Culture Amp Vice President APAC Katy Stevens discusses the sensitivities of having to make redundancies remotely and says doing it in a way that is respectful and helpful to everyone involved will go a long way to ensuring all involved will recover from the crisis.
By Katy Stevens
Around the world redundancies have become yet another symptom of the pandemic. Locally, Maybank has estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 Singaporeans will permanently lose their jobs due to the economic impact of the virus, while the latest JobStreet survey shows that one quarter of Singaporeans lost their jobs in the period from April 7 to June 1. But like most other experiences throughout these bizarre months, they’re not ‘normal’ redundancies. Many companies locally and elsewhere are having to make layoffs online, rendering the whole process less personal and often more painful.
Layoffs are arguably one of the most challenging aspects for HR. In some cases, HR serves as a mediator between an organisation and its employees, and it’s never easy to account for the feelings of everyone involved – from those directly impacted, to the employees left behind who are feeling the loss of colleagues as well as pressure to perform with fewer resources.
Managing the process with compassion and respect is not only the right thing to do in support of the people who have served or continue to serve your company, but also from a business continuity standpoint. According to a study by RiseSmart, after a negative layoff experience, 70 percent of companies experience a negative impact on future talent acquisition efforts, and 81 percent report a negative impact on brand.
With so many emotions, livelihoods and your business reputation at stake, consider the following Dos and Don’ts for approaching redundancies sensitively and ensure everyone involved can reach the other side of COVID-19 in a better place.
Do be human
People spend 40+ hours a week at work, so it’s important to care for their wellbeing. How you communicate layoffs to employees especially matters when it comes to their mental health and sense of value as a human being. When facing remote layoffs, mass video calls may seem efficient, but they make employees feel disrespected and undervalued. Arrange a personal call from a manager who can explain the situation and thank employees for their contributions. This is just one way to help them regain confidence after layoffs.
Don’t be evasive
Employees facing redundancy will be much more receptive if they feel like you’re being straightforward with them. Treat them like professionals and show them the courtesy of handling this difficult situation with respect and transparency. When leaders show vulnerability and candidly discuss the reasoning behind difficult decisions, they earn respect and understanding.
Do provide transition resources
Transitioning to unemployment can be intimidating and stressful. Provide employees with resources on filing for unemployment, maintaining benefits coverage, understanding their severance package, and even consider offering resume or cover letter support. A little bit can go a long way in showing the affected employees that the company wants to see them succeed.
Don’t neglect managers
Managers are an employee’s best resource in their search for the next job, so encourage them to provide references, resume support, and introductions to people in their network. Even if you’re not currently undergoing layoffs, consider proactively training managers to better support their employees through any change. Managers are also on the front lines in the aftermath of layoffs, so it’s crucial to help identify ways to keep their remaining employees motivated and engaged.
Do create an alumni network
Employees who spend any tenure in a company have likely built strong connections with colleagues, managers, and even leadership. A great way to support their transition and nurture these relationships is to provide a channel through which employees can stay in touch even after they depart. Whether it’s a Linkedin group or a Slack channel, this could open the door for employees to network and even potentially boomerang down the road.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
There is a lot of negative press around recent layoffs to learn from, but also a lot of learning opportunities. Look at how other companies are handling difficult situations and adopt the strategies that best align with your culture and values. Carta and Airbnb are great examples of companies that handled layoffs with transparency and compassion.
Do embrace feedback
After layoffs, former and remaining employees are likely feeling a lot of raw emotions. It’s important to give them an opportunity to share their experience and voice their concerns. Offer exit surveys to learn what worked and how you could better handle these challenging situations in the future. Giving employees the chance to be heard before they depart the company shows them you value their input despite the unfortunate circumstances.
Don’t neglect remaining employees
Employees who remain after layoffs can feel disheartened and unmotivated. Take the time to survey remaining employees to understand the impact on their experience and engagement. Gather and act on feedback from everyone impacted by the layoffs. This shows a commitment to improving the employee experience. And with this insight, you can help rebuild trust and offer resources to help your team as they grieve the loss of their colleagues.
If you are in the unenviable position of having to make redundancies during this time, doing it in a way that is respectful and helpful to everyone involved will go a long way to ensuring your company, its employees and alumni all recover well from this crisis.
(Ed. Culture Amp VP APAC Katy Stevens says she has 10+ years leading customer success, community and digital strategy at startups, large corporations and government. Featured image of Stevens provided courtesy of Culture Amp.)