How to support your employees at risk of redundancy and protect your employer brand
Jane Hillard, Operations Director explores the ethical and business reasons for providing a positive experience for employees at risk of redundancy, and examines some successful strategies deployed in the wake of the pandemic.
As the world of work struggles with the immediate impact of COVID-19 and organisations grapple with the longer-term consequences for economies and industries, the importance of how employers treated their employees during the global crisis has increased in the eyes of the candidate.
In a world where anyone can post their experiences online – sites like Glassdoor or Google Reviews are often the first point of call for a candidate considering a new opportunity.
Aside from the moral responsibilities, there is a tangible benefit to ensuring that any exiting employees receive the best and most supportive experience possible.
If you work in HR or are having to restructure your organisation, department or team and put your employees at risk of redundancy it is worthwhile looking at how other organisations are approaching this, and the benefits to successfully manage a process we are all trying to avoid if we can.
Talent trends in banking and financial services
It’s widely recognised that the banking and financial services industries’ ability to attract talent was impacted by the 2008 financial crisis. Greater competition from technology and FinTech firms, whose “start-up” culture was regarded as more appealing only exacerbated the situation.
Now, as banks have been fundamental in supporting economies during the pandemic and have arguably been impacted less than some industries, their attractiveness to talent is on the upswing.
When the pandemic truly started to take hold in Europe and the US, several large international banks put a halt on redundancies and their restructuring plans. However, as COVID-19 has not been the short-term pandemic initially hoped, these plans naturally need to progress. Their approach to redundancy needs to be carefully considered to ensure that the industry's ability to continue attracting talent is not negatively impacted.
What has grown increasingly evident as we continue in this “new normal” is the number of companies that have truly started to recognise the moral and ethical responsibility an organisation has for their employees at this time. Everyone on a human-level knows this is an awful time to make someone redundant. Governments around the world are providing differing levels of support, but invariably some will be left without support which is heart-breaking.
When redundancies are unavoidable how do you support the process and ensure it does not add further stress to the situation?
Show true and authentic compassion
We’ve seen redundancy being approached slightly differently by a number of organisations during COVID as CEOs and business leaders humanise their messages and show their compassion.
AirBnB Co-Founder and CEO Brian Cheskey wrote a heartfelt open letter to his employees apologising for the fact he was having to make redundancies. This was then followed by LinkedIn, whose CEO, Ryan Roslansky and Chief Business Officer, Daniel Shapiro both posted human and compassionate messages announcing their redundancy programmes.
Whilst the messages don’t change the outcome, the authenticity and the obvious reluctance of these leaders towards having to take these steps does matter and will naturally affect the impacted employees' view of the company and process.
Truly commit to redeployment
Over the last five years several international organisations have significantly invested in their redeployment capability - committing to retain employees wherever possible. This has gone far beyond the policy of advertising all jobs internally or providing a list of all jobs to the at-risk employee. Companies have, quite rightly, taken a proactive approach to supporting employees in finding a new role internally.
Support employees’ internal search
Is there a recent CV available? Has the employee uploaded their CV to the internal recruitment system or recently applied for an internal role? What HR data is available and how up-to-date is their LinkedIn profile?
One large international bank partnered with their internal mobility recruitment teams to proactively identify suitable positions for the employees at risk of redundancy. Prior to the conversation taking place with the employee, as much information as possible was gathered on their current role and background.
Has the employee uploaded their CV to the internal recruitment system or recently applied for an internal role? What HR data is available and how up-to-date is their LinkedIn profile?
All of this information allowed the recruitment team to search live roles to identify which positions would be most relevant to the employee. This enabled HR to provide a tailored list of available internal positions in the initial redundancy conversation, supporting the employees’ search internally as well as reiterating the bank’s commitment to redeploying if possible.
Provide a recruitment expert as a dedicated point of contact
Another large international investment bank deployed the recruitment skills of their talent acquisition teams where any at-risk employees were ringfenced in priority talent pools.
Each at-risk employee was provided with a dedicated recruitment expert point of contact who spent time understanding their skills and competencies and the type of role they would be interested in. Daily calls were put in to review the current live job vacancies, where each recruiter was able to talk through the skills and suitability of the employees they were supporting. This pre-emptive approach led to an increase in redeployment.
Leverage contractor roles to retain talent
Retaining your employees for a longer period will increase their likelihood of identifying a suitable role internally, and this was recognised by a large retail bank undergoing market-led headcount reductions. Their employees at risk of redundancy were given priority on contractor roles lasting three months or longer. This enabled the employee to develop their skillset further in another position within the organisation, while providing more time for the employee and employer to identify any suitable permanent roles internally.
Use your own networks
Providing outplacement support and working with an outplacement provider is nothing new in the UK market. Services include CV writing support, LinkedIn profile development, job search, and interview support alongside career coaching.
What has been interesting during the pandemic is the number of organisations publicly promoting and showcasing their staff to the marketplace, as more C-Suite leaders publicly take personal responsibility and ownership for the redundancies.
Tech giants such as LinkedIn, Deliveroo and Monzo have all set up talent directories – leveraging their own networks to sponsor and advocate for their employees that they’ve had to let go, tagging exiting or regretted leavers on social media. These posts immediately received significant numbers of supportive comments from other organisations (many of whom were still hiring), offering support and the potential of a new role for affected individuals. The end result may not just be compassion which reflects well on the brands being forced to make redundancies, but real job leads for the exiting employees. All for free!
The importance of approaching redundancies and redeployment in the right way has never been more evident. Therefore, my key takeaways would be to show true compassion, commit and invest in redeployment and use your own networks to support your employees find new roles.
None of these are difficult, or even costly to implement, but all of them could mean a big difference to the employee facing redundancy which in turn reflects well on your brand and the external view of your company in a world where humanity and kindness are being ever more valued.
To find out more about how to manage redundancies download our latest whitepaper HR's Role in the New World of Work.