Well, I have become a statistic. I am an unemployed international HR guy.
This happened very recently – a mix of the downturn in the US high-tech sector
and the margin pressures in telecoms. We went through a 20 per cent worldwide
reduction in headcount, and, to our CEO’s credit, executives were made
redundant in proportion to staff.
Like most HR people, I have sat on the employer side of this situation many
times, in the US and in other countries. I have been the "corporate bad
guy", jetting into a foreign country and releasing expats and local staff.
Sitting on this side of the desk is an altogether new experience. Now I have
had some time to reflect, I have some thoughts on redundancies.
Don’t be obsessive over this, but your CV should always be updated. Whenever
you achieve something notable, take a moment to edit it in. Periodically, get a
friend or mentor to look at it and give you feedback.
Everyone is swamped with work. The 1990s re-engineering and workforce
tightening left us all with heavy workloads, but are you in touch with
colleagues at other companies? Do you return phone calls from headhunters? Are
you active in local HR groups? Whether you are a national officer for CIPD, or
you chair the Milton Keynes Special Interest Group on pensions, you should seek
out opportunities to remain visible, demonstrating that there’s more to you
than just your work.
Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the present. If you are a
compensation specialist, just because you don’t currently work with stock
options, that is no excuse for not knowing current best practices in that area.
Live within your means – although this is easier said than done. Look at your
personal finances, and then project how long you can last if there are no more
Detailed planning of redundancies is critical, and usually comes to rest
with HR. You must work everything into a project plan, and then ensure everyone
involved is agreed and supportive.
Once the notifications have taken place, start communicating with the
remaining employees, and don’t stop. They need to know they can get back to
work, that their colleagues have been provided for, and that the business must
go on. Ideally, your MD will share their thoughts with the team at large.
For my part, I think I’m going to be OK. Agreed, this is a bad economy in
which to be out job hunting, and the events of 11 September did nothing to
improve that. This won’t be a simple journey, but I’m pressing on and looking
at a variety of ways to move forward in my career.
By Lance Richards, member of the board of directors for SHRM Global Forum
and the Editorial Advisory Board of Personnel Today sister publication GlobalHR