We’re in challenging economic times, and we know that businesses are grappling with tough decisions about costs and expenses and unfortunately that can mean the dreaded R-word: redundancies. Our team recently discussed our experiences and personal reflections of managing redundancies within previous organisations, our clients’ organisations, and our personal experience of being made redundant and our first-hand knowledge of the fear, confusion and anger that is felt. We understand the emotional rollercoaster employees face during restructuring and redundancy processes.
As HR Consultants, we’ve had the job of guiding managers through the process, when they are often also at risk of redundancy. It’s a delicate dance, balancing the business’s needs with the genuine human beings you work with every day.
Here are some personal lessons we have learned, real-life examples, and tips to help you navigate redundancies with empathy and respect:
At the earliest stage possible:
When rumours swirl, address them head-on. Transparency is key. Employees quickly become anxious when there are even rumours about potential cuts. Getting everyone together, laying out the facts, and assuring everyone that you’ll keep them informed every step of the way is really important, so creating a communications plan right at the beginning is a great idea.
Make sure that before resorting to redundancies you’ve brainstormed alternatives. Would a recruitment or promotion freeze work short term? Can you offer reduced hours or pay? Are short term layoffs a possibility (if your employment contracts allow this)? Can you reskill or upskill employees for new roles? We’ve seen a combination of these approaches work well, with the inclusion in one instance, of new flexible working arrangements. It is a challenge to find an approach which will be ideal for everyone, but important to consider all options to keep your teams intact and morale high.
When the time comes to make an announcement:
Seek legal advice: Ensure you understand your legal obligations and potential pitfalls. Familiarize yourself with the UK’s statutory redundancy procedures and unfair dismissal rules.
Clearly define the rationale: Be transparent about the reasons for redundancy and the selection criteria used. Communicate this information clearly and consistently to all staff.
Develop a redundancy plan: Establish a clear timeline and communication strategy for the entire process. This includes informing employees, holding consultations, making selections, and providing support.
Deliver the news with compassion: Remember, it’s not just a business decision, its impacting lives, which means that it will be felt very emotionally by both those directly affected and the colleagues they work with. It’s important to have a carefully prepared communication as you can find that the weight of giving the news can make you very emotional too. Don’t be afraid to show empathy and understanding while remaining in control. Acknowledge that it is difficult news to hear and ensure that you make the point that this decision is not reflective of the contributions that employees have made. A simple handshake and genuine words of support can make a world of difference. Keep employees informed at every step.
Listen, actively: This isn’t the time for a monologue, do what you can to encourage two-way dialogue. Listen to your employees’ concerns, fears, and questions. Let them vent, offer reassurance, and be a safety net during this unsettling time. Make sure that you give adequate time to the consultation process so that you can really listen to employees concerns about the impacts this will have to their own personal situations. Communicate clearly and regularly, ensuring information is accurate and accessible.
Fair selection criteria: Use objective and documented criteria for selecting employees for redundancy. Avoid discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, gender, or disability.
Voluntary redundancy offers: Consider offering voluntary redundancy schemes before moving to compulsory redundancies. This can minimize disruption and support employee choice.
Plan to support employees even after they leave. Offer outplacement services, career coaching, or simply stay connected as a reference. Can you connect employees who are leaving your organisation with peer organisations? We’ve found that this can turn out to be a positive experience if handled correctly.
Tend to the survivors: Redundancies impact everyone, not just those leaving. Address morale issues, offer support groups, and reiterate the company’s commitment to the remaining team. Organising team-building activities after the redundancies or creating a space for shared experiences and rebuilding trust can really help.
Review and learn: Take time to reflect on the process and identify areas for improvement. Use this knowledge to refine your approach for future situations.
Remember, managing redundancies effectively requires empathy, transparency, and adherence to legal requirements. By following these steps and seeking additional support where needed, you can navigate this challenging process with fairness and respect for all involved. Remember, it’s not just about business; it’s about taking care of the people who make your company a success.
We can help with all aspects redundancy handling and restructuring including selection matrices, redundancy communication plans, writing announcements, drafting at risk letter and termination letters, collective and individual consultation, capability audits, workforce planning and job descriptions.
Government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/redundancy-your-rights/redundancy-pay