Losing one’s source of income can be a life shattering experience for many persons who have become accustomed to a particular standard of living. We live in an age of intense commerce. Providers of goods and services vie to attract and keep our attention. Changes are swift in this global village and it takes constant retooling and re-engineering exercises for companies to keep in the forefront. To support their advertising platform, companies have quickly adopted new business models that now embrace social media tools.
Now, as swiftly as new models appear, traditional concepts of employment are now becoming redundant. Apart from the usual external and internal shocks, unimaginable interruptions occur that advances the struggle of companies to remain in tact.
Unfortunately, resources with a pulse become the target when re-engineering processes are implemented. For clarification, resources with a pulse are your human assets. Redundancies are a routine habitual form of separating a company from persons who have spent innumerable years in its employ. People become attached and a level of loyalty develops albeit a one-sided affair. Such loyalty becomes easily shattered when decisions made for the company’s survival is of highest priority.
I can tell you, from my own experience as a human resources executive, that decisions that involve termination due to the immediate business needs is no easy task. But I have quickly learnt to separate the human emotions that tug at the heart to finding solutions that will make the process less grueling on all parties involved. The single most important execution of retrenchment exercises is to be as honest as one can possible be. I have found that the hurt and betrayal felt by so many who have lost their jobs because of retrenchment programs is fueled by the carefree almost nonchalant attitude of many who are in authority to their plight.
In the absence of real data from the executive body, those at the bottom tier quickly create stories. These stories are unfortunately close to the truth at times because there are many managers who have close ties to their subordinates. The water-cooler talks become fierce arguments relating to organizational trust and integrity. Such dysfunctional organizations are akin to a pressure cooker. Taking the lid off without paying attention to the internal pressure will contribute to an explosion. Taking it one step further, not releasing the pressure when absolutely necessary will create an implosion. The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground. I think it is worth reiterating the need for the top tier leadership to create the conditions under which they will begin discussions with their team.
It will not be an easy task preparing for the discussions and advancing the talks with the team. Even more so for organizations that have never developed a culture of honest feedback. It will be a tall order for trust to be developed in an instant and expect that the outcome of the feedback may not be to your liking. But practiced indifference to the needs of your team will not help to assuage the feelings of fear and real anger directed at those who many employees will feel are responsible for the current realities.
You may have to progress the items on the agenda in small bites. Taking your cues from the mood of the general population, you may also have to consider open forum strategies. The idea is to have the information coming from the top influencers in the organization. At least 3 days to the start of the meeting, invite the team to submit questions which can be used to frame the discussions. What you do not want is a free for all session, laced with so much anger that it derails you from the immediate task at hand. Recognize also, that the news will be devastating to many within the group. As a leader, you should be able to address those concerns and help them to navigate the emotional rollercoaster.
To do this, establish support systems. Progressive organizations that are people centered understand all too well the need to help in times of great challenges. The blue print that I have seen implemented in one company, provides a useful guide for others. Below is a snap shot of the possibilities.
- Provide learning and development opportunities for those who will be affected.
- Invite external counselors who are able to provide assistance with managing grief related trauma.
- Organize for state agencies to be on site to offer guidance on the various government assistance programs that can offer stabilization of income during the short term.
- Explore coaching individuals to revamp their resumes to take up new and exciting challenges.
The organization will have to absorb the costs associated with many of the support programs. Added burden? Of course! But, what leaders must always remember is when things improve, you may need to rely on the expert knowledge of those who you had to let go. You can ill afford, in this competitive sphere, to be seen as an employer who cares less about people and more about profits. One of the most significant objectives of any company should be to earn the title of an “Employer of Choice”.
Copyright 2013 SHC