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How can HR ease the redundancy process?

Job cuts and furlough have overwhelmed organisations and continue to do so in 2021, with retail being one of the industries hardest hit by these challenges.

Waves of redundancies began with the first lockdown in March 2020, and HR worked tirelessly to ensure the process was handled with care despite many more announcements continuing throughout the year.

Earlier this month, online fashion retailer Boohoo announced that it would be buying out Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis. As a result of the merger, an estimated 2,450 jobs will be lost.

Fellow online marketplace Asos has also bought Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands from the Arcadia Group without purchasing their brick and mortar stores, placing 13,000 jobs at risk.

With this news comes a mammoth task for all HR teams involved. So, how can HR best re-build employee trust after a merger?

HR must be a moral compass

Ian Moore, founder of HR Consultancy Lodge Court told HR magazine that when entering a period of redundancies as a result of a merger, keeping employee trust at the forefront of the process is vital.

He said: “The trust of an employee to the business is never more under pressure than during a time of redundancies. HR plays a pivotal role at these times to be the moral and legal compass of the organisation.”

Moore said that HR must show employees that it understands how disheartening the process can be.

“Demonstrating integrity and empathy towards those affected individuals will not only treat them with dignity, but also provide reassurance to the wider organisation who remain.

“How you treat those who leave directly impacts those who stay and their engagement and trust in the future,” he said.

HR must have status and gravitas

Martin Tiplady, CEO of Chameleon People Solutions, said that during a merger, HR must act efficiently and rationally with dignity and fairness to keep costs down.

Tiplady told HR magazine: “There is an inevitability about [acting efficiently] that people might understand and accept.

“There is no such inevitability about the latter - yet it is the way that organisations handle these things that is usually remembered and is the lasting impression both for those directly affected and for those left behind.”

Tiplady added: “HR needs to have status and gravitas to ensure that such matters are well handled, stand against demands to short circuit and cut loose and create a culture that breeds trust.”

Show emotion

Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at HR software company Employment Hero encouraged HR to show emotion during tough times.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “Having to tell someone that they’re impacted and that they are losing their job can be emotional.

“It makes you more real. It makes you more vulnerable and it makes them understand that you’re not wanting to have that conversation.”

Hattingh also encouraged HR to signpost employees to extra resources wherever possible.

She added: “If you have an employee assistance programme remind your team that they have access to it, and everything will remain confidential.

“You can also create an alumni community of the people who are experiencing redundancy. This is one way they can all support each other, because they are all experiencing the same feelings and are connected through the same company.”

Further reading:

What should HR know about mass redundancies?

The HR challenges of combining three brands into one

Back to life, back to (a new) reality: the workplace after furlough