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Can you motivate employees through redundancy?

Can you motivate employees through redundancy?
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Can you motivate employees through redundancy?
Sophie Forrest - Forrest HR by Sophie Forrest - Forrest HR
Managing Director - Forrest HR

The coronavirus crisis has caused many businesses to alter their operations, reduce their outputs or adapt their business models. One inevitable consequence of changes in procedure or loss of sales is unfortunately going to be redundancies. As a business owner, the decision to let your staff go is never going to be an easy one, but ultimately, it might be the best option for your business and your other employees. If you’ve taken the devastating decision to make some of your staff redundant, how can you keep them productive during the process? And how can you motivate the staff who will be staying with you, so you have the strongest possible team for rebuilding your business? Sophie Forrest, founder and director of ForrestHR, shares her tips for managing staff successfully through this difficult process.

Deciding to let an employee go

How does your business look in comparison to this time last year? In all likelihood, you’ve had to adapt to the unfolding rules and regulations that have been part of our way of life during the pandemic. As a part of this restructuring, you might have come to the realisation you need to make some posts – or several positions – redundant. The ultimate decision as to which posts will be terminated is going to depend on the particular circumstances of your business, however, some general factors that you might like to consider are:

  • How many people do you need to let go? If you’re needing to make redundancies because of a decrease in demand, your starting point has to be how many members of staff you now require and make a judgement call from this basis. However, you don’t want to become so lean that you can’t scale as demand picks up again; recruiting is expensive, as is dealing with a demotivated surviving team, so you may need to balance immediate cashflow with the longer-term costs of rehiring and keeping enthusiastic staff who are committed to your future business aims, rather than looking over their shoulder for a new opportunity because they fear they may be the next casualty in swingeing cuts.
  • Skills and experience: Has your business moved away from a certain area to specialise more heavily in other directions? If so, one of the factors you might need to take into account is whether certain skillsets are more relevant than others in your new focus.
  • Selection criteria: Identify an objective set of criteria that you can judge all employees by to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. This is not only a legal requirement, it will also help team members who are being made redundant and those who survive the cuts to understand the reasons. 

Dealing with unmotivated employees during redundancy

Once you’ve made the decision as to who you need to let go, one of the challenges for employers and HR professionals is ensuring that the people who’re being made redundant continue to be value adding members of staff up until the day they leave. One the one hand, you are still paying them; but on the other, they know their days are limited and their priority now is going to be to find a new opportunity – and if they’re putting energy into applying for jobs, they are likely to have less to give at work. Putting pressure on someone who’s facing unemployment to keep delivering at the same level will probably make the situation worse and it might reflect poorly on you to your other employees. With this said, there are ways that you can encourage productivity in a more gentle and effective manner   

Promoting productivity amongst employees who are being made redundant

First of all, aim to create an open dialogue with your staff, informing them why you’ve had to take such a difficult decision and how you have the overall interests of the business at heart. When people can understand a decision – and especially understand that is about business survival and not personal – they will find it easier to live with it and move on positively from it.

Secondly, I often find that the best way to ensure your employees stay motivated after they’ve found out they’re being made redundant is to encourage them to find and land new opportunities. Although it might seem counterproductive, letting them know of openings that might suit their skillset, writing them positive references, helping them with their interview technique and understanding that their mind might be on other things will make them feel more positively about you and motivate them to want to help your business thrive.

This will also demonstrate your fairness to other employees and show them that, if they were ever in such a position, as their employer you would have their back. This will also help avoid a situation where staff might start seeking employment elsewhere for fear that their job might be next. This isn’t going to be an easy time for anyone, but with the right leadership and positivity from you, your team might actually come out stronger from it. You can’t alter the reality of redundancy for those you are letting go, but you can shape their experience of it, and those of your surviving team members, and have them still say positive things about your business and your leadership that will help your reputation as an employer, which will be important when you need to recruit again.

Maintaining a happy and efficient workforce after the pandemic

The government has set out its plans for the gradual reopening of society and businesses alike over the next few months. Once we return to more normal business operations, it’s important to thank your staff for enabling your business to survive a difficult year and to take steps to foster team spirit and comradery in the workplace.

Hopefully, the reopening of the UK will also enable your business to grow and thrive and, with any luck, you’ll then be in the situation to hire again. From this, you’ll be in a great position to recruit impressive new candidates who can have a really positive impact on your business and help drive further growth.

To find out how Capital Space could benefit your growing business, call 0800 107 4667.