· 3 min read · Features

Masterclass: Redundancies without tears

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Morale and motivation are bound to be damaged by redundancies but if handled with care the worst effects can be mitigated, keeping the employer brand intact.

Nobody likes to make people redundant but most will have to do it atsome point. Markets change, products move on and new ways of workingemerge. But while redundancies are bound to have an adverse effect onmorale, motivation and productivity, you can lessen the blow byfollowing some simple steps.

BEFORE - BE PREPARED

Planning is crucial. Get your documentation right and be sure of thelegal framework. As well as a fair selection process, you must arrange aperiod of individual consultation prior to the implementation ofredundancies. This provides an early opportunity for all concerned toexplore the options. Train your managers to handle redundancy withsympathy and clarity. Ensure they know where to go for advice andsupport. Clumsy handling of a redundancy situation is bad for businessand your company's long-term reputation.

Redundancy has an impact on the whole organisation. Those left behindare vulnerable. Identify leaders within your workforce, bring them inearly and get them on side to help communicate your message. Explain thebenefits of the downsizing and let those who remain know what's in itfor them. You are more likely to come out of the exercise with apositive workforce if you communicate efffectively.

See also www.cipd.co.uk

DURING - GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS

Breaking the news needs firmness, empathy and compassion. Combine formalannouncements with written confirmation. Give careful consideration tothe venue, timing and delivery of the announcement. Make sure securityis briefed and think about the mechanics of getting people in and out ofmeeting rooms. Handle dismissals with sensitivity. If you are too bluntthose being made redundant will be hurt, and those left behind will feeldemoralised. Make your message clear, cut to the chase and don't eversay: 'I know how you feel', since you don't. We all reactdifferently.

Deal with facts, not opinions. It's often crucial to those losing theirjobs that their departure is announced in a way that does not damagetheir pride or reputation. How this is handled will shape perceptions offairness among colleagues. Don't forget isolated groups - for example,those on nightshift, maintenance or sales employees working away frombase, operating largely from home and in remote locations, or part-timestaff.

See also www.acas.org.uk

www.berr.gov.uk

www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk

AFTER - PROVIDE SUPPORT

Be aware of the personal circumstances of the staff affected. If yourcolleague has a terminally sick spouse, perhaps now is not the time toaddress the issue of redundancy. Some employees will have specialdifficulties to contend with and, where practicable, you should considercases of hardship and, if possible, seek ways of helping.

Career counselling can dramatically affect how individuals approach anew career. People's identities are often built around what they do andthe role this gives them in life. Counsellors help them adjust to theemotional and practical upheaval in their lives. Allow staff time forinterviews and retraining. Tailor support to staff needs and havetrained people available to do that explaining and reassuring - andexplaining again. A well-designed support programme reassures thosewhose jobs are not affected that the organisation is prepared to lookafter redundant employees well.

Those who survive the redundancy round may be affected by lower levelsof morale, lack of enthusiasm and sceptism about their future in thebusiness. Manage that uncertainty. Keep everyone informed, whether theyare going or staying. This will help you to maintain productivity andprotect your employer brand.

See also www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk

Rebuilding Your Life After Redundancy by Janet Davies, Arima

FOCUS ON THE LAW

An employer is obliged to consider whether suitable alternativevacancies exist within the company or the group. Make active efforts toascertain what vacancies, if any exist. Even where a job might beunsuitable, the position should still be suggested. Never assume thatemployees will not work different hours, accept a different paystructure or different work. Consider your investment in hiring andtraining these people. Treat them like assets, and try to findalternative roles if you possibly can.

Consultation should begin as soon as possible and must be completedbefore any redundancy notices are issued. During the consultationinterview explain why redundancy is necessary and how the selectionprocess works. You must be honest and absolutely clear about what ishappening. Research shows that we only remember one-third of what we aretold in a meeting or presentation. Be prepared to explain andre-explain.

See also Understanding Employment Relations by Derek Rollinson and TonyDundon, McGraw-Hill.