Making staff redundant is never going to be enjoyable. Handling the situation sensitively and professionally helps to weather the storm and make the parting amicable.
Try to avoid making redundancies during holidays as this can be particularly stressful for those being laid off. Consider the personal circumstances of the employee being laid off – if they have a child of school-age then they may need extra money just before term starts. Monday morning is also a bad time to make redundancies as they have the rest of the week to stew on the information. Instead, break the news on a Friday afternoon or closer to mid-week in order to soften the blow.
Objective and fair decisions
Since redundancies are made for financial reasons, it’s important the employees you choose to make redundant are chosen objectively and fairly. Favouritism is generally easy to spot, and you’ll create considerable bad will in your business if you make arbitrary decisions on who gets to stay and who gets to leave. Explain why decisions have been made and ensure all employees understand that these decisions had to be made.
Provide outplacement support
Ex-workers find it difficult to market themselves after being out of practice for so long. Provide support to employees being made redundant, whether by using your industry contacts to find available positions, following up on reference requests quickly or by giving them access to training materials that you have spare. You may also be able to support them via freelance work when necessary to tide them over until they can find a new job.
Ensure managers are trained to handle redundancies in the most effective manner. As ‘on the ground representatives,’ pressure will inevitably come on middle management to weather the storm and ensure the redundancies run as smoothly as possible. Without adequate training and the ability to deal effectively with different emotions, managers may make things worse rather than better. Ensure sufficient training and advice is given. Remember to be sympathetic towards managers as well; telling colleagues they are being made redundant can be very taxing.
However sympathetically you handle redundancies, it can be difficult to completely avoid fallout. Before you make redundancies, consider whether there are any alternative options which would either reduce the number of people you need to let go or avoid it entirely. Recruiting and training a staff member is extremely expensive, so if you find after you’ve made redundancies that you need to hire again you may find yourself in an even worse position financially. Job shares, pay freezes, voluntary redundancy and unpaid holidays are modern ways of dealing with cash crises that help to preserve goodwill and reduce bad feeling.
Provide support to ‘survivors’
Research has shown that surviving a redundancy drive can be very emotionally draining, with employees typically going through several emotional stages that range from relief to guilt and anxiety. Ensure bridges are re-built following redundancies and that workers are given the chance to get issues off their chests. Don’t make the redundancies a taboo subject; they were necessary business decisions and should be treated as such. Offer counselling if required.