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Redundancy: Getting it right


Redundancy: Who will stay and who will go?

When organisational change can lead to redundancy, how can HR best support employers? Denise Taylor has some answers.

The most important step in the redundancy process is communication, keeping people informed right from the start. Rumours will spread so best to provide as much information as you can. Keep people informed through regular briefings and time for questions. As things progress you can let people know about options and what help is going to be available.

Redundancy can be a time to raise the importance of career management and people being responsible for their own careers. Whether people are to stay or leave, this may be the time for people to consider how to keep themselves employable through development and training.

How to choose who is to go

Whilst it can be tempting to use this as an excuse to get rid of ‘difficult staff’, you will want to ensure you have a clear and transparent process. For some companies this will be on the basis of last in, first out; for others staff will go through some structured assessment process. What ever you decide, let people know the process.

Redundancy: Key steps

  • Communication – let people know as much as you can to stop rumours spreading.
  • Set up support – outplacement and careers counselling. This needs to include details on state support, CV writing, interview skills, job search strategies and also helping people to make the right decision for them. The people who offer the support need to be competent for this task.
  • Alongside reducing head count, also consider the new organisation and changes to the working culture.
  • Allow plenty of time. It’s likely to take longer than you expect.
  • Breaking the news

    Whilst a group meeting can be a quick way of getting the message through to a large number of staff, it’s then vital to follow up with an individual meeting. If this is bad news, it’s best to keep the meeting short and factual; the person could get emotional so provide all information in writing so they don’t need to remember everything. It’s helpful to schedule a meeting in a few days time to discuss further.

    Companies used to have a team of outplacement consultants available to help; now more support is available via the internet but people often still want someone to talk to, to help them understand what’s happening and to have someone who will listen to their thoughts and feelings. So who will have to do this? You will want to make sure that whoever you choose has received training for this task and has the appropriate personal characteristics.

    When’s the best time?

    Well, the worst time is Friday afternoon. If someone lives alone, it’s not good for them to perhaps spend the whole weekend with no one to discuss this with, so earlier in the week is preferable.

    How can we help people?

    We can’t treat everyone the same – some people will want to stay and others will want to leave, but people don’t always get what they want. Staff can be divided into four groups, as follows:

    1. Those who want to leave and can leave

    All this group really want is the cheque. They know what they want to do and are motivated to do it. They might take up any outplacement options you have but often they already have plans – own business, retirement or alternative work set up.

    2. Those who want to stay but have to leave

    Some people want to stay with the company but with their job being made redundant they need to be helped to understand the reasons and to be carefully supported through the transition. For these people, it can help to have generous redundancy terms and also to provide comprehensive outplacement support. Before they can be helped with a job search, time needs to be set aside for them to talk with someone as they come to terms with the change. Careers counsellors (internal and external) can help.

    3. Those who want to leave but have to stay

    As redundancy is being discussed, there will be some who look forward to this option and want to leave but whose jobs may be essential or there will be no changes in their location and so they need to stay. These people can feel bitter and very disappointed. They have seen the future, they want it, but like a mirage it has vanished. It can be tempting to leave this group of people alone, but if you need a motivated workforce you need to look for ways to keep them motivated. Let them know they are valued and appreciated.

    4. Those who want to stay and do stay

    There are still likely to be some questions for this group such as, will there be more work? How will the changes affect them? They may also feel guilt that they have a job and others don’t.

    Finally, don’t forget empathy. Imagine you are in the other person’s shoes – how would you like to be treated? What support would you want? Make sure you really listen, offer support and do have a box of tissues just in case – breaking the news is hard and just you might need them for yourself.

    Denise Taylor is the founder of Amazing People which specialises in career counselling, guidance and coaching for individuals, and career management, recruitment and assessments for organisations. She is also the winner of a National Career Award, 2007 for The Gold Career Programme.

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