Delivering redundancies

How a redundancy is delivered has a profound impact on your culture, employment brand, staff retention, performance and productivity.  

I have a friend who is being made redundant. She came to me for support and advice saying that there has been no transparency about the restructure ahead. 10% of the conversation was focused on the structural changes (driven by my questioning) and 90% of the conversation was focused on how the process could have been more transparent, empowering and respectful. My friend understands why the changes need to occur but the way in which it is being delivered is overshadowing the facts.  Redundancies are incredibly common these days and no longer a black mark against your career. Strategically and financially they can make a lot of business sense in the long run.

 However the process in which a redundancy is delivered will have a profound impact on culture, your employment brand, retention, performance and productivity.    

Treating employees as adults, with respect and honesty reduces the ambiguity which often leads to unease, fear and gossip. Ambiguity leads to organisational messages being received sceptically and assessed negatively which employees share with the people around them (imagine the impact on your culture and employment brand - Ouch!)I have delivered redundancies and I was made redundant when I was six weeks pregnant. My manager didn’t say the words so I had to say it for her… “what you are telling me is that my position is being made redundant… is that correct?” There is no doubt redundancies place people in a vulnerable position which can take time to overcome, regroup and push through. As HR people and business leaders it is not only our job to deliver ‘hard messages’ compassionately and respectfully but it is strategically important. How your employee exits your organisation will have a profound impact on the abovementioned topics and their health and wellbeing. 

Here are some pointers:

  • Know your obligations: The Fair Work Act has strict employer obligations which need to be met. 
  • Leadership: Business leaders are best positioned to communicate with staff. Ensure they are empowered to understand the changes and communicate consistently with conviction. 
  • Plan Plan Plan: Consider all changes from the employee perspective and have consistent and clear responses to ‘hard questions’ –33 trust me they will be asked. 
  • Know the process: What will happen at each step of the change program?
  • Develop communications in advance: Develop scripts, staff communications (including to unaffected staff), timeframes and options with as much detail as possible in advance. 
  • Delivering Redundancies: Clarify processes, redeployment options, severance pay and support services upfront so employees can make an educated decision about their future.  
  • Quick Delivery: Delaying the process allows for ambiguity and gossip resulting in unease and fear. 
  • Support and Respect: Offer independent and professional transition services and ask the employee how they would like to say goodbye to their colleagues (drinks, lunch or nothing at all).

If you pull one string in the HR web it will pull another. The way in which ‘hard messages’ are delivered is often the difference between an average outcome, an accepted outcome or an outcome that enables both the employee and employer to move forward.