Breaking up needn’t be hard to do

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As an HR professional, one of the most difficult conversations you will encounter in your working life is when you have to make someone’s role redundant.  Unfortunately, in the current climate, this is something too many of us are having to do on a too frequent basis. Although people from a logical point of view can often ‘see it coming’, and maybe even understand the reasons, the emotional viewpoint its very different.  Initial reactions to the news can vary from anger through to shock and disbelief, as well as sadness and frustration.  These are all natural emotions and are to be expected.  However, what happens next will be very dependent on how the redundancy issue is handled.

Finding the positives

If handled badly, negative emotions can escalate. This can cause harm to the individual, their colleagues and potentially even the organisation.  However, this doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome.  To increase the chances of a positive outcome, you need to take a host of things into consideration and make sure you plan your approach carefully.  This is essential, not only to comply with employment legislation, but also to provide a positive experience for the individual, which will reflect positively on the company.

Think about how the news is delivered. Is there a clear explanation for why the redundancy is necessary, the selection process, the avenues for appeal and the next steps?  Also think about where the news is delivered. Are you somewhere private, where both you and the individual can talk freely without being overheard or on show? With many people currently working remotely, it might be necessary to deliver the message virtually. Although necessary, this has the potential to make the conversation even more difficult.

Outplacement options

In addition, you also need to understand what the package you are offering is.  It needs to comply with certain criteria, to ensure you are handling the redundancy legally and fairly. However, it should be more than a box-ticking exercise.  Any employee facing redundancy would benefit from some level of outplacement. Group outplacement can even be available, where a larger number of staff are under consultation.  If the individual is at a more senior level, you might find it beneficial to offer them individual outplacement.

As a third party, an outplacement consultant can deflect some of the negative emotions. They can work with individuals to see the positive opportunities that redundancy can provide.  They can also offer invaluable advice about career opportunities that are out there.  Things like transferable skills can be identified and avenues not immediately obvious can be explored. If the ‘break up’ is handled well, all parties can benefit from the positive experience.