Mass redundancies can be hugely stressful for everyone, not least the HR department or people professional handling the redundancy exercise. However, that being said, there are a few key processes that, if followed carefully, can streamline the procedure substantially and make the very difficult task of dealing with a mass redundancy, slightly less painful.
Here is our advice for HR consultants and people professionals to help them deal with mass redundancies.
Understand the objective
In the first instance, the key is to understand what the objective of this redundancy exercise is. And that’s both in the short term and longer term too. Is it to make the organisation more viable? Is it to cut costs? Very often businesses can rush into redundancy measures without fully understanding the many options and alternatives that are available to them. This could include voluntary early retirement, ill health retirement, renegotiating terms and conditions and much more.
Consider all the options carefully and make the senior team aware if there could be alternative options. Once you understand the objective, you’ll need to make sure the business plan regarding the redundancy program is 100% robust and also that HR have had eyes on it before its signed off. You may well spot something that is missing in the plan and this is the time to feed into it.
When it comes to explaining the objectives of the exercise, try to assume that people know nothing about the process and work from there on communication. Make sure the teams who need to know about the process are fully up to speed (and are aware of what they can and can’t do with that information) and then when you do release more information, always make sure you do so in an ordered and planned approach. Don’t rush anything.
Remember redundancy might not be the only answer. Have you considered the alternatives? For instance, there may well be temporary solutions that employees are willing to endure to avoid redundancies. These could include; reduced hours, pay cuts, redeployment etc. Remember, if you work in HR, you are the expert and need to make sure you are taking the lead by providing a full range of options available and then presenting them to the senior team.
Avoid launching into any process without taking a step back and planning it out very carefully. Consider the following; What are the legal implications? What are the group consultation requirements – 30 days or 45 days. Can you build in any training for line managers into this period? This is an important management experience for them, and they will need very clear briefings and support throughout the process.
When it comes to doing your due diligence, don’t try to do everything yourself and if you need help or advice, try to ask for it early on. It can be tempting to try and advise on anything that comes up, but where required and if you are out of your comfort zone, involve other experts. Employment lawyers are the obvious choice, but so too are HR experts, mediators, trainers, and psychologists.
Timelines and knowing who does what
We would always suggest working backwards from the timeliness and building in a contingency wherever possible. Detailed timetable planning and building in contingency are ever so important. Where possible, try to front load and have template letters ready and approved in advance. This process is going to be stressful enough already, you don’t want any last-minute surprises.
When considering your timelines also make sure you know who does what and when. Make sure all relevant and appropriate stakeholders have been consulted as part of the process. There is nothing worse than IT not knowing what’s going on and then the IT department being unable to cope with closing down everyone’s accounts on the day. Understanding who needs to know and when is all part of the upfront planning and timeline strategy.
Don’t be tempted to do 1-2-1’s with staff instead of managers or chair Employee Rep/TU group meetings yourself. Get a Director to do this and make sure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities in the process.
Finally, don’t forget to think about you too! If the role of HR is also going to be caught up in the exercise, then your own anxiety can be extra heightened. This means that it can be hard to think objectively. If this is the case, you will need to make sure that you obtain the support you need too, such as outplacement or career coaching support or an external debrief with an Independent Consultant.
Going through a mass redundancy as a HR professional can be hugely stressful for everyone and especially you. Remember that you are not invincible and be clear with yourself about what your boundaries are, what support you need and what can be achieved in the
timelines you have. Now is the time to ask for help when you need it, delegate to avoid overwhelm, practice self-care and don’t forget to delve into your resilience stores.