Businesses often need to make tough decisions – and Covid-19 and its ongoing effect has had a huge impact on that, with some often unpleasant decisions needed to keep businesses afloat.
That was the impetus behind CDL Insight People vs Profit – a local podcast series about managing change in the workplace from the perspective of employer and employee.
"It can be a tumultuous, stomach-churning time for a business owner or HR manager as well as for individuals looking down the barrel of losing their job," says Jane Kennelly, General Manager, Wellbeing of career transition and outplacement services provider, CDL Insight.
"We made this podcast series as a way to hear from individuals who have differing roles within that change process – and to learn from them how the process can be more humane and people-centric."
When workplaces are undergoing change – and having to let employees go – the impact can be far-ranging, she says. It affects those leaving, those tasked with doing the 'letting go'…and those left behind.
So how to do this in a way that serves the business well but also shows a level of due care and responsibility for those impacted by the change?
"It is all about doing right by your people in the very first instance," says Kennelly. "Yes, the changes need to be made because it makes commercial sense – but at the end of the day, people should always come first.
"There are ways, with the right assistance from experts in career transition and outplacement, that you can do this with compassion and the utmost care."
Some of those ways are as follows:
Get planning and get real
There will be challenges during a restructure, particularly when people do need to be let go. Katharine Collins, senior HR manager and HRD's 2021 HR Manager of the Year, has had many years' experience leading businesses and their people through major change – and says a comprehensive plan is key from the beginning.
"It is really critical, right from the start, to have a really good plan – where you've thought about all the pieces, the impacts, the risks involved, and exactly who is affected and how," she says. "Then, as part of that, a transparent communications plan which addresses what everyone needs to know at the right time.
"Everyone needs to be communicated with openly and honestly. The best thing you can do is be honest, even when the messages are hard for people to hear."
Hire the help
There are many reasons why bringing in an expert team to help with major change within a business is a good idea. Not only do they provide huge support to those losing their jobs and who need help to find their next role, experts in career transition and outplacement can also support the business owner or team leader.
Kirstie Wardle is an HR Consultant who says impartial support, from outside your company, can make a big difference: "This is about putting in that support for the individual. Someone who is not part of your company, and not invested in the outcome, is really important."
Help with 'survivor guilt'
Organisations never introduce change to intentionally cause friction, but this can be an unfortunate side-effect. Along with those affected directly, there can be distress amongst those staff 'left behind'.
The best thing any employer can do is minimise stress by communicating openly. This will help reduce any speculation, as well as misinformation, circulating within your team.
Jonathan Rogers, a Business Development Manager at Skills Consulting Group, says it's important to be aware that "staff who will remain with the company are 'watching, looking and listening' to observe how their employer serves those who are transitioning out.
"Working with coaches not only salvages the employer's relationship with the leavers, but the remaining people as well."
When businesses need to let an employee go, there are useful tools that can help an employee. They include CV assistance, interview techniques or sessions with a career coach to establish where an individual's strengths lie and how to find the right path forward.
As Rogers puts it: "if people can be provided with support then, at the very least when they get to a new job, they will be saying, 'I didn't enjoy it [the process], I didn't appreciate it, it was painful but I'm very, very thankful to that business for helping me.
"That is the ultimate outcome."
See link to listen to the CDL podcast series People vs Profit