‘Survivor syndrome’ – which describes the physical and psychological impact of redundancies on the remaining staff who didn’t lose their jobs – has affected many employers in the current economic climate, according to a survey by Personnel Today‘s sister publication IRS Employment Review.
The survey of 116 employers – covering a combined workforce of almost 425,000 people – showed that survivor syndrome can limit the potential financial savings of redundancies by reducing the performance and attendance of the remaining employees, and increasing staff turnover.
Employers that had been through one redundancy programme were affected by an average of 3.4 different negative responses from remaining staff, while those that had been through more than one experienced an average of 4.2. These included lower morale (67%), reduced motivation (53%), higher rates of sickness absence (65% of employers reported increased stress levels among the remaining employees), and retention problems (17%).
However, the findings revealed that there were ways to limit the impact of survivor syndrome on organisations, namely through effective communication processes. Some 85.7% of respondents said they “strive to communicate meaningfully with all employees during a redundancy programme”.
The respondents attempted to retain their survivors by consulting them on the implications of the redundancy programme for them (81.2%), providing them with practical support (56.4%), involving them in change programmes (48.5%) and undertaking employee engagement exercises (24.7%).
The most effective communication methods were found to be general staff meetings and briefings by line managers. Top tips included being open and honest, providing regular feedback and encouraging staff to voice their concerns.
Of the employers surveyed, 84.5% had made redundancies over the past three years. Most of this group (92%) had experienced job losses in the year to February/March 2009.
Survivor syndrome is likely to become even more prevalent as job cuts continue. Some 70.5% of respondents anticipate further redundancies in the coming year. And they expect to lose 45% more employees in the coming 12 months than they made redundant in the previous three years.