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Sensitively managing redundancy

Bev White

Bev White, Managing Director, Penna Career Services offers advice on how to manage redundancy in a sensitive way

With the broader economic outlook cloudy with sunny breaks as we move into 2016, it is likely that companies will continue to flex and bend, restructuring and downsizing, in accordance with market conditions.

The process of rightsizing a business comes down to cold, hard facts and figures but the outcome is quite the opposite – emotionally charged and challenging at a very human level. Most recently we’ve seen this in the steel industry, with plants closing and thousands of jobs lost as a result – leaving many employees in the lurch about where to find their next job.

For any ethically run business, the senior management team has a duty to keep the workforce well-informed about strategic decisions that will impact on personal futures. And when those decisions amount to redundancies it is absolutely imperative – for the sake of ongoing productivity levels, reputational management and simple human decency – that companies behave responsibly and look after those individuals who will no longer have a role to play in taking the business forward.

Redundancy is a heavy word. It brings to mind images of dead-ends and darkness. However, the reality is often a very different story - one of new beginnings, opportunity and greater job satisfaction. It’s a matter of reprogramming the brain to think about redundancy more positively, as both an employer and an employee – which can be especially difficult at this time of year. With Christmas coming, there are additional pressures on the household purse strings to worry about, as well as the emotional pressures to present a jovial front to your dependents.

On a practical level, organisations should be offering employee’s support that will empower those leaving your ranks to swiftly open another door professionally. The goal in offering such support is to allow people to come out the other side of redundancy, relatively unscathed and hopefully even rejuvenated, with a bright new personal horizon. 

But what does this support look like? Individuals should be given the opportunity to explore their strengths and understand what development they may need in the future, to progress in their next role. It might even mean supporting employees to discuss other opportunities, in different sectors, where their skills would be beneficial to a new industry. Beyond career discussions, support should also be given in the form of CV support, especially for those who have been employed by your organisation for some time, and even guidance on what today’s job market looks like.

The digital revolution has brought great change in the realms of recruitment – the death of newspaper job ads, the birth of social media job postings and new and highly sophisticated data-driven candidate targeting and job search processes. You should be asking questions to those being made redundant like: Are you on LinkedIn? Are you following companies you want to work for on Twitter? Are you including key search words in your CV? Would you know how to handle an interview in virtual reality?

The general conversation around human resources has also moved on in recent years to become more strategic – away from terms like personnel, timecards, annual reviews towards those such as talent management, succession planning, identifying potential, employee engagement, and the drivers of attraction and retention. This means that the same bottom line considerations that resulted in redundancies will also inform recruitment decisions. Organisations owe it to the employees they are letting go to strongly recommend that they start thinking about job hunting with this broad business mindset rather than focusing on the specific purpose of the role they are applying for.

Today’s savvy job hunter needs to think of themselves as a commodity and go into any interview with a business case for why they should be hired. Of course, personality, soft skills and organisational fit are key selling points to supplement technical expertise and relevant experience.

With all these things in mind, redundancy can be a chance to supercharge careers and existing employers can provide the fuel.

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