Restructure and change are inevitable post the global pandemic – following the process and getting it right is not easy!
Managing organisational restructure during an economic downturn is bound to shine a light on the “way in which it is done.” Unprecedented times are no excuse for poor practice and how firms choose to conduct downsizing or restructuring whilst utilising processes such as redundancy or TUPE, will be closely scrutinised over the coming months. Businesses will need to consider reputational risk and legislation as a priority in these challenging times.
Handling redundancies in the correct way will make a significant difference to how people cope and react to the process, the reputation and future success of the organisation, and to the morale of those remaining in the workforce. Putting in sufficient time to consider these groups – and following best practice – will result in a better outcome for all parties.
Communications around redundancies or TUPE need not be complicated, but compassion and clarity are key – how the news of redundancy is broken to employees and how it is communicated will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful outcome. If you engage with a TUPE Consultant, they will be able to share advice and best practice on how to manage the process end-to-end.
Planning & Communication
It is essential to take hold of the process and manage it carefully whilst reviewing the absolute risks of the current and immediate situation. In the unusual times of a pandemic, for instance, employers should give extra thought as to how they run the consultation remotely. Preparing for entering employees’ homes digitally (with no immediate employee relations support) to deliver potentially devastating news – should be carefully considered, reviewed, and delicately managed. Looking after the employees going through the process, based on the specific conditions of the situation and giving them maximum support and fairness, will reduce the risk of an employee harbouring a grudge against the business (as detailed later).
Any organisation embarking on this change process should be prepared to openly share the commercials, along with the rationale for the decisions. Explaining the actions that may have already been taken to try to avoid or minimise job cuts, whilst outlining how decisions have been made as fairly as possible – alongside clear and open dialogue detailing the procedures and timescales involved – will significantly smooth the process and demonstrate consideration. Communication should use empathetic, sincere language that shows real care and awareness of the employee predicament. Key messages should be carefully planned and positioned, to ensure consistency and enable rational and logical responses to questions that will arise.
Once all of the cost-cutting alternatives have been considered and a workforce reduction is still necessary, then carefully planning how to implement the redundancies is crucial. Taking professional advice from a Redundancy Support Service before embarking on the process will ensure that you are well-advised of the best way to manage risk and protect the interests of your organisation. A TUPE Consultant will be able to advise you before you make any changes to terms and conditions. The important thing is that the entire process is conducted professionally and that employees are treated with dignity and respect.
Clearly, much of the process is subject to statute, however, if the management team assigned to the restructuring follow good practice as outlined using the legislative roadmaps at each and every step of the process, long-term pain can be avoided. The business can move on and survive in a healthier and leaner form, enabling it to focus on sustaining its reputation as a good employer in the marketplace. On the other hand, if managed badly and without thought or consideration, the exit process of employees can result in uncertainty, confusion, and potentially costly visits to an employment tribunal. Claims linked to the non-compliance of the well documented legislative requirements are often viewed in favour of the employee by the tribunals and employee success is more likely. This is why using a specialist Redundancy Support Service is a good idea. They can help you avoid mistakes that can leave you liable to tribunal claims.
There is no doubt that a workforce reduction project is tiring and emotionally draining for all included. When embarking on a complex and politically sensitive process of this kind, general PR and communication management is required alongside the right HR process, as heightened emotions combined with economic uncertainty can inflame otherwise manageable interactions.
In todays’ digital world more consideration should be given to the risks of giving disgruntled and dissatisfied employees a platform to “go public.” The social media landscape provides individuals who have work-related gripes, legitimate and otherwise, ample opportunities to share their views and perceptions of how they have been treated (whether accurate and honest or not). Additionally, let’s not forget company review sites like Glassdoor, which allow individuals to post anonymous ‘warts and all’ reviews of their former employers. Often prospective candidates review these platforms when researching potential opportunities and their decision on whether to even apply for a role or join an organisation may be swayed by what they read. Word of mouth remains ever powerful and ex-employees will inevitably share their experiences of departure with friends, family and new employers. These final circumstances will be their lasting memory, so treating all employees extremely well at this final stage of their employee journey is an opportunity to leave a lasting and positive impact and “turn around” a very negative career phase.
Assisting individuals (who have been made redundant) with their transition out, whilst helping them to identify new opportunities and move ahead positively, is a morally sound approach and helps to send a positive message to remaining employees (and the wider community). The message is, that despite the difficult circumstances, managing people issues well is at the top of the agenda.
Organisations who respect and understand their strong branding and focus on integrity and fair dealing during a process like redundancy, find it far easier to attract and retain top talent when times improve – as they inevitably will – and they’re back in the hiring game. Progressive businesses with the right ethic and humane view of managing restructuring, understand that processes like redundancy take months to recover from and from damage to business reputation can take years to rectify.