At the moment, many people in the public sector are dealing with a redundancy process for the first time. In the past few weeks I have been talking to many HR professionals and operational managers in this situation, and have been reminded that it is not only the staff “at risk” who are deeply affected by what is going on.
So what can organisations do to support their managers during the challenging next few months?
1. Make sure managers are fully briefed
Clearly, the managers who are making the announcements and holding the initial meetings need to be fully briefed on the redundancy process. However, the operational managers and team leaders also need to know what is going on and when. They are in daily contact with their staff, and will inevitably be asked many difficult questions. They need to know the timings of announcements, press releases, meetings, issue of notices, consultations, union communication and all the other steps which are taken. Rumours flourish in a redundancy situation and misunderstandings can be very damaging. So make sure the managers all know exactly what is going on so their communication is clear and accurate.
2. Explain the bigger picture
Operational managers in the public sector have not made the decision that jobs need to be cut, and in many cases they may disagree with the strategy. This puts them in a very difficult position when they are dealing with their staff. Managers should, as far as possible, be given the bigger picture ie. the overall budget and targets, so that they can understand why certain decision have been made. This will help them explain the situation to their staff with confidence and conviction.
3. Know where to get further information
Once at risk notices have been issued, all staff will have plenty of questions. Managers need to know where they can direct staff to for further, specialised information. Staff will want to know about pensions, redeployment options and support in finding another job for example, so managers need to know where the staff can access this information.
4. Individual support for managers
Some managers will be anxious about the reaction of some of their team. They may be unsure how to deal with people who cry, get angry or make the situation personal. Ensure that there is someone that managers can talk to about their concerns, and help them plan and prepare for difficult conversations.
5. Keep an eye on business as usual
As well as dealing with redundancies and the consequences, managers are also having to provide services and meet targets. They need support while they adjust to their reduced resources. They will also require all their management skills to maintain the motivation in their team while the changes are taking place. Again, managers should have people they can talk to, to discuss their new challenges and how they can best provide services in the current situation.
The next few months are going to be very challenging for managers in the public sector. Senior management and HR can make the redundancy process easier by providing effective support for the managers on the front line.