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Redundancy – Is it Still a Dirty Word?

Although a fact of business rife, redundancy is a word that can still strike fear into the hearts of many. To individuals it means their job might be at risk and that can understandably cause upset and disruption. It tends to get a negative press (and we know that bad news sells more papers). Asda are currently making over 1,000 jobs redundant, but are also creating 5,000 others. Yet it is the 1,000 job loss figure that has made the headlines with the 5,000 new jobs fading into the small print.

But redundancy is not always a negative thing. It means that a job has disappeared either in whole or in part, or in whole or in part at a particular place. Whilst sometimes this is due to a drop in production or work available, sometimes it comes about for reasons related to success, for example, because a firm is developing and expanding. It may be that the role of book keeper which was right for the volume and type of work being done while the business was small is no longer appropriate as it in increases and the company needs an accountant and finance director instead.

If your redundancies get a bad press it can have a negative impact in the future. Almost everyone Googles a company before applying for a job. If the first articles that come up are damning ones about a redundancy situation that cropped up a year or so ago, especially if it was a badly handled and toxic process, it could well turn the better candidates away. Everyone wants to work for a good company that treats its employees with courtesy.

Can you give redundancy a good spin to counterbalance scaremongering? It is possible. One company that employed 280 people was making 60 jobs redundant. With clever public relations, they made the headline “220 jobs saved!”

Some of your best PR comes from your own staff, including the people whose jobs are put at risk. Planning, clear thinking and regular clear communication are essential. If you present a coherent and well-evidenced rationale for the changes (and pointing out opportunities where they exist),the process becomes much more understandable and therefore more acceptable, especially if you build in some practical help for those who will be going.

They say one door shuts and another opens and I have often found that to be true. Once the shock of redundancy has been assimilated many people affected by redundancy find that it becomes an opportunity to try something different which challenges and enhances their working life. It can be the opportunity they’ve always dreamed of to set up their own businesses and take advantage of the freedom from corporate bureaucracies. It may also provide an opportunity to change career. One former production operative at Vauxhall retrained to be a coach driver which was something he’d always wanted to do but had never got round to before redundancy.

The trick is getting to that stage which as we all know is the difficult bit. The most important thing is to get employees through the trough of initial upset and shock, and refocus on the positive. Finding a job is a job in itself, and support from the company such as some form of outplacement, liaising with other local companies who may wish to take on new staff and other job hunting helpers can all help.

Over the years I have found that well planned, well-executed and humanely approached redundancy processes often result in comments from staff that they feel it has been well done and they have been well treated. And that’s the best outcome for everyone.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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