How to minimise stress during a programme of redundancies

Speaking to clients recently, the challenge of how to minimise stress during a programme of redundancies came up several times. Here are some steps which can be taken to reduce stress, and the key words are honesty, transparency and consistency.

For the purposes of this article I am assuming that you have already taken the following three steps:-

a)      explored what can be done instead of making redundancies such as natural wastage, stopping/reducing overtime, offering early retirement (subject to age discrimination law), sabbaticals and secondments to volunteers etc, and communicated this process openly to all staff

b)      you have the redundancy procedure in place and it complies with all the employment law requirements (for specific advice, see below)*

c)      that your selection criteria can be seen to be fair and consistent (for specific advice, see below)*

So, having taken the above steps how can you implement the programme in a way that minimises stress, and so lessens damage to productivity and the reputation of the business?

There are three main groups of people involved in redundancies, and all have different issues and needs – staff who will lose their jobs, staff who are staying and the managers who will carry out the process. Senior managers should be aware of these different groups and treat each appropriately.

Effective communication is a vital part of any business, and during a redundancy programme, it is particularly important. Clear, regular communication is required, in language that the recipients can easily understand.

Communication methods obviously vary from business to business, and you will have to find what works best for you. My recommendation is to ask the staff! How do they want to receive communications? How often do they want up-dates, meetings or briefings? Find a way that works for your business.

Being honest with your staff to me goes without saying. However, I have seen cases where this has not happened, and trust is very quickly lost. Your employees are not stupid, and they know if you are being less than straight with them. For instance I see some businesses carry out staff consultations about various matters, when the decisions have already been made. Don’t do it! Only ask the staff for their ideas and opinions if you are in a position to act on them.

Senior managers and directors must present a united front during this time. They need to be well briefed and prepared to provide a full and consistent explanation of the situation to all levels of staff. It is also important that they know what information is available for discussion and when, so that the integrity of the programme is maintained.

Line managers are critical to the process as they are dealing with the informal and personal communication on a daily basis. Managers need to be given time to walk through their departments and spend time answering questions. They will find themselves repeating the message over and over, and need to be prepared to do this.

Staff who are leaving must to be treated with respect throughout the process. The business should ensure that there is a proper goodbye to those leaving, preferably with personal conversations and thanks from managers. If senior managers are available with some warm-words and handshakes, then all the better. All of this does take time, as the staff who are staying will see how their colleagues are being treated, and are more likely to retain their trust and respect for the business.

Provision of support to staff leaving is money well spent. This will help these staff feel valued and less hostile towards the business, thus avoiding any disruptive behaviour and actions. CLAssociates provides this support.

Staff who are staying need re-assurance and an understanding of the decisions which have been made. They need to be clear about what is expected of them in the future, especially where jobs roles and responsibilities are changing. Training needs may be reviewed.

Difficult conversations will be everyday occurrences for managers and they should be able to have these with sympathy and clarity. Training and 1-2-1 support for the managers is imperative. Providing independent support allows managers to express their own personal concerns, raise issues, explore their emotions with someone completely non-judgemental and removed from the business. CLAssociates provides this support.

So redundancies need not create so much stress, putting the above steps in place will be good for business in the long run.

Specialist HR Advice

If you would like specific advice on how to implement a redundancy programme from an employment law perspective, CLAssociates works with a network of HR specialists including the following who are happy to discuss your situation. Please contact any of the following directly:-

Rosemary Green – tel: 01553 829883, www.rosemarygreen.com info@rosemarygreen.com (King’s Lynn)

Hannah Breen – tel: 08456 809647, www.your-potential.co.uk hannah.breen@your-potential.co.uk (Bury St Edmunds)

Karen Woodbridgewww.hornetsolutions.com karen@hornetsolutions.com (Ipswich)

Kerry McGowan – 07970 489321 www.birchanger-hr.co.uk, kerry.mcgowan@birchanger-hr.co.uk (Bishop’s Stortford)

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.

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