The UK workforce and corresponding workplaces have undergone a seismic transformation in recent years, accelerated by the adoption of remote work during the pandemic. However, many feel that this change was already in motion, driven by the distinct expectations and attitudes of younger generations towards employment.

The pace of change shows no signs of slowing down. The UK's workforce remains in a state of flux, with various trends and challenges reshaping the employment landscape. These include the Great Resignation, skill shortages, the cost-of-living crisis, the integration of AI, and the aftermath of Brexit.

In March 2023, Womble Bond Dickinson conducted a survey of 500 employers employing over 50 people, which included business owners, leaders, and senior HR professionals. The research found that 42% of the surveyed employers indicated plans to make redundancies, reflecting a trend in a year where several high-profile companies have announced job cuts.

Handling redundancies effectively is crucial because it can impact not only the individual being made redundant but also their colleagues and the overall reputation of the business.

Managing reputation during the redundancy process

Managing the redundancy process involves significant PR risks. How the process is communicated to employees can significantly impact morale and their perception of the company. Poor communication or a lack of transparency can lead to uncertainty and mistrust among employees and public perception can plummet if a company is seen as callous or insensitive towards its employees. Therefore, a well-planned communication strategy is essential. This includes timely and clear communication about the reasons for redundancies and their execution.

Transparency is equally crucial to maintain trust and mitigate negative perceptions. Companies must consider how to communicate this news to external stakeholders and the public. A carefully crafted message, demonstrating empathy towards affected employees while highlighting positive aspects and future plans, can safeguard the company's reputation.

Offering career transitioning support, including retraining opportunities and severance packages, can alleviate the negative impacts on employee morale and improve public perception. Monitoring public sentiment through social media listening tools and proactive engagement with media outlets can address concerns and misconceptions while tracking ex-employees' online discussions.

Managing social media risk during the redundancy process

In the digital age, social media plays a significant role in our personal and professional lives. However, it also presents risks during redundancy situations. These risks include confidentiality breaches, damage to reputation, and legal implications. To address these, organisations should:

  • Act immediately in response to risks arising from social media activity
  • Consider deleting or editing inappropriate posts
  • Gather evidence for further action
  • Distinguish between comments that are defamatory, breaches of contract, or breaches of confidentiality
  • Investigate personal data breaches and the requirement to report them
  • Consult with legal professionals specialised in employment law if necessary.

Reviewing and updating social media policies at regular intervals or introducing them if they don't exist is essential to manage these risks effectively.

Supporting wellbeing during the redundancy process

Redundancy can have a significant impact on an individual's wellbeing. Research shows that the likelihood of knock-on effects increases when employees are closely connected. A study by Visier, a people analytics firm, found that employees working in teams of 3 to 5 are 12.1% more likely to resign after a team member quits, compared to 14.5% for teams of 6 to 10. This phenomenon, known as 'turnover contagion,' underscores the social nature of employee resignations and their influence on peers. Businesses with well-thought-out redundancy strategies and plans can mitigate the risk of losing talent due to 'turnover contagion' and avoid common pitfalls associated with the redundancy process. Therefore, employers should prioritise supporting their employees' wellbeing by:

  • Offering outplacement services, including career coaching, job search assistance, CV writing, and interview preparation
  • Providing access to counselling or mental health resources
  • Demonstrating empathy and building trust with both current and former employees
  • Protecting their relationships with clients, customers, and the public.

The evolving employment landscape presents various challenges, but careful management of redundancy processes, effective communication, and support for employees can help businesses weather the storm and emerge stronger while preserving their reputation and talent pool.

For more information on how we can support you in to effectively managing large-scale redundancies, visit WBD Navigate.

A version of this article was original published in The HR Director.