It is not a shocking fact that many companies are facing an urgent need to reduce their workforce as clients, customers and suppliers along the supply chain are taking the decision to downsize, or because demand for products and services is continuing to fall.  

Redundancies are one answer but you need to ensure that the entire process is carried out in a professional and appropriate way. However, we are finding that in the strange and unpredictable circumstances of this recession, businesses are willing to consider other options.

It is worth considering controlling overheads and limiting resources without permanently reducing the workforce. If you are finding it difficult to plan ahead, some of these ideas might be worth exploring:  

  • Take steps to eliminate overtime.
  • Reduce the working week.
  • Reduce working hours each day.
  • Freeze or reduce pay for all staff.
  • Promote job sharing arrangements.
  • Identify and encourage secondment opportunities.
  • Agree sabbaticals with senior staff.
  • Negotiate reduced benefit packages.  

Many of these steps involve changes to terms and conditions of employment and therefore have to be taken carefully, but we are finding that managers are prepared to consider imaginative ways of getting the businesses they work for through the current crisis.  

If redundancies have to be part of your strategy, you may need extra support and resource from people who have been through it all before. Many small to medium sized organisations have little or no experience of managing a redundancy programme and are concerned about falling foul of the legal requirements. We can help you with this, but also with the practical consequences of a redundancy programme for all concerned.  

Essential advice for managers  

Su Makin heads up the Cobbetts HR Consultancy Service and works closely with clients guiding and supporting them on a very practical level through the many ‘people issues’ they face in a redundancy situation.  

Clients do not necessarily have huge resources when it comes to managing a redundancy situation and the focus of the consultancy service is to utilise the practical resources available in order to help and support their staff. There are always lots of ways to help whether it is on a professional, practical or personal level.  

The following advice is essential to managers currently facing the prospect of redundancies:  

Listen  

Encourage employees to talk to you or a member of the team about how the situation is affecting them. People will go through various stages of emotion, shock, anger, disbelief and denial. Listening to their worries and concerns will help you to ensure as a manager you provide the most appropriate help, support and guidance and will help the individual deal with their worries and concerns and make appropriate decisions.  

Provide financial information

For some employees redundancy may be an opportunity to change direction or lifestyle but for many, particularly in the current economic climate, it can crystallize a number of problems, for example, financial repayment of credit or with their personal relationships. In this respect it is important for a manager to be able to give some answers to immediate questions.  

If I volunteer for redundancy will I be entitled to claim benefits? Will my protection insurance on my mortgage be paid?  

Provide job information

Provide as much information on other job opportunities by using your contacts in the market place, speaking to appropriate agencies, and setting up a direct link with the agency for redundant employees.  

The Job Centre won’t be willing to come to your premises if less than 100 employees are leaving but they will provide general guidance and leaflets about what individuals can expect when contacting them for the first time and what information employees will need to have available when they call.  

This is information which employees need to know and proactively providing this information by putting it together in a helpful pack will reassure them that help and support is also available to them outside the organisation.  

Help people apply for jobs  

Many employees faced with redundancy are concerned about how they are going to secure another job. Help your employees to write letters, complete application forms or update their CVs.  

Make sure any certificates of qualification they have gained during their employment with you are available to them. Offer practical support on how to get through an interview, suggest the types of questions they might expect to be asked and provide guidance on how to answer each one in the most effective and positive way. You could also offer to go through a mock interview.

Support your managers  

Managers are often forgotten in terms of support for them during and after a redundancy programme. It is a stressful time for everyone including those who have to conduct the process. If there are several managers involved in the process talk to each other throughout but more importantly provide the opportunity for managers to share their experiences afterwards and discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well and what can be learnt.