How can HR handle its own redundancy?

professionals are not immune to experiencing raw emotion when their own job
disappears but their best plan is to view their choices dispassionately

have been through the redundancy process twice now but nothing prepares you for
the emotional roller-coaster ride – shock, anger, fear and disillusionment are
all dominant emotions.

my first role in HR, I was responsible for establishing a new technical centre
for Fisons. I formed a team from scratch, putting people in new roles and
relocating staff from three other UK sites. I became involved in the personal
as well as professional lives of the individuals I was dealing with. Relocation
isn’t easy – the majority of staff I was managing had families to consider –
and schools, housing, support for partners were critical issues.

not everyone wanted to relocate to this division and I got my first experience
of handling redundancy.

years on, the process was repeated but this time my own role was included.

were angry. They had been through one upheaval and now a corporate takeover
meant everyone was asked to move again. Having built up a team, I was now faced
with the task of dismantling it and working out what my own next career move
would be.

half the team were given the option of redeployment, including myself. The big
question became "should I stay or should I go?" It was time to be
dispassionate and help the undecided employees make their decisions. 

decided I had to remain impartial at all costs. I was there to ensure people
had considered all of their options. I found it useful and important not to
explain the rationale behind my decision – to leave the company – under any

secure trust you have to be honest and there was no secret made of my decision.
I just didn’t go into the reasoning behind it. 

decided to cross over from HR to line management at a call centre. I wanted to
practice what I had preached for the last five years. But a few years on – and
a hostile acquisition later – redundancy loomed once more.

automatically went into HR mode. I was a line manager overseeing a team of 20
people, the majority of whom had only been working for three to four years.
This was their first job since leaving school, they had very limited experience
of job hunting – they were terrified. 

decided to tackle this head on by setting up a self-help group – in effect a
mini-outplacement scheme of my own. I rearranged the team’s timetable so job
searching could be fitted in. I sold this concept to the company by explaining
it would maintain staff morale and productivity over the four-month period
before the site closed.

team was given structure to their job campaigns and consequently were
successful with everyone being re-employed.

was one flaw to my plan however – while focusing on everyone else I had
forgotten about myself. I felt responsible and gave out too much of my own

became dependent on me, plus news travels fast and soon I had people queuing at
my door for advice.

boundaries should never be crossed. A big no-no is socialising with staff. When
redundancy is announced, the last place it should be discussed, if you are in a
HR capacity, is down the pub.  

do you cope alone? Well, you have to accept that you can’t. Internal support is
often limited for HR so external support is key.

took full advantage of outplacement services and networking. But the most
useful skill I learned was above all to maintain a positive outlook at all

Pyatt is business relationship manager at HR consultants Penna Sanders

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