Whilst many organisations are growing rapidly, there are also organisations that are down-sizing, “right-sizing” and re-sizing! Whatever you want to call it, all this activity inevitably results in redundancies.
The mistakes organisations make are often similar so in this article we will be looking at the five most common errors and challenges we see made when managing redundancy … and most importantly, how to avoid them.
The Typical Challenges & Our Top Tips
Challenge 1 – Procedural
Those conducting meetings often need to better understand what the process is, in order to avoid making errors. Notably:
- The first consultation meeting should not include the words ‘your role IS being made redundant’. Instead ‘your role is being considered for redundancy’. There should be no presumption that the consultation process will conclude with a dismissal (redundancy). In fact, making this presumption could invalidate your entire consultation process.
- Make sure that ahead of the first 1-1 consultation meeting, the employee has been given, and had the chance to digest relevant paperwork (e.g. redundancy policy). You don’t want to postpone just because you didn’t organise things ahead of time.
- Skipping steps or moving the process along too fast, to avoid embarrassment and business interruption, causes errors that can often result in the process being flawed.
- The ‘P’ word – use the word ‘proposal’ every time you refer to the proposed redundancy. It may sound unnatural and a bit repetitive, but using the ‘P’ word will make sure you don’t sound like it’s a ‘done deal’.
Challenge 2 – Formalities
It is a formal process – so ensure a formal setting, a formal tone of voice and formal language. Don’t try to make it less formal, just because it feels uncomfortable!
- Plan your message in advance and have it in writing in front of you to ensure you stay ‘on message’. A lack of planning can result in meetings becoming wide ranging discussions and key messages being lost. It’s also a good idea to practice saying the words out loud to yourself, as they can come out wrong in what can be a nerve wracking meeting for the manager, let alone the individual!
- You, the manager/employer should be accompanied by someone who is capable of taking comprehensive notes. Someone who lacks concentration skills or the ability to write quickly, will be more of a hindrance than a help.
- Hand written notes often prove impossible to use when you need to defend a claim, if they haven’t been typed up straight after the meeting. Don’t make this simple error because you have so many other things to do and leave your organisation exposed.
Challenge 3 – Effective use and management of staff reps
If you have 20 or more employees to consult with, and potentially dismiss then you need to elect and use staff reps during the consultation process (unless of course, you work with trade unions, in which case you would involve them in the consultation process).
- Don’t be tempted to bypass staff reps if you have them, this could undermine your consultation process and could, for example, result in a claim to an Employment Tribunal for automatic unfair dismissal due to you not following procedures correctly and/or a claim for failure to consult.
- Just because someone is an elected staff rep, does not mean they have any understanding about how to represent others. Staff reps need training and guidance and if you neglect this, you could end up with representatives who are either ineffectual, demoralised and/or who challenge and criticise everything you do.
- Ensure that no managers view staff reps as the enemy. They should be seen as a very positive thing and if managers learn to work with them, our experience has been that it can result in some successful outcomes during a difficult time.
If you need to train new or existing reps, visit our staff representative training page.
Challenge 4 – Communication skills
Good communication skills are wide ranging: the ability to listen, speak eloquently, follow up clearly in writing, ask good questions, use non-verbal behaviours that match the message etc. Therefore:
- There is no point in conducting a great redundancy consultation meeting if subsequently you fail to confirm anything in writing.
- There is no point in being engaging with the employee, if that distracts you from ensuring you say what formally needs to be said during the meeting/s.
- There is no point in asking the employee if they have concerns, objections or ideas if you then fail to listen to and respond to what they put forward.
- Understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy can be critical. Empathy is great, but moving towards sympathy can derail your meeting and cause you to lose focus. Saying ‘you’re sorry’ can elicit the response ‘Not as sorry as I am…!’
- Leading questions that allow you to tick boxes are pointless. If you have a question to ask (e.g. would you like to be accompanied at this meeting?) Then make sure you do not ask it in such a way that your employee feels obliged to give you the answer you appear to want (e.g. I know you are finding this difficult so presumably you are happy to proceed without being accompanied? Or, I assume you have had enough time to think about this situation so shall we now move forward with the process?)
Challenge 5 – Conflict management
There is nothing quite like a potential dismissal to bring out conflict! The conflict that we see typically includes:
- Threats of legal action.
- Blaming of others for the situation that has occurred.
- Argument about semantics rather than important details.
- Refusal to co-operate, speak or attend meetings.
- Refusal to accept the outcome/appeals.
- Grievances raised.
But are line managers conducting meetings ready for all this? Have you given them the support they need to ensure conflict does not derail the redundancy process? To support with conflict ensure those conducting meetings:
- Have been given all the relevant paperwork and information, so they feel confident and nothing is going to surprise them or leave them wrong footed.
- Have easy access to someone with good legal knowledge, substantial experience of redundancy situations and someone to use as a sounding board.
- Understand that conflict is not a personal attack but is simply a frequent response when someone feels things are out of their control.
- Feel confident enough to say to the employee that certain issues will be dealt with outside the current meeting.
- Really understand ahead of the meetings, the organisation’s employment policies and procedure on dismissals and redundancy.
If you’re making redundancies, take the time to get it right first time, as mopping up or correcting errors can be time consuming and costly.
If you need to make redundancies or dismiss someone, contact Jaluch to find out how we can help you. We will ensure you follow the necessary legal path to avoid any claims made against your business. Pick up the phone and speak to us today! Here are our full range of options:
- Jaluch advice and support service (no contract required).
- Training for staff representatives.
- Training in CV and interview skills for those being made redundant.
- Managing discipline and dismissals (training course or training materials).
- Managing staff performance (training course or training materials).
The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.