2020 has been a monster of a year with the effects of the lockdown having a catastrophic effect on the UK economy. As a result, a record number of redundancies have taken place.
There have been many high-profile organisations hitting the headlines as we hear of so many high street names we know and love having to make job cuts. Unfortunately, some of the high-profile names have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons as they have fallen foul of the legalities around the redundancy process, resulting in an even more stressful experience for the employees on the receiving end.
Of course, redundancy is a legal process, but it is also a process that has human beings at its heart. If you get the fundamentals right from the outset it can really help the employee have a more positive experience of a negative situation.
I have been involved in many consultation meetings throughout my career and have some tips below on how to get off to the best start right from the initial consultation meeting. These are my observations on what has worked best based on feedback I’ve received from the employees I have consulted with.
So, once you know that you need to reduce head count and you are clear on the numbers, the who, why, when and how, then you need to tell your employee(s).
Here are some tips on the meeting itself (and a little on the part before and after):
- Email the employee an invitation to a meeting
- Try to avoid going into too much detail about the purpose so you don’t get drawn into a lengthy email exchange about the very thing you want to discuss at the meeting.
- Keep the invitation quite high level, for example, advise that you would like to meet with them to discuss some of the challenges the business is facing and potential impact.
- Don’t give too much notice of the meeting – 48 hours or less is fine (unless travel arrangements need to be made, but these days everyone is on Zoom) – any more will only give them longer to stew about the meeting.
- Try and send the invitation at the start of the week, avoid sending it on a Friday. If you do get questions about the meeting politely decline to answer stating that these can be covered during the meeting.
- Prepare prepare, prepare
- Do not attempt to wing it, it will have a good chance of ending in disaster. You are about to deliver some potentially devasting news – at least show the employee some respect and give some thought as to how you will deliver the message.
- You will need to explain why you need to make reductions, what your thought process has been and what alternatives have been considered. Put yourself in their shoes and anticipate any questions they may have and how you might answer them.
- At the meeting
- Get to the point as soon as you can. Don’t rush it, but don’t beat around the bush and start rambling about things that are not relevant.
- Give background and context, refer to any other conversations or meetings that might have alerted or prepared people for this eventuality. Be open and honest. Share your thought process – honesty, transparency and humility go a long way in these situations.
- Be clear to the employee that they are being placed at risk, what that means, what happens next and timescales. Advise that they are now entering a consultation period – what will this look like, what will happen and how long will it last.
- Be prepared to consider any suggestions they may have to avoid a redundancy consultation and/or ask for them!
- Make sure you get all the information from them about suitable alternative employment they might consider.
- Ask them what support they need and signpost resources where you can. Employment agencies might help with CV preparation, job searches and interview preparation and practice. What about their mental health? Signpost to organisations that can help with this. What about financial health? Same thing.
- End the meeting on a positive, but do not give false hope – reiterate what will happen next.
- Follow up
If you have agreed to take any points away and come back with a response then make sure you do. Check in with your employee – keep talking to them, don’t drop this bombshell and then disappear under a stone. Show them how important they are to you by keeping the dialogue open. If you have said that you are going to hold further review meetings, then do so. Nobody enjoys making positions redundant, but if you can make it as empathetic process as possible you’ll retain the respect of both those who are leaving and those who are staying.
For more information contact Kate Marchant on 07966 182750