Managing redundancies in the workplace

Managing redundancies in the workplace

Already this year the resources sector has been hit with the unfortunate position of having to deal with redundancies.

Kirsty Danby from Platform Communications shares her advice on how best to manage redundancies in your workplace.

Just one month into 2016 a number of resource companies have announced they are having to let staff go including Consolidated Minerals, Shaw River Manganese and Chevron.

It’s a situation also affecting those outside the resources sector with Western Australia’s South Metropolitan Health Service set to pare back its workforce by more than 1,000.

Making redundancies is not easy, and never a preferable situation. In saying that, as business owners and operators there is an understanding that sometimes it needs to be done to ensure the future viability of the business.

If you are in the position of contemplating redundancies the first thing to ensure is that you are correctly assessing the need for redundancies as set out by law. This includes assessing that:

  • The role in its current form is no longer required to be worked by any one person within the business;
  • You have looked at all the options to reasonably redeploy the person within the business taking into account their skills and experience; and
  • You have met all contractual and consultation obligations in the contract of employment, National Employment Standards and any Awards or Enterprise Agreement that the person is covered by.

Once the legalities are confirmed, the best practice communication tips set out below should be followed both when communicating redundancies to the person affected and to the wider team.

1. Be transparent and consistent with your communication

It’s important to give as much information as possible and be careful about how you choose to communicate redundancies. As discussed by HC Online, there’s a big difference between “we’re not considering layoffs” and “we’re not considering layoffs at this time”.

Being able to help staff understand why people were made redundant will help reassure remaining staff that there was a reason behind each decision and reduce “survivor guilt”.

2. Do your best to remove uncertainty

If layoffs are made in one go then there is less uncertainty for employees. If uncertainty persists your most valuable staff may start polishing up their resumes.

3. Be good to those who are leaving

Supporting staff through a redundancy with outplacement services, counselling and severance packages will help their experience but also how remaining staff see the employer.

4. Think about how to support those remaining and encourage optimism and productivity.

Redundancies can have a big impact on those remaining including emotional contagion with respect to negative emotions and uncertainty about the future (See HC Online). Help restore motivation with strategies to increase employee engagement, morale and commitment.

Having the conversation with someone who is being made redundant will be one of the hardest things a business owner has to do.

It’s important to have a plan, possibly even a script, and being prepared for all possible reactions. Keep the meeting short and don’t engage in small talk, be consistent and confirm the decision is final. Emphasize that the role and not the person is being made redundant. Explanations should consist of three points;

  1. Why the redundancy is happening.
  2. What the consequences are for the staff member (e.g redundancy package, notice period).
  3. What the immediate next steps are.

It’s important to realise that while you can’t be sure of someone’s reaction, you need to be prepared for how you will respond to a range of reactions. No matter whether you’re faced with shock and denial, distress, anger and hostility, bargaining, relief or acceptance, the important things are to:

  • Give people time to process the information
  • Refrain from overloading them with information
  • Recognise that silence and tears are ok
  • Ensure understanding
  • Avoid being drawn into apologising or offering false hope, blaming anyone or suggesting you know how the person feels
  • Avoid justifying the situation
  • Avoid bargaining or arguing – stress that all possible avenues for alternatives were investigated by the business and that the decision was not made lightly but it is final.
  • Look for opportunities to direct people towards the supports that are available to them.

Making redundancies is never easy. However, if the process is managed carefully and communicated clearly the outcomes are likely to be much better – for everyone.