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For many, finding a job is already hard enough. Having to do so unexpectedly, in the current Covid-19 context, can heighten the struggle and anxiety for candidates. The help of governments, welfare programs, partial unemployment, credits… Will all those measures be sufficient for companies to avoid layoffs or to restructure themselves? And if so, when will it happen?

Employees will more and more look to their employers for resources such as compassionate transition support. There are numerous examples of companies who failed to anticipate early enough employees’ fear over potential layoffs, to take care of remaining employees and, offer a support to those leaving the company. The consequences on motivation and performance can turn bad.

Companies get the chance now (and maybe more, the duty) to reflect on their actions and intensify their “take care”. By doing so organizations will have the peace of mind that they are doing all they can in terms of social responsibility and, looking at the present and future, to maintain a positive reputation on the market, for employees’ retention and rehiring.

All leaders, decision-makers of companies, corporations or even small businesses need to proactively get ahead of this issue and not wait until employee’s anguish reaches critical levels. It may seem counter-intuitive because our initial reaction is, as a priority in this spring 2020, to address the health issues in the workplace. However, not managing it, will not make it disappear. We have to keep in mind that there is a human being behind every decision we are making.

Terminating an employment contract

One of the biggest consequences of a layoff-done-badly is justifiably angry former employees who can tarnish your reputation. People understandably vent to friends and family, but they can go further, posting nasty reviews on Glassdoor or social media, leading to longer-lasting harm. Over the years, Jobprofile gathered talents’ testimonies on their layoff experiences. Most of them are unpleasant: being mistreated as a social outcast, not being paid on time or not at all, issues on overtime and vacations compensation, trouble getting a quality work certificate, forced to take a lawyer, problems with last salary or bonus, and the list goes on. Generally, most of these inconveniences were more or less well tolerated. What wasn’t is how the situation was handled, that left people feeling betrayed and insulted.

To end an employment relationship negatively is totally old-school and unethical. Terminating an employee’s contract doesn’t have to be the end of a beneficial relationship with the company. One of the most powerful and persuasive ways to inspire commitment inside the organization is by maintaining healthy relationships with employees who’ve left the organization.

How do you assure to achieve your restructuring goals as well as to protect your reputation? While there’s no correct answer for everyone, here are some suggestions you can consider as a starting point.

Effective Conversation in the workplace

Management should ask employees to share their concerns about the situation. Certainly, the first matter would be about health and security issues in the workplace. The next biggest question most likely would be “what will happen to me” if the economy takes too much time to recover? Decision-makers should make sure this topic is also addressed with transparency within the organization.

Leadership acknowledgement

Management should be crystal clear about their need to face contingencies and the fact that they don’t have all the answers. We all have to be as honest as possible. In this situation everyone appreciates transparency. Saying “We don’t know yet but we commit to get back to you as soon as possible” is a great way to build trust and engagement. In this difficult period employees need to feel that the company has their back and will advise them soon enough to prepare their next move if necessary.

Compassionate transition support

More and more professionals understand the importance of outplacement and career coaching services. These are no longer reserved exclusively to the managerial level. Each former employee should have the opportunity to embrace the job market with serenity. So, don’t be surprised if they come and ask for it. Be prepared. Organizations can provide support if they have no choice but to conduct a layoff and enable former employees to bounce back faster. It will be important not to wait until the last minute to put in place those type of services. It is all about people and empathy. Remind your employees their added value and their contribution to your company and show compassion in planning, communicating the news and offering support. This will help to minimize bitterness from former employees and avoid damaging your reputation. This will ensure you to keep them as quality ambassadors of your network and, you never know, maybe hire them again when the better days will come.

Unemployment agency support

A lot of companies believe that the unemployment benefits are enough for their former employees and that there is no need for additional support like outplacement and coaching. Since 2002, Jobprofile has been working closely with the ORP/RAV/URC, building a robust partnership based on trust to support the unemployed. There is no doubt that it is great start for everyone facing unemployment and we are grateful to have such a quality service in Switzerland. Nevertheless, we are not talking about the same kind of services. State unemployment office (ORP/RAV/URC, Job Center, Pôle emploi) focuses on a broad spectrum of subjects: from vocational situation analysis and application strategy to qualification measures. At first, looking at the range of subjects, we may see a slight overlap. But looking closely, there is not. The prime and only objective of state service is to integrate the unemployed in the labour market as quickly and sustainably as possible.

Outplacement and coaching have the same concern in terms of market preparation and placement but set the objective very differently. Detailed and personalized programs offer the empowerment that candidates need:

  • Time to reflect on their positioning, provide shadow coaching, a sparring partner to challenge them and encourage them to ask themselves the right questions
  • Present specific knowledge and advice on the employment market according to their functional and technical area.
  • Assess and identify through a scientific evaluation their corporate culture, their motivating factors and their values
  • Furnish professional guidance on self-marketing, digital professional identity, interview preparation.

These are some of the benefits candidates obtain through career management services. Layoffs are hard for everyone involved, but the degree to which a company is harmed often comes down to how the affected employers handle the situation during and after. Companies should never underestimate and forget that the relationship they have built with their employees is one that will survive long after they are laid off.

Pro-active leadership

Potential layoffs are occupying the minds of workers and employers in this de-confinement period. Management should try to anticipate as possible and create a conscientious plan ahead of time, thinking of the potential reactions off their staff and putting together a list of responses for all the management team. Compassion should be present in each step of the process, putting aside the HR policies and focusing on dignity and humanity for the “stay team” as for, the team leaving. As a Director, HR, HRBP, hiring manager or manager why shouldn’t you drop an email to your former colleagues? Find out how they are doing, ask them how can you help. What a huge gesture in terms of motivation and empowerment this would be!

Unemployed candidates

Some companies have difficulty hiring unemployed candidates. To assume that unemployed professionals are bad candidates is a mistake. There are many reasons why people are unemployed for example now within the COVID-19 context and this has nothing to do with their competences, performance and behavior. Be open-minded and receptive. Also be generous and help your former employees. If one of them explains to a potential employer: “My company laid me off and my manager wrote me a recommendation letter and will be available for reference check”, it could make a great difference and support your exiting employee to find their next opportunity. And at the same time ensure your company a good ambassador. 

Rehire

There are some old HR polices about not hiring someone who has been laid-off. That needs to change. Companies should think twice before rejecting a fitting and known professional over an outside candidate. When layoffs are announced in an organization, a lot of employees start looking for a new job, even if they are not directly impacted and that their job is secured. Companies often realize too late that those who aren’t on the layoff list, end up quitting after the reorganization is completed. If you know your former employee would be a good fit, you shouldn’t hesitate to rehire.

Preventing “Survivor’s Syndrome”

In terms of layoffs, timing is key. It’s not only difficult for the people losing their jobs, but it hurts the morale of the remaining employees as well as the work atmosphere. Seeing their colleagues leave, they may ask themselves when will it be their turn? That’s why effective and transparent conversations are so important. Management should implement a structured communication plan of the reorganization process, its timing and impact. All employees involved, both terminated and remaining should have specific and dedicated information and exchange sessions. Especially important will be to reassure the remaining employees that they won’t be concerned by the layoffs to allow them to move on with some peace of mind and to avoid what is called the “survivor’s syndrome”. To further prevent this to happen it will also be critical to explain how the new structure will operate and the eventual changes on workload, remote work, implementation of collaborative tools, etc. This process will provide space for them to refocus on their jobs, stay engaged and motivated with a clear understanding and consideration for the upcoming challenges in the company. Downsizing is not harmless and the company’s corporate culture and climate will suffer from it. Every organization should take the time and measures to monitor their culture and follow-up the impact of their decisions.

An affordable tailored program

It’s true that most outplacement services or career coaching were initially designed for executives and can be expensive. That why Jobprofile created a tailored career platform. A product that answers to companies’ needs (no matter their size) and helps encourage those being obliged to downsize. We offer organizations what they cannot do: prepare job seekers, making them outstanding candidates and directly connecting them with recruiters who have job opportunities.

If your company needs to make the very difficult decision of staff reduction, be assured you have a trusted partner in Jobprofile. Our mission is to help employers to focus on the staying team, but care deeply for the leaving team. Many companies (especially small ones) do not necessarily think they will be able to offer career transition services to their employees. On the contrary, it is entirely possible with our tailor-made programs.

Let’s share and talk about our best practices in one of our next free Coffee Break. Register for our next event for C-Level, Director, HR, HRBP, Hiring Manager, Manager, and all decision-makers going through restructuring, layoffs, organizational transition and change management.

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