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Richard Chiumento

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How to… manage redundancies

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Announcing redundancies is a difficult task for any manager, but there are ways to cushion the blow and ensure that those exiting the business do so with dignity. It’s also important to take care of those who remain behind, says Richard Chiumento.

It is clear that organisations and managers need to minimise the need for redundancies, but in circumstances where they are essential, managers must approach the process with care and sensitivity. It is also important to communicate that it is the job that has been made redundant and not the person.

Confusion about this particular point can lead to the individuals concerned questioning themselves and their own capabilities, undermining their self confidence and making it more difficult for them to move on to a new role.

Here are five tips to cushion the blow of redundancy:

1. Get the right advice

Line managers should never be left to guess what to do and how to do it. The communication and management of a redundancy programme needs to carried out within the legal framework of the country in which it is being actioned, with due consideration to any union or contractual agreements that are in place and, very importantly, in line with the values of the organisation. The HR function should provide both the guidance and support that line managers need to ensure that everyone concerned is both protected and respected.

2. Make those affected feel supported

Be clear that it is the job that has been made redundant and not the person and thank them for the contribution they have made to the organisation. It’s important for their self esteem and their confidence about their future. Offering the best career transition support you can also enables them to move on to new opportunities more easily and is important for maintaining the values of your employer brand. It makes both delivering and receiving the news that bit less painful.

3. Plan carefully

Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to prepare for a redundancy meeting. Many managers rush into this meeting without thinking through exactly what needs to be said, what the possible reactions might be from the employee perspective and how to respond effectively. Employees need to feel that they are being treated with proper consideration.

4. Don’t neglect survivors

It is unwise to assume that just because some have survived the current round of redundancies that they will continue to stay with the organisation. There is a very real risk that they will either surreptitiously look for another job or worse, become disengaged and effectively retire on the job, stifling productivity and performance across the organisation. Spend triple the amount of time with survivors as with those being made redundant. They need to be re-engaged into the ‘new world’ that the organisation is moving towards and to see that they are valued and their role within the business recognised.

5. Communicate regularly

Redundancy is often highly disruptive as teams tend to be very closely knit and losing one person can be like losing a family member. Managers need to remember that in the face of redundancy, they can never be guilty of communicating too much. They need to ensure that they are constantly talking to the survivors, listening to their concerns and helping them to re-engage and gain a new sense of purpose. This will help them to feel good about their relationship with their manager and the organisation and buy into the new direction it needs to take.

Richard Chiumento is chief executive of Rialto and a leading expert in the field of executive career transition and outplacement. Rialto is a professional services firm specialising in executive career services and workforce change management programmes

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