Redundancy is no excuse to treat your employees badly

Written by
Changeboard Team

20 Jul 2010

20 Jul 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Should career transition support be compulsory?

While private sector companies have become regular users of career transition services in the redundancy process, the public sector has yet to grasp the full Benefits of these. And with the recently announced record spending cuts, it seems that the public sector HR teams will need to learn fast.

They need to realise that providing career transition support, such as outplacement, career guidance, CV and interview advice, offers several important Benefits to an organisation and can alleviate some of the stress experienced by their staff.

Offering them practical help to find another job quickly could save the government purse in the long term.

According to recent research conducted by Hays, both employers and employees in the public sector are calling for career transition services to be a compulsory part of all redundancies. A total of 85% of public sector workers believe this kind of support should be mandatory, and over half of employers agree. Just over 70% of employers go as far as to say the government should offer funding to support them in providing this.

Employers to invest in career transition support?

Dean Shoesmith, executive head of human resources at the London Boroughs of Sutton and Merton, has told us: Appropriate career transition services and outplacement are important as they support employees who are redundant to regain confidence, deal with significant change and the associated emotional issues this raises, as well as enabling them to consider the right future alternative.

"They also help keep employee engagement levels high, as people who remain with the organisation can see that colleagues who are leaving are provided with appropriate advice and guidance. Outplacement provides practical support such as career counselling, CV writing, or interview skills.

Ann Armstrong, HR and training manager at bpha, a provider of affordable homes, also believes that in the current climate organisations have to be ready to support their employees through this period of change, which might involve redundancies, and it is important to support everyone who might be affected by this.

We have a very low turnover and many staff have been with us a long time it might be difficult for them to go to an interview as they havent practiced these useful skills for many years. Its crucial we help them regain confidence by supporting them with preparing CVs and developing interview skills. We invest in our people and their learning & development and we want them to move on from bpha with confidence and for us to retain our reputation as a good employer in the region.

Practitioners views are supported by Hays' research findings. The overwhelming advantage of career transition services for employers is the protection of the employer brand; over 60% reported the greatest benefit is ensuring staff leave on favourable terms. Career transition services can work by helping employees regain their confidence and find a new job, both of which were cited twice as often as CV or career path advice. This is crucial, because on their side, employees identified the feeling of failure (39%) as the biggest impact of redundancy, beside the obvious financial worries.

Whats the reality?

Despite the clear Benefits of career transition support, 73% of employees reported no support from employers when being made redundant. Some of the main reasons employers have not used career transition services in the past has been a lack of internal resource to organise this (44%) and because it is not seen as important by management (40%). Support that has been offered has been left to in-house HR teams to carry out.

The Benefits of external outplacement support are numerous. It leaves those involved in implementing the redundancies free to concentrate on the future of the business as well as ensuring day-to-day productivity during the project.

HR staff often face pressure from their colleagues during periods when redundancies are taking place, so the presence of an objective and independent support can be crucial. Working with a career transition services provider also gives affected employees an unbiased ear someone whos focused on helping them to achieve their objectives and who has the relevant information and advice at their fingertips.

What are the pitfalls to avoid?

There are common some pitfalls to avoid when handling redundancies. Career transition support is frequently seen as a distress purchase and appointing a supplier is often left until the last minute, but choosing the right provider has to be a well thought through process, which is why some degree of planning in advance is desirable. Think about your objectives and needs of your employees. The problem with existing services is they often only go so far and concentrate on the psychological aspects of redundancy. Whilst this is important, the employees we surveyed told us that the one area they really wanted help is finding a job, which is why the most effective transition support is linked to recruitment and the practical aspects of searching for a new role.

Organisations often call for help too late. Involving the career transition services provider at the early stages of the process will help it to gain a good understanding of your organisational culture.

Early involvement means that trust is developed, which increases confidence in the process and helps to 'sell' the service to the affected staff.

A common misperception is that career transition services are one size fits all, but good providers understand that different companies have different needs and offer bespoke packages. Perhaps your employees would just benefit from an interactive online solution that guides them through aspects like CVs and interviews in their own time?

Dont disregard the importance of communication

  • Give the redundant employees information that informs them of their entitlement to the services and what this entails.
  • Encourage employees to make use of news updates and newsletters which are a good way of keeping everyone informed of whats on offer, they help to ensure that people are kept engaged throughout the process.
  • Ensure that the success stories about people who have left are fed back to the remaining employees, this helps them to hear about the level of activity and support that leavers are receiving and there will be good news to communicate.

Why should you focus on retained staff?

There is also the risk that while you are focusing on the leavers staff who are staying are neglected and the very group on which the future of your organisation depends can become disillusioned. The survivors may understand the need for redundancies but be shocked by the way it is announced and handled.

In the short term, productivity may increase and absenteeism reduced because they feel insecure. But this cannot be sustained and the emotional reaction of survivors can lead to changes in behaviour that negatively affect the companys productivity in the long term. What survivors need is reassurance and opportunities to participate in shaping the organisations future.

You must respond to their fears with clear objectives that will have been drawn up well in advance of the downsizing operation. Seeing managers engaging with staff in the workplace will help survivors to rebuild trust and appreciate that those at the top do value the workforce. If staff are to feel secure, the company needs to show that it is prepared to invest in its surviving workforce through training and development.

Duty to staff

With a difficult year and the prospect of more job cuts in the public sector, its critical that HR teams in the public sector take the opportunity to ensure redundancies are handled properly. A way to help this issue would be for the Government to encourage organisations to use services which make sure that any employees who experience redundancy are supported in the process of finding a new job, thereby keeping them in employment and saving the public purse in the long term.

We have a duty to staff being made redundant if we dont fulfil it, employers will struggle to attract talented and skilled people in the future - the kind of people who will be needed to make the large scale changes that lie ahead happen.

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