How can we deliver Redundancy Notifications with Empathy and Efficiency?

3 min read

Redundancy is an unpleasant experience for everyone. It is unpleasant for those who are made redundant; for those who have to make the redundancy decision; for those who have to report it; and for those who remain in the company. Redundancy is a crisis and should be managed as such.

With an uncertain future – it is harder to invest in Estonia because of the geographical risk, Estonia’s exports are falling and the economy is shrinking, and the technology sector is fast becoming profitable – every week there is news of a redundancy decision. Redundancies are often carried out in a way that goes harder than planned and strong brands built up over many years take a heavy reputational hit. How can redundancies be communicated in a way that minimises the damage to a company’s reputation and its people?

  1. Plan your messages and the redundancy process in advance. Take into account that it will all take time, so bring along the necessary partners. If there is no in-house legal, communications or human resources expertise, bring it in temporarily to the crisis team. Considering the damage that may be caused by redundancy (in effect, the restructuring of the business), this is a justified cost. It is an investment in building the future of the company.
  2. Communicate the redundancy to the whole organisation together first. Get people together. Remember that information must be based on facts. Colleagues will start leaking and openly criticising the employer if they read information about the redundancy that they believe is not true – this is unavoidable. Bear in mind that anything you say can quickly be leaked to the press. It’s important to pass on information about what has been decided, what the processes are going forward and what support the company is offering to those made redundant. Afterwards, the manager’s presentation should also be sent as a memo to people. Be aware that the contents of this may also be quickly leaked to the press.
  3. In terms of messaging, it is important to communicate that the redundant person is not to blame – that is the difference between redundancy and dismissal. The company is at a turning point in its development, it needs savings and a strong focus to move forward – this is essential – and therefore redundancies must be made.
  4. The values of the company are not the text on the wall, but the tried and tested principles of these difficult times. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the long-term impact of redundancies on communications and the overall brand will depend on how one-to-one meetings are conducted with the redundant and whether people feel that managers are sorry for making this decision. Human chit-chat and support services do not make the redundant employee happy and certainly no redundant employee feels sympathy for the manager. However, after a few months or a year, when feelings have been resolved, many will realise that the process could have been handled much worse, and the actions of people and the companies they lead at critical moments will be seen in hindsight through a different lens. People and companies are remembered for the way they behaved in difficult moments.
  5. Redundancies are also difficult moments for those who remain. People may doubt the sustainability of their organisation, start looking for new jobs, feel demotivated, or lose their jobs. It is also important to support them at this stage and to give them messages about what the company is doing to emerge from the crisis. It is important to say that the leaders have a clear plan for how to achieve the new goals and what the role and perhaps the increased opportunities are for the survivors to share in the success, if they are to get through the difficult times together. It’s important not to fudge here – it’s not possible to say that we are making redundancies because we are doing well. It will upset those who have been made redundant as well as those who remain. But this difficult moment is an opportunity to communicate a plan to build a better future and to get people thinking and acting with us.
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