Handling redundancy communications

posted by Scott McKenzie

We’re not out of the woods yet.

There was belated joy (or perhaps simple relief) last week as the UK finally emerged from the longest recession since records began. So can we expect the narrative to now be about “growth”, “”upturn” and “recovery”?


But I would also expect to see a lot of other words beginning with “R”. Like restructure. Or reorganisation. Or redundancies. Recent announcements from AZ and GSK are unlikely to be the last big announcements this year.

We’ve spent a lot of time working with big organisations on redundancy programmes. We’ve gathered a number of lessons in that time. So, we’ve pulled our thoughts together into a short ”how to” document. In summary the 5 key things we’ve learnt are:

1. Think about the context and tone

  • Say what the change is not about as well as what it is
  • At the start of the process explain the rationale, process and key timings
  • Tell people where more information can be found and how they can ask questions
  • Set expectations about what can / can not be shared as part of the consultation process
  • Avoid being overly legal in tone – try to keep it warm and human

2. Design a rigorous approach to supporting “at risk” employees

  • Decide what support / advice will be available to colleagues who are “at risk” of redundancy and tell them about this support as soon as possible
  • Ensure that local managers are well prepared (in advance) for redundancy announcements and that they are able to explain the process and next steps in more details
  • For people who are impacted pre-arrange 1:1 meetings with their manager (too often these meetings take too long to set up after the initial announcement – causing anxiety and uncertainty)

3. Decide what support / guidance you will provide to managers

  • Provide managers with support materials inlcuding information about the process and likely Q&As which may come up
  • Provide managers with access to counsel / advice. Remember many of them may not have gone through this before.

4. Plan how you will interact with the Unions and Employee Forums

  • Decide who in the leadership team will lead the interactions with the Unions and Employee Forums
  • If you have had an historically difficult relationship with the Unions make sure you handle it with care and sensitivity. And have a rapid-fire response ready just in case there are any leaks.
  • Think about how the role / status of the Employee Forum will be positioned next to the Union

5. Be proactive in ensuring that employees remain motivated and focused

  • The emphasis is rightly on “at-risk” employees. However, ensure there is also a focus on messages to employees who will remain part of the organisation.
  • Acknowledge the loss. People may be losing friends they have known for years (and may be feeling guily – known as “survivor syndrome”).
  • Thank everyone for their hard work.
  • As soon as is appropriate provide a focus for the future and engage people around the new organisation.

If you’re facing up to the prospect of communciating about job losses I hope you found that useful. We will happily send you the full “how to” document  if you email me at scott.mckenzie@hillandknowlton.com to request it.



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