Advanced People Strategies Friday, May 8, 2020

At the end of July, the Guardian reported that over 150,000 people lost their job through redundancy because of COVID 19.

A survey by the Charted Institute of Personal and Development (CIPD) confirmed that over 25% of employees expected to make redundancies over the coming months. With more than 9 million people still on the Government’s furlough scheme until October, many organisations are facing difficult choices ahead – potentially reducing costs through people and it’s likely such discussion are taking place right now to plan for such contingencies.

Understandably, the immediate focus tends to be on survival and immediate cost reduction but how organisations manage communication toward those affected and those left behind will test your stated values and impact longer term talent loyalty and engagement. How organisations handle redundancies will have a major impact on their reputation for years to come. So how can organisations live up to their values and build trust in these difficult times? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Show compassion, be supportive and explain why redundancies are needed. Emphasise that it is the role that is being made redundant and recognise the value and contribution of individuals impacted. As with many of us, people affected are likely to have families to support and bills to pay. Loss of earnings can impact the entire household. If they have been loyal to your organisation for many years, this will be a significant shock and finding an appropriate job may be daunting and challenging amongst so many others similarly affected. A survey by Live Careers confirmed that 57% of today’s newly unemployed were unable to list the skills that would help them get their new job!
  • What about the survivors? Will they see it as round 1 of a redundancy programme? Will they get extra workload? Will they lose key friends at work? Do they see the employer being fair and supporting people? They too will be feeling a range of emotions, worrying that at some stage their role may no longer be required or that they will be picking up additional work. They will be observing how their friends and colleagues are treated and supported.
  •  Communicate, Communicate and Communicate. During periods of change and transition, people will feel nervous and anxious. As we have learnt through COVID 19, regular, open and honest communications can help foster employee engagement. You don’t have to know all the answers. Remember, where there is a lack of communication, human nature is that people will start to make assumptions and rumours will start.

Lastly, in these difficult times, by treating employees fairly, with respect and dignity, as the economy recovers, your organisations reputation and the trust that you will have built will help you attract and retain future talent. And maybe some of those highly skilled employees who were made redundant will look to return!