It’s the situation we all dread being in as managers. Making staff redundant in ‘normal times’ is hard enough but doing it during a COVID-19 lockdown is, well, almost unthinkable.
Making a staff member redundant remotely is, like most COVID-related things, awful. You’re unable to sit down next to someone you have worked with for years, face to face, to tell them the news in person. Without being able to see them physically throughout the day/s, it’s difficult to check in and gauge how they seem to be coping. Not being able to do a farewell lunch with colleagues takes away your ability to send valued staff off with some recognition, celebration and dignity. The whole thing is difficult, right down to not being able to easily collect company property.
These are just some of the challenges of a remote redundancy.
Unfortunately, for many businesses, they will have no choice but to make staff redundant while we are in lockdown in Victoria in the next 6 weeks.
We are in unprecedented times. And as a consequence, managers are facing the uncomfortable new reality of having to remotely tell people their jobs are gone. There is no playbook. There is no history of best practice. There is nothing but good intention to do it as well as possible in the situation. With respect, honesty, empathy and professionalism.
Supporting Staff Through Redundancy Remotely
When it comes to making staff redundant, Australia faces the same difficult choices being experienced across the globe. But there is a way to offer exiting employees the highest level of respect and care. Here are our top tips, or our ‘mini playbook’, on how to undertake redundancies remotely.
1/. Consult and Communicate
COVID or not, remotely based or not, the rules for redundancy consultation and communication are unchanged. You should continue to do it and do it well. It is only the ‘how’ that may be different.
Consultation remains key. Both from a legislative and a human perspective. If you would like templates to assist you to meet your legislative requirements, our friends at Fuse Recruitment have free templates available here.
Additionally, Fuse Recruitment is offering free consultation services to any business affected by the pandemic. Utilising market insight technology, Fuse can help your business develop a post-COVID recruitment strategy to ensure you are able to meet your business objectives in a new “COVID-normal” economy.
Where normally you would conduct a redundancy meeting in person and face to face, we recommend that you hold a Zoom meeting where you explain the situation and the possibility that their role may go and why.
We suggest you clearly introduce the significance of the remote meeting ahead of time by saying something like ‘Judy, I need to speak with you about an important matter in 15 minutes. I will set up a Zoom call. Can I ask that you ensure you have some privacy and are not distracted during our call.’ In doing this, yes, you may be revealing that there is bad news, but you are also ensuring that they don’t have their 2-year-old on their knee, or the courier at the door. You want to avoid the multitude of distracting remote working scenarios. This will hopefully provide them with a meeting which is private, professional and caring.
Just like in an in-person meeting, over video you can see facial expression, watch body language, hear tone, and virtually communicate together. Just like during an in-person meeting, there may be silence. There may be tears. There may be anger. There may be confusion.
While you can’t physically pass them tissues or offer a glass of water – you can hold space for them. Allow silence. Allow time for them to process their emotions. To ask questions and to understand. Just as you would in an in-person meeting, stay calm, be gentle, and importantly, listen.
2/. Plan and Prepare
It’s important to recognise that the organisational processes you would normally follow for making staff redundant may need to be altered for this remote version.
If you would normally collect company property and escort them from the building with a hand shake on the way out, what will you do now? Will you arrange a courier to collect the company items and their security tag?
If you would normally pull the remaining team members into a room and explain what has just taken place with their colleague/s, how will you communicate it now they are all remote also? Will you coordinate a group call in?
If you normally hand over a termination cheque in person, what will you do now? Will you arrange for a direct deposit final termination payment instead of your usual cheque?
If you would normally hold a farewell lunch, what will you do instead to recognise their contribution to your business and their team? How will you ensure that they have a respectful and professional exit from your business? Perhaps you may suggest a lunch when lockdown is over. Perhaps you might suggest people sign a virtual farewell card and send it to the exiting employee.
We’ve seen Group Greeting work quite effectively. You may also consider sending a farewell hamper like the ones from Bockers and Pony. In lieu of a farewell lunch, you could organise an online team wine tasting. Tractorless Vineyard offers virtual guided wine tasting for groups of 10 or more.
All these things can be worked through from a practicality perspective – it just requires thoughtful planning and preparing ahead of time, as well as a bit of creativity.
3/. Exiting Employee Welfare and Ongoing Support
Lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions have been very difficult for people experiencing traumatic events. Funerals held online are just heartbreaking, because we see loved ones who need a hug and we are helpless to step in and hug them. The same applies, to varying degrees, with staff redundancies. They are a traumatic experience for many people, and we aren’t often able to continue the relationship post-redundancy notification.
And so, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of a remote redundancy is ensuring the ongoing welfare of the individual. Once you hang up the Zoom call or phone, how can you feel assured the exiting employee is emotionally and mentally okay? How can you convey that they have support?
Let’s Talk Career can assist with supporting staff through redundancy with outplacement services. At the time of the redundancy, we can:
1/. be present in the Zoom redundancy notification meeting. After you have delivered the news, we can stay online with your employee and talk them through it. Having an independent person to debrief with after a redundancy notification can be helpful. Individuals are allowed to express their emotions without being concerned they are burning bridges or upsetting family members.
2/. contact the employee immediately after this call, introduce ourselves and explain what the ongoing career transition support will look like. Having an independent person who they can vent, cry or show disappointment to is often helpful. A career coach professional can assist with redirecting energies to the future, reassuring the exiting employee that they will be supported to find a new direction.
Our outplacement/career transition packages start from as little as $1200+gst. You can find details here.
No-one likes making staff redundant. With Let’s Talk Career, you can ensure you do it with the utmost professionalism and care. Contact us to discuss your options.