The furlough scheme was part of the government’s response to COVID-19. The intention was to protect businesses and jobs by placing employees on leave on 80% of their monthly salary, instead of making them redundant.
The scheme was recently extended until October, with employers being asked to pay contributions again from August, but despite government help, some businesses will not recover from the impact of the pandemic.
For some businesses, the reality they face in the coming months is having to make employees redundant.
Employment brings structure and purpose to people’s lives, as well as a feeling of belonging and security, which you could argue is needed more than ever right now. This is part of the reason why being made redundant feels so devastating and why it causes such feelings of grief.
Redundancy: Practical vs emotional considerations
Redundancy is difficult for everyone involved, no matter when it happens, but dealing another blow to people when they’ve been already been through so much is a task that no one would relish.
As the HR manager, you and your team will be on the front line when it comes to issues like managing redundancies. What you’ll probably find is that there is an abundance of information on the redundancy process itself and making sure you comply with the law, but there’s not much in the way of guidance on the ‘people’ side of redundancy, like the emotional fallout and the impact on mental health.
Redundancy: How to support those on both sides of the fence
Redundancy obviously affects the employees who are being let go, but it also affects those employees that remain in their jobs, as well as their employer.
In smaller businesses especially, teams tend to be close, and redundancy may mean putting someone you consider as a friend out of a job. For the remaining employees, seeing their colleagues and friends being made redundant can be devastating for morale.
So as the HR manager, how can you help support everyone involved and minimise the negative impact of redundancies?
Communicate consistently and clearly
If employees feel like information is being withheld or they are hearing confusing and contradictory information, it will only make what is already a stressful situation worse. Communicating with employees consistently and clearly will help them understand what is happening, make better sense of things, and process it more easily.
Being honest is an important part of communication too. Explain why the redundancies are being made (with an emphasis on securing the future of the business), how people will be selected for redundancy, and set out an expected timescale for things to happen. The more people know the better, as uncertainty breeds anxiety.
Help managers prepare for the emotional fallout
Both employees who are made redundant and those who remain will have an emotional response to the redundancies. Feelings of anger, resentment, and grief will be common, and it’s a good idea to offer support to managers who have to address emotional employees. This could be offering training around having difficult conversations or having a debrief after a particularly tough meeting.
Offer support to remaining employees
Seeing their team-mates being made redundant can induce a kind of ‘survivor’s guilt’ in employees that remain. It can also have a negative impact on their motivation, engagement, and morale. They might even wonder ‘how long is my job safe for?’
This is why it’s important to encourage line managers to offer support to those employees and to work on rebuilding trust and gaining their confidence. Employees need to know their manager’s door is always open, they are valued and appreciated, and that there is further support available if needed.
Rally the remaining employees for success
Involving the remaining employees in ensuring the future success of the business is an important part of rebuilding trust and confidence.
Make collaboration business as usual. Ask employees how they think things should change going forward and allow their ideas, questions, and concerns to inform any decisions that are made.
The fallout from COVID-19 is likely to continue for a long while yet, and as an HR manager, it’s likely to be the biggest professional challenges you’ll ever face.
You’re probably no stranger to a lack of time and overwhelm, but there’s so much to deal with in the face of this situation, you’ll feel that you have a mountain to climb.
But you don’t have to do it alone.
I can help.
As part of my team turnaround package, I can come in and:
- Help managers feel confident about having difficult conversations and rebuilding motivated, engaged, and productive teams who want to go the extra mile.
- Help teams understand their roles and responsibilities going forward, and what part they are going to play in the future success of the business.
- Be a safe pair of hands and a sounding board for you as the HR manager.
If you want to feel supported, less overwhelmed, and you need help restoring harmony in the business in the midst of what is such a difficult time, this package is for you.
Get in touch today to find out more about how I can help.