Delivering redundancy news to employees will never be an easy or enjoyable task. We are all humans, and all have emotions and an innate capacity to empathise for others. If you have chosen a career in HR, it is however, inevitable that at some point you will have to deliver the news of redundancy to an employee or even multiple employees. Redundancies are part of the natural cycle of most organisations. There are of course various legal procedures and regulations to follow when redundancies occur and these differ across the globe. It is extremely important that these are adhered to. Human Resource departments are ultimately responsible for ensuring the organisation is fulfilling its obligation as an employer.
In this article however, our focus is on preparing yourself emotionally for delivering redundancy news to employees.
The first thing to remember is that redundancies are the result of a strategic business decision. The decision has the best interest of the business, but also the employees. For example, we worked with an apparel company across the US and Canada. They had to adapt their business to an online-focused distribution model to keep up with the fast-changing retail industry. This decision affected 100’s of employees. However, to not make this difficult decision would have ultimately resulted in a far more detrimental outcome, which would most likely affect far more employees. [Read the full case study here] Understanding why the decision has been made to go down the redundancy route will help you to be objective and professional.
Everyone wants to be valued, needed and successful in their job. Although it is an extremely emotional time for anyone going through a redundancy, it does provide the employee with an opportunity to move into a role that is valuable to another organisation. Their sense of fulfilment and value will ultimately increase.
Planning & Preparation
It is so important to fully prepare for the meeting. As mentioned above, get to know and understand why this decision has been made. Furthermore, if you have the opportunity, find out about the employee’s personal circumstances, do they have support outside of the workplace?
Having a clear communication plan is key. The employee must understand fully what is happening, the reason(s) why, and what the process from this point on it. Your role is to ensure the employee being transitioned feels supported, well looked after and understands what they can expect. Depending on your location will depend on the legal process you will be required to follow. In some countries, there is no legal framework in place, and in others, it is very complicated. It is imperative that you have spoken to a legal representative or a professional who understands the ins and outs of your legal requirements.
Compassion & Professionalism
You are equipped with the knowledge you need. Now you must ensure that the employee receives the compassion and dignity they deserve. Ensure you chose a private setting away from other employees. Do not deliver the news 30 minutes before they are chairing a meeting, or welcoming a guest. Make sure there is water, pen, and paper, and anything else you can anticipate them needing readily available.
Receiving the news that your role is no longer needed can be very upsetting. As the person giving the news, you must be aware that their reaction is unpredictable. Some people might cry, get angry, or blame themselves. Others might not be interested and switch off making it difficult for you to be able to judge their understanding. Others may be relieved. You must be emotionally prepared to deal with any reaction they might have. You must remain factual and supportive to their needs.
Your role is a complex one. You are juggling 3-key responsibilities: the transitioning employee’s experience, the organisation’s reputation and the management of the employees’ expectations who are to remain in the business.
The transitioned employee requires a strong HR representative who has pre-empted their questions, knows their rights and understands the emotional journey they now must embark. It is tricky to support an employee exiting the company, whilst simultaneously retaining the reputation of the company to attract top talent. Many HR departments provide outplacement services to employees. Usually conducted by an external provider, outplacement programmes can be offered to employees to help them through this difficult time.
By providing outplacement services, you are providing the employee with great resources and support and ensuring they are looked after and given the best chance of finding a suitable next role. This in turn will help to retain the businesses good reputation as an employer that people want to work for. All employees are brand ambassadors. The treatment an employee receives at any point in their lifecycle in the company influences the story they build and relay.
The Office Grapevine
Word will soon circulate within an office environment about any redundancies occurring. It is important to communicate with the remaining workforce so they too understand the changes within the business. Whenever redundancies occur, people naturally feel a level of uncertainty. It is the job of the HR team to ease their worries, to encourage productivity and retain their loyalty to the company.
It may get easier delivering redundancy news to employees the more times you have to do it, but it will not ever be a part of your job role you will enjoy or not find challenging on some level. You should receive support and additional training from your company. Better still, have access to professional outplacement providers who will not only provide programmes for transitioning employees, but will support HR teams as well.