March 30, 2023

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    In this blog we will explore the dos and don’ts of communicating potential redundancies to your company.

    Rumours have been flying.

    Managers grow nervous.

    Colleagues are starting to get anxious.

    Everyone gathers for a Zoom meeting in the canteen.

    The big boss comes on the screen.

    He’s wearing his funky tie again...

    "Hey gang, bad news, the company isn’t doing so hot. We’re cutting numbers. The South West team is being axed. You’re all fired. Merry Christmas.”

    This is NOT how to handle redundancy communications.

    Redundancies are not an easy topic for discussion. The thought alone can evoke rumblings in the pit of your stomach, or perhaps you shrug it off with a “it’s never going to happen to me”.

    But the fact is that redundancies are a part of our economy and can be used as a tool to grow a stronger company for the future. In fact, in the three months to December 2022, there were 99,000 redundancies made in the United Kingdom compared with the three months to May 2022, when there were 51,000 redundancies made in the UK. Just recently, Meta has announced it will make a further 10,000 job cuts on top of the ones made in 2022.

    With inflation and prices rising, it is likely we will see businesses, including Microsoft Partners, beginning to make similar tough decisions.

    But what is the most effective way to communicate redundancies to your staff? You want to avoid time consuming, expensive and draining claims and tribunals, and ensure staff are treated fairly and respectfully.

    To those who face redundancy

    This first interaction with staff may be the first time they have been aware that changes are taking place in the company.

    Therefore, it is important that this first communication runs as smoothly as possible and starts everyone off feeling there is compassion and care in the business despite the difficult path.

    So for businesses and those running the redundancy process:

    Dos Don'ts
    • Always be prepared!

      Know beforehand what you are going to say.

      Why are you making redundancies? Why are these particular employees affected?

      Know in your head the outline of the process.

      Also, prepare yourself for questions from your staff.

    • Don't use a formal/corporate voice which shows no feeling

    • Tell the employees who face potential redundancy before anyone else.

      The reason for this is that rumours will likely spread, and the situation may grow out of your control.

      You also want to start the conversation started as early as possible!

    • Don't allow gossip to run riot

    • Be clear and concise

      Get to the point and make sure you are easy to understand. State the facts of the situation simply and tell them the possible outcomes of the process.

    • Don't waffle

    • Proceed with caution

      At the outset, you must not imply that any decisions have been made, to do so may lead to employees believing the process to be disingenuous and a sham. Which in turn could lead tounfair dismissal claims being made against you.

      That's why the early warnings make it clear that the relevant employee(s) job is “at risk” only.

    • Dismiss them then and there before fully consulting and listening to alternatives

    • Be open

      This process should be a two-way street and redundancies should be seen as a last resort.

      Your employees are likely to ask questions and may have suggestions.

      Be clear this is a consultation and let them know you are open to collaboration on alternative routes.

    • Don't lie

    • Be empathetic

      This is likely to be a truly awful experience for everyone involved. But try to steer clear of telling everyone how difficult it has been on you, as those facing redundancy are likely to be feeling much worse.

    • Don't show too much emotion

    To other employees

    The ripple effects of this situation may be felt throughout the company and likely can impact employee engagement and wellbeing.

    You could choose not to tell anyone other than those involved, but bringing them in may increase trust, respect, goodwill and support.

    Dos Don'ts
    • Choose carefully who needs to know

      Is it relevant that everyone should know? Potentially not at an early stage, as gossip might start to spread and people might begin to wonder, who is next?

      As a starting point, depending on the circumstances, consider how you will limit who knows and inform others on a need to know basis (i.e. management, HR etc.)

      Don’t forget: You have a duty of confidentiality towards your employees. Also consider the impact of divulging the information when ultimately the redundancy proposed is not actioned.

    • Don't immediately tell everyone

    • Tell the at-risk employees who you will inform

      This underpins the principles of transparency and respect.

      People react in different ways and many people may feel their privacy is being affected by you telling people, or even embarrassed, ashamed.

      If possible, the affected employees should have a say in who knows about their situation, and employers should respect that choice if appropriate and reasonable.

    • Don't let things get out of control

    • Be prepared for questions

      “Am I next?” “Why them?” “Did they do something wrong?”

      Everyone will have questions and it is a good idea to prepare some answers and ensure you don’t say or promise something you regret.

    • Don't say there will be no more redundancies (if that is not guaranteed)

    After the redundancy process

    You don’t legally have to tell your employees that someone has left, but you want to still keep good communication after the redundancy process.

    Dos Don'ts
    • Plan how to communicate to the company

      Whether your preference is a group email or team meeting. A simple acknowledgement may suffice.

    • Don't pretend it didn’t happen

    • Consider you customers

      Customers might be confused as to why a person isn’t answering emails anymore. You should have a plan on how this is addressed to your customers.

    • Don't forget about social media implications

    • Plan the company a time to heal

      Many may be shocked, worried or upset by redundancies. It is important to recognise that this is likely to happen and consider how best to handle this. As a starting point, managers should have a timely check-in with their staff.

    • Don't be hard on yourself

    See the silver lining

    A final thought to consider is that redundancy should ultimately have positive long term implications for a business.

    There is obviously an important reason why the decision to make redundancies was made, so keep coming back to that. If it was to lead the company into a bright, successful future then lean into that when taking everyone forward. Now more than ever your staff will look for strong leadership.

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