Redundancy is an unpleasant situation for everyone. Clearly, adhering to the legal procedure correctly is key, as this avoids additional challenges, financial and emotional repercussions. However, it’s important to think wider than this and consider how you wish to conduct the redundancy process. The ‘how’ can take an upsetting situation and make it more dignified and less damaging for everyone involved. Therefore, it is important to think beyond the legal redundancy process.
Strong Senior Managers acknowledge that redundancy affects everyone in their business, and act accordingly. Of course, primarily there’s the person being made redundant, but there’s also the people involved in managing the process, and those who remain at the organisation witnessing colleagues leaving perhaps worrying whether they will be next.
You need to understand how redundancy can affect the following groups of people so that you can manage each of them well:
- Employees need to leave the business as well as they can for their own mental wellbeing, but also for the external reputation of your business. They will remember how they have been treated and tell others about it, even it’s just discretely. This will affect your reputation. It’s also possible that it might reach the press (we’ve had a few examples of large companies not treating their staff well during redundancy – some of these news pieces then give other less well-known companies as examples too).
- Your remaining team members need to maintain morale and motivation as much as possible. They will be watching how you treat their redundant colleagues. This will be combined with the knowledge that they have to adjust their working practices and a worry that they might be next to leave. Treating their departing colleagues well is part of reassuring them. Clear communication with those who remain about what’s happening and when is also crucial. Your primary consideration here needs to be to keep them working positively and not living in fear.
- Those who have to manage the process of redundancy will feel increased stress; they have to get the ‘process’ right and also deal with delivering unpleasant news to their colleagues (those going and staying). You need to make sure they are equipped to carry out the process, and able to manage their stress levels. Stressed people make mistakes – redundancy needs everyone to be alert and able.
So how can you conduct the process well beyond following the legal formalities correctly?
- It may be clear who has to manage the process but if there are options, pick the individuals most suited to dealing with such a situation in terms of their ‘soft’ skills. Spend time discussing the approach with them so they feel fully equipped.
- Agree a communication plan for the rest of the company, both for the short and medium term. Consider what questions staff members may have and how you will address them. Importantly, don’t make promises that you are unsure the business will keep and equally don’t avoid difficult topics. It’s better to face up to them than have individuals worrying.
- Consider how you can help individuals leave the business well. Financial compensation is, of course, an important element. Consider how else you could support them to maximise their chances of getting a new role in a shorter time period. This is particularly important for individuals who have been in your business a long time, who are potentially out of practice in the job market, and those who may need to reposition themselves to get a new role.
This additional help (outplacement) is often provided by large companies when they are making many employees redundant. Businesses making fewer redundancies often bring in people like me to work with their employees in two different ways:
- Equipping those managing the redundancy process with the soft skills they need to do this well
- Supporting departing colleagues with training and coaching on the skills they need to find a new role after redundancy.
If you want to understand more about the tailored support I can offer to your exiting employees as part of their exit packages or how I can support your colleagues managing the process, please contact me to discuss further.
This article is a version of the original I wrote for rhw’s website.