Three Lessons to Learn from the Past to Soften the Blow of Redundancy

 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

 

Economies all over the world are contracting at an unprecedented level. The latest report from the UN predicts that as many as 1.6 bln people around the globe might lose their livelihood. People are anxious and concerned. Many have lost their jobs already. Times like these make it really difficult for many to put things into perspective and pause before jumping into action.

Pause and reflection, however, might be the best business strategy right now, especially if you have to fire people.

 

A little bit more than ten years ago we had another crisis, one that seemed impossible to deal with at the time. This one was very personal to me as I lost my job in the financial sector and witnessed so many other incredibly talented, loyal, high performing people losing theirs. A little bit more than fifteen years before that, the Soviet Union collapsed and that brought upheaval to my birth country, that seemed to have no end in sight at the time. One certain lesson from all of this – every crisis, no matter how big, will pass.

Lithuania have done incredibly well since becoming an independent country and most of my past colleagues, who lost their jobs in the financial crash in the UK, now have fulfilling and successful careers. What stays with you, however, is how the change was handled. And this is precisely the reason why people in charge of handling this change need to pause. We have so much history behind us of different crises that we can and should learn from.

Speaking to a number of people who have gone through the process of redundancy, it is clear that three main areas of impact need to be considered thoroughly, when you need to let go of your people.

 

Communication

It seems so obvious. I am sure, no one finds this to be a surprise and yet I came across story, after story of how badly companies handle this. From lack of clarity on who is their point of contact at the company to answer redundancy related questions, to conflicting information about the redundancy process. In many cases, the lack of clear communication  channels leads to many water cooler conversations, that increases misinformation and heightens the level of anxiety within the organization that is already alerted.

Having the right communication strategy from the outset will help to reduce anxiety of the employees being made redundant and will also help the personnel guiding these people through the process.

 

Human Resources Team

There is an unwritten expectation that the human resources team has to step up in difficult times like these and be the human face and heart of the organization. Too often, however, they are left to simply handle a procedure of redundancy from the legal point of view and not necessarily seen as a strategic partner, who can help to manage the impact redundancies will have on staff and the long term reputation of the company.

When asked how HR would have really helped people, when they were going through the redundancy process, three themes came up: being accessible, helping with practical things like resumé writing and references, and coaching how to use this change for the better. In order to do that, companies really need to think if their HR teams have the resources themselves, to efficiently handle the increased demand for their time and expertise.

 

Leadership

This was such a big area, that many people feel  usually it gets handled really badly. Interestingly, everyone I talked to, understood that in a difficult economic situation, like the financial crisis we had, there will be hard decisions that will have to be made, many of them will result in job losses. What frustrates people and makes them increasingly angry is the lack of compassion and “showing up” from the senior leadership team when these decisions are communicated.

 

It seems that the fear of litigation took away the ability of the leadership to really show compassion at the time when it is needed the most. The leadership teams are not always able to save the jobs within the organization but they should never underestimate the power they have to help people to preserve their dignity and the belief that the value they bring matters.

Keeping the bigger picture in mind is not easy when we are in crisis mode. Many leaders around the world will be going through sleepless nights trying to keep their organizations going. Inevitably many people will lose their jobs and this process is never pleasant. But the biggest insanity of it would be not to learn from the past, not to listen to the people who have been there before, on how to soften the impact of this crisis.

The storm will pass and a few years down the line, organizations might very well need to get back many of the people they had let go of. Many of them also will be their potential clients going forward, or join the companies of their clients. The redundancy process now has to be handled with the long term view of the companies’ health and reputation.

 

At Azkua we believe that the future of work is defined by the actions and leadership of today. Compassionate leadership is more important than ever, when we all have to navigate uncharted waters of living through pandemic. We can help you with bringing compassion, vulnerability, and wholeness into your organisation’s leadership culture. Contact us to start right now with this.

 Dovile Corrigan. Azkua Coach

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