Five ways employers can ease the pain of redundancy

Brexit is already forcing restructuring on many industries, particularly financial services. Managers are increasingly facing the unpleasant task of making valued employees redundant. How do you do this in a way that helps the individual – and lives up to your corporate social responsibility?

Making people redundant is tough. It’s difficult for the person receiving their notice, often unexpectedly, and for the manager tasked with breaking the bad news. Some companies think the only way to get through the pain is to get it finished – out the door and say no more. They say it’s brutal yet efficient.

The problem with that is obvious. An ineptly handled redundancy leaves bad blood between you and your former employee – someone who once trusted you. They are going to go out into the business world where people will ask them what it is like working with your company. Do you want them to say: ‘it’s a nightmare, they just dumped me’ or ‘it’s great, they even helped me get a new job’?

Support your people, protect your brand

Let’s face it, your brand is probably one of your most valuable assets – alongside your people. If you don’t treat your people right, what does that say about your brand? This is not just about attracting customers. If you have a reputation for treating employees badly, how easy is it going to be to attract fresh talent when your business recovers?

I have a different perspective on redundancy. I think it’s an opportunity to help employees make a fresh start and strengthen your business. If you get it right, you can reduce the stress around redundancy for both those losing their jobs and those ‘letting them go’. You can also enhance your CSR reputation so people actually want to do business with you.

Value your alumni

Think about the value in the people you are going to have to make redundant. You spent time and money recruiting them and retaining them. You have invested in their continuing professional development down the years. Why would you simply throw all that talent away, when, with a little imagination, you could strengthen your business network?

These talented individuals will almost certainly go on to find good jobs in other companies. They might become business leaders in their own right or will certainly be influencers. Wouldn’t it be good to have them on your side – an army of brand advocates rather than critics?

By providing a constructive and supportive outplacement programme, you can change people’s attitudes towards redundancy. It won’t dispel all the pain and fear, but it can help each individual cope with it better. It can also ensure the goodwill of former colleagues while keeping your remaining employees motivated through challenging times.

What are the benefits of outplacement?

Here are five ways a robust, company-wide, outplacement programme can alleviate the stress of redundancy:

  • Increase departing personnel’s employability– one-to-one coaching and group workshops provide affected individuals with interview-generating CVs, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles, and personalised job search and interview strategies. This will give them confidence to apply for and secure roles equal to, or better than, the one they are leaving.
  • Improve team morale– a robust and transparent outplacement programme will maintain employee confidence in the redundancy process, by showing that management decisions are logical not arbitrary.
  • Minimise collateral damage –redundancy doesn’t just affect those losing their jobs. Survivors guilt is real and detrimental to the wellbeing of your remaining employees. An effective transition support programme can help everyone understand and deal with the change.
  • Reduce cost and achieve smooth transition– a good outplacement programme that uses experienced HR professionals will help your team identify who you can afford to lose and who you must keep (and will ensure you stay on the right side of the law). It can also help you identify weaknesses in your existing recruitment and career development programmes.
  • Enhance business performance– good career counselling can sometimes help you find new roles in your organisation for talented individuals and reassign talent: it’s often cheaper to retain and retrain, than it is to recruit.

A strong outplacement programme should blend the skills of HR professionals, head hunters, interview coaches, experienced recruiters and CV writers. Some companies simply use outplacement for specific redundancy schemes. However,  I’m seeing an increasing number of visionary business leaders making outplacement part of their firm’s career development programme.

The idea is to build flexibility and resilience into your team before the pressure of restructuring and redundancy strikes. Promoting these programmes gives employees a clear signal that they are valued and you’re looking out for them. If that doesn’t enhance your brand’s reputation, I don’t know what will.

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