When redundancies are in the air, it’s a prime topic for gossip and worry. “Who is it going to be?” “I’m not sure they made the right choice there,” “I’m ok now but does that mean I could be at risk if there’s a next round.” It’s a time of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and not just for those going through the redundancy process. It’s also a time when employers need to make sure that the very topic of redundancy doesn’t become the main conversation, to the detriment of all else.
As a career and business psychologist, and founder of The Redundancy Recovery Hub, a members’ resource to employers help their people through redundancy, I’ve seen and heard how important it is to keep all employers – whether leaving or remaining – feeling engaged, heard and part of the conversation
For Those Leaving
Imagine being at a party and having to leave at midnight, only to find that, even before then, people are keeping you out of conversations, talking in whispers and making the decision to move somewhere else without even asking you. You are going to feel left-out, disengaged and, truthfully, probably not very good about yourself.
While employers may diligently make sure they are ticking the legal and HR boxes, there’s a lot more to this. Three key requirements in a job seeker’s arsenal right now are going to a feeling of self-esteem, dignity and self-confidence. As employers we can make sure that those are not depleted by treating everyone going through the redundancy process with kindness and respect, and keeping them in on the meetings, the conversations, the work, as much as humanly possible, to remind them that they are still valued.
What about after they leave? This is a ready-made talent pool that employers can revisit when they are financially healthier. These people know the business, the processes, the industry. What’s more, there will be no expensive recruitment fees, and no lengthy induction periods getting them up to speed. It makes sense to keep ex-employees engaged in some way with the organisation through things like alumni groups or a newsletter. If you’ve invested in some online learning, perhaps offer them access too to it to upskill.
From a purely strategic level, these are the people who may go onto companies that could be fantastic collaborators or suppliers. Never burn those bridge!
For Those Left Behind
How you treat your people who are leaving you is going to be the make or break moment when it comes to engagement for the future. Everyone who is staying with you will be watching how you treat their ex-colleagues. Is it with dignity and compassion, or did you bumble your way through the consultation procedure? Were they neglected and abandoned long before the final pay check arrived, or did they still feel valued and wanted, if it were not for financial circumstances?
You can run as many future online lunch and learn sessions as you want, but you are being judged on your actions right now.
Don’t underestimate the impact that the redundancy process can have on those left behind. If they have been working in a close, well-knit team, they may be feeling survivor’s guilt. This is when people feel guilty that they’ve been spared, causing anxiety over why, potentially ruining relationships with ex-colleagues, and resulting in disengagement. If you have had to restructure, they could be working in a different team and looking back at their last team nostalgically, not to mention the fact that they may well have to juggle more work between them, to cover those that have left.
What can you do to help re-engage? Communication and consultation are key. Give them have a voice in how things are going to be going forward; let them feel part of the solution not the problem. Don’t think you can re-engage with them when the redundancies done and dusted; that communication needs to be kept up at all times.
Change the conversation. It’s natural that they are going to grieve for their colleagues and the old order and you don’t want to brush this under the carpet. At the same time, you need to be focusing on making the business as strong as possible, to safeguard it for the future. Lead the conversations to things that they can control and empower them that way.
Be sensitive to overworking them. Are there projects that can be dropped for the moment? Can someone junior take on more responsibility and upskill, taking some responsibilities from someone else? Can you reduce some outputs – a monthly newsletter instead of weekly, for instance?
Finally, ask them. What do they need from you to feel an important part of this new workplace?
Paula Gardner is founder of The Redundancy Recovery Hub where employers can place employees they are making redundant, allowing them access to articles, expert interviews, first person stories, psychology based tutorials and online coaching to help them get back into work or change direction after redundancy.