Redundancy is an upsetting time for employees, colleagues, employers and their customers, and getting it wrong could result in legal action or reputational damage. Putting a comprehensive offboarding plan in place may help the process go smoothly, writes Ian Moore.
With the furlough scheme coming to a close on 30 September, some of the 11.6 million jobs it has supported could be in jeopardy.
The redundancy process can be upsetting and complicated for all involved and the temptation is to get the leaver out as quickly as possible to minimise upset and disruption. However, this could cause more harm than good, unless a robust offboarding programme is followed.
To start, let’s explain the term offboarding. It’s likely you’re already very familiar with onboarding which is the programme a business follows to introduce new starters to their new role and workplace in order to progress to optimum productivity as quickly as possible. Crossboarding is when an individual takes a new job within their existing company and it works in a similar way.
Offboarding is for employees leaving a business and confirms that all the information, contacts and systems they have access to are returned to the business, and operations are disrupted as little as possible. Imagine the implications for security, client relationships and staff morale if an employee’s departure isn’t managed carefully.
With retirement or resignation, it’s the employee’s decision to leave and so the mood is typically positive. There’s often even a party. For redundancies however, it can be traumatic for everyone involved. The leaver can feel rejected, their colleagues can feel uncomfortable or uncertain of the security of their own jobs, and then there are also the feelings of clients and customers to consider. All of these individuals need to be factored into your offboarding plan.
As part of the redundancy consultation, you would have provided the leaver with an explanation of why the decision has been made, outplacement support and time off (if needed) as well as a schedule of the process from beginning to end.
Towards the end of their employment you should make time for an exit interview. This is a formal meeting the leaver has with HR to give them the opportunity to speak candidly about their views of their line manager, their role and the business as a whole. For the employee, it can be cathartic, enabling them to get things off their chest, and the company can benefit from insight on how to improve.
It will also indicate whether or not the leaver is at risk of suing or publicly criticising your business. If this is the case, senior management, PR and your legal team should be alerted.
Another activity for the schedule is to ensure the leaver hands back all business assets they have access to. This includes computers, tablets, vehicles and any other equipment. IT should be contacted about their departure to ensure that access to systems, shared drives and folders is disabled. An out of office alert and email redirection should also be put in place.
The terms of the employee’s contract will state that the leaver cannot take any company information, client contacts or your intellectual property with them and it is strongly advised that you remind them of these obligations.
The final point is to help them leave on good terms. Redundancy is horrible initially but it can lead to better opportunities for those affected. Give them the time and support they need to find new employment and make sure they leave with their confidence restored, knowing how important they were to the business.
Redundancy consultations are supposed to be private but they rarely stay secret for long, so it’s crucial that you communicate with the company early and sensitively before panic sets in.”
The rest of the workforce
Redundancies affect everyone in the business. Close colleagues will be sad to be losing a friend, other departments may have their workload affected by the departure and overall the feeling might be one of anxiety about job security.
An important part of the offboarding process is communicating to your workforce. Redundancy consultations are supposed to be private but they rarely stay secret for long, so it’s crucial that you communicate with the company early and sensitively before panic sets in.
You should notify them that redundancies are taking place (without breaking any confidentiality) and explain why. If any individuals are to be affected, explain what changes they can expect. For some, their responsibilities will increase as they take over the workload of the person being made redundant. Separate meetings should be arranged to conduct a thorough hand over. These should be carried out in a manner that is discreet and respectful of the leaver.
You should provide a contact for further questions and to offer regular check ins to handle any concerns.
Clients and customers
If the person being made redundant is customer-facing or high profile, or you’re making a significant number of redundancies which may attract media attention, you’ll need to factor client communications into your offboarding plan. This simply requires a personal email or call to explain that the redundancies have been made in the best interests of the business, that operations will not be affected and to introduce their new contact (if required).
Offboarding can make redundancies a far smoother and less painful process. Start building your plan now.