Why it pays to rethink your redundancy communication

Something has changed in Australian workplaces. Over the past few years the ‘generally accepted’ way of planning, managing and communicating layoffs has begun to shift.

We saw evidence of this at Ford and Holden with the use of long term transition plans, expos to help workers find new jobs, redeployment initiatives, skills training and retirement planning. Nor are these cases unique. In 2016 ServiceNow launched a partnership with Soldier On to help Australian veterans retrain and reintegrate through a range of holistic work and wellbeing services.

While redundancies are still about finding efficiencies, a different set of drivers is now a big part of the equation.
In particular, rapid and widespread digital disruption, plus ongoing globalisation, are prompting a rethink about the composition of workforces and the way we work. Some predict the future of work to be increasingly flexible and comprised of ‘contingent’ workers with multiple ‘gigs’ rather than careers. Australia already creates more part-time jobs than full-time jobs.

Below are several shifts we’ve noticed among large employers who have conducted a rethink of their redundancy programs and the way they communicate them.

Increased transparency in communicating plans

Some companies, notably those facing major disruption, are being more open in their communications about future operating structures, layoffs and workplace transition programs. For employers, this is a shift in tone and an acknowledgement that employees expect authenticity and transparency, and that workplaces are now subject to almost constant transformation.

Adoption of human-centred approaches and practices

The employee’s perspective is now front and centre. Smart companies are using human-centred research, training and content to lift employee engagement and influence success. This means that in some cases, the practical side of retrenchments is now managed by workplace transition experts, not just legal and HR generalists.

Elevation of employee safety and mental health

Organisations are increasingly aware of the mental and physical impacts that redundancy and job change can have on employees. We’ve seen some progressive white collar employers embracing safety and wellbeing programs similar to those in the resources sector for both responsible governance purposes and as a brand differentiator.

Recognition for departing employees

Good employers are giving retrenched employees an opportunity to say goodbye to their colleagues and offering genuine recognition for the contributions they have made. These firms clearly see the downside in ‘disappearing’ staff overnight and never mentioning them again. They also recognise the productivity losses that result from a failure to proactively engage impacted co-workers and other internal stakeholders.

Redefined working relationships

Companies increasingly understand that today’s former employee is tomorrow’s contractor, consultant, customer, competitor and industry contact. They’re also tomorrow’s Facebook commentator, Glassdoor reviewer or blogger. Burning employees with a bad redundancy experience now makes even less sense for an organisation’s reputation than it did before.
While we’ll suspend our judgement on concepts like ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, we think the approaches and practices listed above raise key questions and decisions for senior HR leaders.

Written by Richard Roach, Senior Consultant, Transform.

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