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How to manage redundancies and engage those that remain

Shandel McAuliffe, Head of Content - Cezanne HR
woman sitting at table

6 steps to engaging your workforce while managing redundancies

The summer 2020 Labour Market Outlook by the CIPD and The Adecco Group indicates that approximately a third of employers intend to make redundancies in quarter 3 of this year. [i] So, sadly, it looks like many organisations will be faced with the employee engagement challenges that follow redundancy announcements, struggling to keep a workforce that remains committed to and productive in their roles.

HR may find employee engagement a tall order against the backdrop of COVID-19. With redundancies thrown into the mix, HR professionals may be wondering what more they can do to keep an already stressed workforce on track. If ever there was a time to break a large goal down into smaller tasks, this is it.

Below is a step by step guide to help HR manage the redundancy process with an eye to the remaining workforce, maintaining morale and focus, and getting the best from their people.

1. Keep everyone as informed as possible
There are a variety of reasons why businesses might go radio silent on their wider workforce when dealing with redundancies, including legal considerations and being sensitive to those directly affected. So, it’s a given that organisations need to be careful about how redundancy news is conveyed, but all too often businesses err too far on the side of caution and neglect to keep their remaining workforce updated at all.

People are already facing high levels of uncertainty about their health, the economy and their job security. As an HR professional, you can help your business leaders understand what they can and can’t communicate during redundancies, so they don’t fall short with the wider business and say nothing at all. To feel confident in supporting your whole business through redundancies, now is an ideal time to lean on experts like ACAS and the CIPD, as well as seeking independent advice as needed.

2. Help managers set short-term achievable goals
It’s inevitable with redundancies that the staff who remain may go through a period of feeling less engaged if they have to say goodbye to valued colleagues and friends. People may be worried about whether their jobs are also at risk, and how the workload is going to be managed with less staff. In these circumstances, if possible, it may be helpful to give people work that shows some immediate results.

When people are managing high stress levels and feeling overwhelmed, breaking a big goal down into smaller tasks can be very beneficial. HR could work with line managers to ensure teams have at least some smaller, more achievable goals. Doing this while a business is going through redundancies helps staff to feel like their workload is still manageable and that they’re making valuable contributions.

3. Find ways to make staff feel valued
The flip side to setting achievable goals for staff is to make sure people feel valued when they achieve them. Many businesses are facing uncertainty right now, and it may be hard to offer staff long-term security. But businesses can still recognise good work in the short term to boost morale.

What tools do your HR team and line managers have to reward people? Financial rewards might be off the table if budgets are tight, but saying thank you for work well done is free and very effective.

  • Do you have a company internal newsletter where you can praise good work?
  • What do your departments and teams do to recognise staff?
  • Could you rethink annual awards to make recognition more immediate

When an organisation’s workforce experiences redundancies, it’s important for teams, departments etc. to regroup and reinforce social ties. For most businesses, socialising feels challenging at the moment, but it’s critical to employee engagement for people to connect with their colleagues.

In a recent ‘Homeworking during COVID-19 report, when asked what they didn’t like about homeworking, approximately 40% of people said: ‘less socialising with colleagues’.

Many lessons have already been learnt over the last several months about remote socialising. When going through redundancies, it’s a good time for HR to check in with business leaders and line managers to make sure digital socialising is being organised within the organisation. If your business usually does a summer party, could you hold an online event instead? If Friday drinks were part of your pre-lockdown culture, what can you do to create the same bonding opportunity via a video call for instance?

4. Encourage team and company socials
When an organisation’s workforce experiences redundancies, it’s important for teams, departments etc. to regroup and reinforce social ties. For most businesses, socialising feels challenging at the moment, but it’s critical to employee engagement for people to connect with their colleagues.

In a recent ‘Homeworking during COVID-19’report, when asked what they didn’t like about homeworking, approximately 40% of people said: ‘less socialising with colleagues’.

Many lessons have already been learnt over the last several months about remote socialising. When going through redundancies, it’s a good time for HR to check in with business leaders and line managers to make sure digital socialising is being organised within the organisation. If your business usually does a summer party, could you hold an online event instead? If Friday drinks were part of your pre-lockdown culture, what can you do to create the same bonding opportunity via a video call for instance?

5. Invest in staff development and career progression
When a business is going through redundancies, it might seem counter intuitive to be thinking about staff career progression. But one of the best ways to engage your remaining staff is to show that you’re still invested in their progression and learning opportunities. And if it’s hard to guarantee job security, investing in your people now will increase your skills pool and build goodwill if they should need to seek employment elsewhere down the track.

As an HR team, you may feel like you’re already too stretched to look at learning and development right now. If that’s the case, find the quick wins.

  • What online courses have you already developed that you could roll out to a new cohort of learners?
  • Have redundancies left line management duties unattended, that more junior staff members could help cover with the right online training?
  • Do redundancies open up learning opportunities for remaining staff?
  • Could you help line managers tap into skillsets in their teams that have been previously unused, and could those skills be easily taught to others?

 5. Work with business leaders on Organisation Design (OD)
If COVID-19 has made redundancies unavoidable, HR professionals with OD experience are the people best placed to help reshape their organisations. For businesses to survive, redundancies need to be very carefully thought through with current and future business needs taken into account.

It’s very important to try to minimise the negative impacts that today’s redundancy decisions might have on the future workforce. But businesses making redundancies due to COVID-19 challenges will no doubt be looking to make decisions as quickly as possible, and for some businesses, taking swift action may well be the difference between opening up shop tomorrow or not. If you find that your business is having to make hasty decisions, apply as many OD principles to redundancy conversations as possible. Help your business see beyond cost-cutting, so a plan can be made that works for the business now and
tomorrow.

Redundancies are never an easy time for a business, and keeping a workforce engaged after months of dealing with COVID-19 is already a challenging task without adding redundancies to the picture. But the above steps should help with employee engagement and business morale and will show your people that you’re doing everything you can to support them through this difficult time.

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