michelle and Nicky stressed the importance of being prepared for constant change. Michelle highlighted the need for proactive planning, engaging with heads of departments to anticipate challenges, and maintaining clear and open communication with all employees. Nicky echoed this, adding that preparing employees and leaders to be comfortable with change is crucial. By fostering a positive mindset and viewing change as an opportunity, organisations can better navigate the uncertainties of the future.

Conclusion: Embracing Change as an Opportunity

In conclusion, the ability to adapt and pivot in response to changing circumstances is essential for HR leaders. Whether it’s expanding, contracting, or navigating the complexities of a merger, the strategies of clear communication, proactive planning, and fostering a culture that embraces change can make all the difference. As we move forward, let’s remember that with every challenge comes an opportunity for growth and innovation.