Layoffs are never a pleasant subject. But with a recession lurking in the not-too-distant future, it looks like they might be a reality for many companies. That’s why HR professionals must know how to manage layoffs to make it as easy as possible for the employees being let go.
Despite still being concerned over how to hire and retain key players, 50% of 772 executives in a PwC survey said they’re planning on reducing their workforce in the next six months. The survey, which was conducted in early August, also found that 69% of respondents said they feel they’re more prepared for the future – despite the impending recession – because of the pandemic and that they’re “referring to a lessons-learned playbook developed out of COVID-19.”
HR, however, still must be prepared for these tough situations should they come to fruition.
Handle layoffs respectfully
Letting employees know they’re about to lose their jobs is no easy task. For HR it causes feelings of guilt and anxiety. Often the anxiety is from not knowing how someone is going to react to this life-changing news.
So just how do you lay someone off in a “nice” way to make it less painful for the employee?
When done right, employees who’ve been laid off or terminated should feel they’ve been treated with dignity, which increases the likelihood they’ll leave with a more positive impression of the company.
The first step in a reduction in force is to hold a meeting in which the employer gives the employee formal notice that their employment is being terminated.
Select a place to hold the meeting that’s neutral – not a manager’s office – and provides privacy, and pick a time that limits any business disruptions and allows the employee to leave privately … if possible.
Once you know where the meeting will take place, collect all the documentation you’ll need, such as a termination letter, COBRA paperwork, a final paycheck, a severance agreement, etc. It’s also a good idea to put together an outplacement benefits package to help the employee move forward in their process.
Also, make sure the room you’re using has a box of tissues in it as some employees might cry.
Few people like conflict, especially in HR. So, if you want the meeting to be nonconfrontational, prepare for it. Make sure you know what the circumstances were that prompted the termination and why the actions are being taken.
Keep a bulleted list of what you want to cover in the meeting so you can refer to it should you need to. It may even be worthwhile to practice what you’re going to say so you don’t stammer and appear nervous. You want to have a calm and pleasant – not happy – demeanor, and deliver the information in a professional manner.
When the meeting is over you want to make sure the employee understands the message as it was intended.
Most layoffs aren’t personal. And you want to end things with employees on a good note. One of the best ways to do that is to provide resources they can use in their transition to being unemployed. Some of these resources include:
- HR and benefits transition information
- Outplacement resources to assist in the employee’s transition, job search and resume preparation, and
- Other community resources that can help them find a new job.