How HR teams can manage difficult staffing decisions effectively
Fashion retailer Missguided has come under fire for the way it recently announced a number of redundancies.
Following its collapse into administration due to increased supply chain costs, inflation, and weakened consumer confidence, the Manchester-based retailer announced that 80 staff members were being made redundant.
Although redundancies are not good news for most employees, in the case of Missguided, it was how the announcement was handled that sparked controversy.
The i newspaper reported that staff were advised via two separate phone calls – one for staff whose jobs were safe and another for those who would be losing their jobs.
Ex-employees have claimed that:
- Staff who were not working at the time as they were on holiday or maternity leave found out via colleagues and social media posts that they had been made redundant
- Staff were only given 20 minutes’ notice ahead of the phone call
- Staff did not know that two separate phone calls had been arranged
- Staff were muted during the call and given no opportunity to speak
- Employees who had lost their jobs were told not to return to the office and that their belongings would be returned to them
- Security guards stopped sacked staff from entering the Manchester offices.
With remote and hybrid working, it is no surprise that companies use Zoom and other online mediums to announce major company decisions.
Missguided are not the only company to have taken this route. Earlier this year, P&O Ferries told hundreds of employees via a video recording that they were losing their jobs with immediate effect and were being replaced with cheaper agency staff.
Similarly, online US mortgage firm Better.com made 900 employees redundant via a Zoom call. Later, CEO Vishal Garg apologised for failing to show adequate “respect and appreciation” for the employees involved.
In 2020, workers at the ride-hailing firm Uber were told that they would lose their jobs via a three-minute video Zoom conference call.
Even though digital communications make sense in large organisations, hearing that one has lost a job via broadcast communication is less than ideal. Hearing the news from a line manager is a much better option.
Redundancy processes are stressful for employees and HR teams, so the process should always be handled sensitively and professionally. Honesty and clarity are key components of successful support.
Adele Edwin-Lamerton, Senior Associate, Employment at Kingsley Napley, said: “Due to the increase in hybrid working, meetings which previously would have only taken place in person now frequently occur remotely. Although this can feel impersonal, what is key is that the appropriate process is followed. It’s not so much the medium which is used, but the message it conveys which is important.”
“However pressed they are for time, employers should remember that they need to adopt a fair process and consult with their employees.”
Professor Jonathan Passmore, Senior Vice President at CoachHub, commented: “… as part of the C-Suite’s wider communication remit there is also a role to be played by a broadcast communication during the process of letting an employee go. This communication should explain more about the background to the decision, taking responsibility and sharing in the pain which such decisions cause for the individual, their family and the wider community, if the firm is a large local employer.”
“Technology is a facilitator of communications, but just because we can, does not mean we should. Leaders need to leverage technology while not losing sight of the humans who are receiving such messages. A broadcast message ensures everyone receives the same message, at the same time, but its strength is its weakness, as not every individual is the same. For some a redundancy may be welcome news, for others a mild disappointment, while for many it provokes both a financial and personal crisis.”
“At present, leaders have little training on digital communications and few organisations have protocols. As we move forward in 2022, business schools need to look again at what a leader in a hybrid world looks like and adjust what they teach. Meanwhile, organisations must look critically at their processes to ensure they still concentrate on the people which make up their organisation, putting into place support mechanisms such as workplace and career transition coaching, to help their employees navigate recent years’ life changes.”
Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at Croner, suggests: “Being made redundant can be an incredibly distressing time, so it is essential that employers maintain regular dialogue with affected staff.”
“Given the complexity of a redundancy procedure, employers should provide individuals with a clear explanation of their rights and a timeframe for when decisions will be made. This reduces any unnecessary stress and ill feeling among the workforce. Employees with a minimum of two years’ service are eligible for a reasonable amount of time off to look for new work or to arrange training for future employment.”