The harsh reality is, restructuring will be necessary for many organisations after the COVID shutdown to enable recovery from the economic downturn. Whether it’s a decision now, prior to financial year-end, or part of the strategic planning over the next six months, the process of designing what the future organisation chart looks like, and who will be impacted, is a challenging process.
In a more buoyant market, there is some comfort in believing there are opportunities for employees to transition successfully. But in the downturn we are experiencing, as a result of COVID shutdowns, there is no such confidence.
The experience of being made redundant is also shared by the employees who remain in the organisation. In research published in the Academy of Management Journal (April 2008) layoffs targeting just 1% of the workforce were followed by, on average, a 31% increase in employee turnover.
Certain actions were associated with lower rates of voluntary departure after enforced redundancies including:
- giving all employees a sense that the corporation is fair and just, both for those being made redundant and those remaining
- making remaining workers feel attached to the company
The research indicates that implementing, or strengthening, their approach around these areas before and throughout a restructure may help a organisation mitigate any employee flight after a downsizing.
While there is no legal obligation to provide career transition support, is there still a duty of care?
Employee mental health has been impacted during the shutdown period from forced remote working, reduced hours, redefined roles and then the impending uncertainty of what will this mean.
Most employees are very aware of the effects of COVID shutdown, so few will be blindsided by an organisation’s decision to restructure. Even when there is no surprise by a decision to downsize, employees will inevitably experience anxiety and grief. If during that grief, employees feel supported by their employer they are more likely to successfully transition quickly.
What does ‘feel supported’ look like?
When budgets are already stretched, what options are available to support employees to transition.
Authenticity and Compassion
As challenging and uncomfortable as the conversation is for everyone involved, the focus should always be the wellbeing of the employee. To be authentic and show compassion, during a highly emotional experience, can’t be understated. While there is a legal process to follow, to show compassion and do everything within your control to alleviate their pain. It can be as simple as allowing time to sit and listen and let them feel heard.
Whether this is through an EAP provider or boutique consultancy, provide employees with the opportunity to work with a qualified counsellor to help them understand the emotions they are experiencing through redundancy. This also helps them better understand the rollercoaster they will experience during the job search process, help them to increase self- awareness of their own triggers, and build resilience. Counselling support can be provided onsite at the time of communication or as a ongoing service. It may also be provided to the remaining employees that experience their own sense of grief and survivors guilt.
Resume & LinkedIn
Having a resume and LinkedIn profile that allows a person to be market ready can be a transformational point in the career transition process. If they have been long term employees, providing support to create marketing collateral that showcases the experience and value they can bring a new employer can be particularly important and supportive.
Disconnection can be a major challenge for anyone that is unemployed, especially after redundancy. It is like a divorce they didn’t ask for. While everyone’s situation is unique, group workshops can provide valuable information and also allow employees to connect and gain comfort from their shared experiences. Topics could be anything from mental wellbeing, to job search strategies, resume building, video interviewing to transitioning to retirement.
Career Transition Programs
Preferably, any program offers an employee choice and provides some sense of control in a situation where they may feel they have none. Programs can be as simple as limited hours to be allocated between career coaches or resume writers, through to holistic programs that offer support and resources up to twelve months. In an ideal scenario, a personalised human centred program delivered by highly qualified specialists, exponentially increases the chance of success.
Going the extra mile to support redundant employees during a difficult transition will help them get back on their feet sooner, and also support the morale and productivity of the remaining employees.