When the going is good, organisation structures within businesses expand exponentially and when cash flow begins to take a hit, businesses bend and flex. Companies begin to rein in the resources and redistribute them to take advantage of the opportunities that such pressures create. Yes, I am talking about redundancies and restructuring. How many of us want to make our staff redundant or how many of us know how to do it right? Not many.
In my opinion, redundancy and restructuring are in-fact great tools for businesses to use to build in responsiveness and flexibility. So, why do we perceive redundancies in a negative way when they help us survive, grow and even innovate? In 2008, one of the companies that I worked for was faced with a similar situation. I experienced first-hand that our ability to move resources within the business, to where they will do their best and also move some resources out of the company helped us avert the crisis, stay afloat and even flourish.
So how do the senior leaders and HR professionals responsible for reorganization, get it right?
Treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Simple and easy as it is. This is the most important lesson I learnt from the various reorganisation, restructuring and redundancies I was involved in. I have always followed a meticulous process for reorganisation.
Firstly, do it the ethical way:
Redundancies should not be seen as an easy option for the termination of non-performing employees. It should only be implemented where the role is no longer required. We should also ensure that we have looked at all options to reasonably redeploy the person within the business.
Second, ensure that we are as transparent as possible:
This works two ways, one is being transparent with the staff that is being let go off and the other is being transparent with the ones left behind. Valuable staff may leave an organisation in the wake of poorly handled redundancies. This is not what we want. On the other hand, a badly handled redundancy can cause significant psychological damage for the individual on the receiving end of the decision. If you don't break redundancy news in a compassionate manner and tell them why this is happening, you can make your staff member's transition more difficult, their notice period more awkward and your work environment more strained. As trust and transparency are key to a successful redundancy, we always held a Townhouse meeting with all the employees who survived to encourage open conversation.
Third, map out our conversation:
We should plan our conversation before talking to the employees, so we say what we need to in the best way possible. For example, saying "the role has been made redundant "not" you have been made redundant". Not only will this minimize the risks to the employment brand during transition, it can also prevent employees from thinking they have been personally rejected. During the individual meetings, we normally devoted an hour to each of those employees whose roles were made redundant to explain to them the reason for the redundancy, the package they would receive and importantly to go through the 5 Stages of Grief to help them through the transition along with going the extra mile to arrange for CV writing services, interviewing skills training and introductions to recruitment agencies within our circle.
Last but not the least, offer options to move ahead:
It is one thing to tell employees they are valued, it is quite another to show them. Work with recruitment agencies and HR coaches, who can show them the way forward. I remember that in 2008 while making employees redundant the company I worked for then offered CV writing services and interviewing skills training. By ending on a more positive note change can be seen as an opportunity, which can protect your employment brand over the long term.
It was satisfying to see the results after the redundancies; our company was better positioned for the future and the most encouraging outcome of this was that some of the employees whose roles were made redundant decided to follow their passion and turned entrepreneurs. The redundancy payout and the drop of cost to establish a business helped them get a fresh start and today they look at the "redundancy period" as a milestone in pursuit of their dreams.
So, redundancies, when done right is like pruning an overgrown flowering bush. Redirect the resources to make the business lean and productive. Replant the cuttings for them to flourish on their own.