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Kevin Hollingworth

Phoenix Medical Supplies Ltd

Retail People Partner

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How should HR at Shell Energy, Asda and Royal Mail navigate the ‘redundancy risk’ period?

Shell Energy is among the latest to announce a large number of jobs at risk of redundancy. How can their HR teams lead with integrity through this period?

‘At risk of redundancy

Four words that can strike fear, uncertainty or trigger anxiety in any employee – whether out of the blue, or suspected, the connotations of this sentence have an impact. And they certainly have repercussions for HR professionals when dealing with what may be a rocky road ahead for the employees they safeguard.

In January 2023, The Guardian reported the possibility of 2000 redundancies within Shell Energy’s retail Division. In the same month grocery retail Asda stated they were proposing job cuts with hundreds at risk of redundancy due to a raft of changes (reported in The Express). And back in October 2022 the BBC reported that Royal Mail could axe up to 10,000 jobs as losses rise. Sadly, we are starting to hear this news all too often.

As HR professionals, our stewardship puts us at the heart and centre of helping to manage not just processes, but also emotions.

HR professionals are stuck in the middle

Proposals to make redundancies can occur for many reasons – making business efficiencies, reducing costs, or reactionary to competitors and the marketplace, as noted in the cases of Shell, Asda and Royal Mail.

Sometimes the closer we are to the business operation and performance, the less of a surprise a potential redundancy announcement can be. However, it still affects those in HR – our wellbeing, our own personal performance and the sense of belonging we have to the business we’ve dedicated our time and efforts to.

As HR professionals, our stewardship puts us at the heart and centre of helping to manage not just processes, but also emotions. HR’s role is to maintain constant, consistent communication, whilst supporting the continuation of business priorities. We’re in the middle. And of course, all whilst managing our own emotions at a time of uncertainty – bear in mind we may only know as much as the employees we represent and serve.

When it comes to employees’ questions and our own ‘Google’ based research on being put at risk of redundancy, consumer advisory Which has some handy tips to directly support employee’s with their own mindset and support.

But what can the HR teams at Shell Energy, Asda, Royal Mail and the like do to empower themselves as HR professionals in this period of uncertainty? Here are some practical tips:

1. Be prepared

After all, redundancies aren’t an everyday occurrence. Brush up on your knowledge and best practice on processes and be prepared for questions employees may have.

Consider what questions you might ask if you were in this position. And as a word of caution – don’t try to answer a question you don’t know the answer to. It’s far better to be honest and say you don’t know and will find out the answer later.

If you’re a CIPD member, remember you can get additional benefits like employment law advice and access to wellbeing support if you need it.

It’s ok to have your own worries and concerns – just don’t bottle them up.

2. Don’t let suspicious eyes impact your behaviour

Often, the relationship between HR and employees can change quickly when redundancies are proposed – suspicions arise that HR know more than they let on. It can be assumed that our agenda has changed from being a highly supportive function, to one who’s role is now to make redundancies happen and save costs as quickly as possible – which is rarely the case.

Despite any possible change in opinion, continue to be your authentic self, and remember the reasons you came to work in HR in the first place. 

3. Be mindful of your own wellbeing

Practically, this might be updating your own CV and asking the questions you need some clarity on. Or maybe, wellbeing support to keep your mind on track, whilst continuing to support others. It’s ok to have your own worries and concerns – just don’t bottle them up. You need to be in a good headspace to help the employees you look after too.  

4. Lead with integrity

Your sense of purpose is more important than ever through turbulent times. In the employment lifecycle and through a redundancy process, this challenge brings on the most testing of time. Despite any personal thoughts and challenges you may have, hold your head high and ensure your performance continues to be at its peak. 

After all, whatever happens, and whenever any processes conclude, you never know who you’ll meet on the HR road. Be positively and fondly remembered for how you treated others at a time of uncertainty and worry. It might just help you in your own future. 

Want more on this topic? Read ‘How to handle redundancies sensitively.’

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Author Profile Picture
Kevin Hollingworth

Retail People Partner

Read more from Kevin Hollingworth

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