Managing workforce change: a practical guide

If post-Brexit redundancies are on the cards for your business, Law firm Howard Kennedy's Jane Amphlett and Alex Mizzi outline four ways to make the process less painful

Whatever your views on the outcome of the Brexit referendum, it seems beyond doubt that UK businesses face turbulent times.  Many businesses are considering whether they will need to make redundancies particularly if the recession, which many fear, takes hold.  

When making cuts, businesses tend to focus on the staff who are leaving but it’s equally important to consider the staff who are left, as the businesses will need even greater engagement and commitment from them.  Here are some key practical tips for minimising disruption and maintaining staff buy-in during turbulent times.

Share the pain

Reducing staff numbers while not cutting back on other business costs may be damaging.  Even modest management perks may undermine the message that everyone is in it together.  And cutting back on discretionary spending is crucial: you might be tempted to hold a staff Christmas or summer party to improve morale, but it might equally foster resentment.  Sharing the pain across the business helps ensure that staff feel fairly treated.

Treat leavers well

Don’t assume that when staff leave the organisation their colleagues forget about them.  Businesses that get a reputation for treating staff badly during redundancy rounds often find it more difficult to keep existing staff.  It is important to treat departing staff fairly and with dignity.  If the business is not in a position to enhance redundancy payments on an ex gratia basis, as well as meeting the legal entitlements to redundancy pay and time off to look for another job, providing practical support (e.g. help with CVs) can go a long way towards reassuring those who stay that the business cares.

Don’t neglect management

In the wake of redundancies, the remaining staff may have more work and fewer resources.    If an individual’s role or responsibilities have been affected by a restructuring, it’s sensible for their line manager to have regular one-to-ones with them to monitor their workload and discuss any necessary support or practical solutions.  Overwork can negatively impact productivity and, at its worst, lead to time off for ill health and potential claims against the employer.  And staff who feel unsupported are unlikely to stay with the organisation in the long term if they can find an alternative role.

Engage staff in decision making

Working for a business which is making redundancies can be very disempowering.  Staff may be more engaged if they feel they have input into the organisation’s strategy and direction rather than just feeling that the organisation only complies with its minimum legal obligations.  Setting up a staff forum can be one way of accomplishing this, as well as enabling management to keep an ear to the ground and monitor morale.

Jane Amphlett is a partner and Alex Mizzi a solicitor in the employment team at Howard Kennedy

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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