I presented on this this topic at an HR forum recently and I was conscious that when it comes to redundancy, it was time to share some fresh content with experienced HR professionals to make the best use of their time.  With this in mind, I reflected on the wide spectrum of redundancy processes observed in our career transition business and in particular, the specific elements that differentiate the most effective.

It’s clear to us that these redundancy processes are managed by HR practitioners who have learned and implemented the following 3 key lessons:

LESSON 1             There is not a happy ending

This seems controversial at first as we are wired to perform well and to be successful in what we do. Particularly in HR, we are driven by facilitating a positive outcome that we can be proud of and that contributes to individual and/or collective success.

Redundancy however is one of the projects you’ll work on when no matter how well prepared you are or how effectively you manage the process, this will still be a challenging albeit traumatic experience for the impacted individuals and remaining staff. All the good work you do may not be congratulated or even recognised.

This being the case, we need to change the way that we view success here. If a) people are treated with dignity and respect; then b) your brand will be protected; c) your legal risks will be mitigated; and d) you will have more engaged staff in the remaining team.  In my opinion, these factors define an effective separation process.

LESSON 2:            You cannot predict how people will react

Regardless of how experienced you are or how well you know the impacted individual, experience proves that you just can’t predict how individuals will react. The most common reactions are: shock, grief, apathy, anger, flight, denial, blame and bargaining.  Rather than try to anticipate these, experienced HR practitioners prepare for all reactions and coach the line manager involved on how to respond to each one individually.   Talk you your career management partner so they can advise you on the appropriate response for each one.


LESSON 3:            This is just the beginning for remaining staff

I understand how much time, energy and focus goes into the review and restructure of roles, the decision making process, legal advice and preparing for the separation conversations, particularly when multiple roles are impacted.

I also observe a collective sigh of relief after these conversations are completed and impacted staff have left. The presiding view is “Ah, at least that’s over”.

Well this is just the start of the change process that remaining staff and managers are experiencing. They haven’t had the same time to socialise the idea and get used to it. Staff need ongoing support to adapt to their new role and potentially a new environment and we estimate that only 5% of leaders have the innate ability to lead teams through change and uncertainty.  As such, both groups benefit from targeted support in order to be successful and productive.

In my view, not enough time and resources are deployed to support the remaining organisation and HR has a business changing role to play here.  

Finally, it’s important that you the HR practitioner look after yourself through this period. There is an outflow of emotional energy and you need to make good decisions in terms of your own wellness to be at your best. Don’t be the forgotten stakeholder here.

These three lessons have isolated the elements that differentiate most effective HR practitioners. We observe the positive impact that they have on their business as we see firsthand their influence on career transition outcomes during our career coaching.  While separation will always be challenging, the role that HR plays in managing this effectively should be recognised.