Hard on the heels of the pandemic, redundancy is now an inevitable and painful reality for many sectors and organisations.
While both businesses and employees understand the business context for a workforce reduction, the process can leave lasting scars.
Poorly handled redundancy can significantly affect an organisation’s reputation, with long term impact on future attraction and retention of talent.
Conversely, a compassionate redundancy process can go a long way to helping selected employees feel empowered and supported, and even positive about their work experience.
It’s also important to support colleagues who will continue with the business. Survivors’ guilt is a well-documented condition that can cause genuine stress and anxiety.
There are four factors that help humanise redundancy:
- Place extra emphasis on communication, especially as this is likely to be virtual, through email, phone or video conference
Effective communication means sharing the right information at the right time, explaining the context for decision-making. It outlines the business’ long-term thinking, and how plans could shift if the situation changes. It provides options for group and one on one dialogue. It is OK for anyone managing a redundancy process to show regret and disappointment, and it is important to acknowledge your employees’ feelings throughout the consultation.
- Focus on the retention or redeployment of under-represented groups within your business
With Covid already having a disproportionate impact on diverse communities, especially ethnic minorities and women working from home, it is vital to ensure that redundancy planning reduces the impact on diversity. Make sure that you protect the hard work of your diversity and inclusion committees, task forces and strategies by not allowing diverse roles to be first in line for termination. In our experience, diverse workers in banking and commodities are likely to be middle or back office employees, often working part time. These roles can often be the first to be cut and can result in the loss of most of your diverse employee base.
- Assess what lies behind your redundancy volunteers’ decision
Voluntary redundancy can appear to offer a ‘painless’ route to workforce reduction. But an analysis of who steps forward can reveal a lot about your business. What does it say about your company culture or career opportunities if a lot of women or ethnic minorities volunteer immediately? Could it be that the pressure of working from home is affecting some employees more than others, resulting in their decision to leave? It may be that there are ways to retain this talent in your business by adjusting their work load or work day, or by supporting them in different ways. Increasing flexibility could also reduce the number of roles that may be destined for redundancy.
- Support employees as they hunt for their next role
Providing employees with advice and guidance on job opportunities, networking, a CV refresh and interview skills will help them move forwards with confidence. Helping employees to network is key. This could include the development of alumni/ae networks, advice on how to use LinkedIn and introductions to search firms. A good example is from online bank Monzo, which has created an easy to search microsite with profiles of its former ‘talented employees’ to support colleagues in their job search.
Keep the lines of dialogue open even after the employee has left and encourage your senior team to provide coaching and mentoring to former colleagues. This will be rewarding for your continuing team and can offer a lifeline to previous workers.