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Most companies these days have experienced some kind of downsizing of the organization. The job of the HR staff and leadership during a downsizing is never easy. They need to ensure the downsizing strategy is executed, the legal aspects are considered, while also creating an environment where the leaders and managers are trained effectively and empowered to keep the business moving forward.
Here are some steps to keep the business moving forward:
One of the biggest complaints of most leaders in a downsizing is that they were informed at the last minute. The lack of information can create confusion, frustration, and may impact the performance of the business. Even though most of the high level conversations may already be decided, allowing the leaders to be part of some of the decisions is key. They can provide critical information on personnel and roles in the organization that a financial report will not provide. Ask them, “What staff or department changes will create the greatest benefit with minimal disruption to the business? Sometimes that one employee that is on the list is actually doing the work of multiple people and may be a challenge to the business if removed.
Most leaders and managers enjoy the strategic and growth aspects of their job, as well as recruiting new talent. For most, downsizing is not a natural process. It is counterintuitive to growth and carries an emotional burden. Train the staff in what to expect before, during, and after the changes. Remind them that they also need to take care of their own health. Each person handles these situations differently, offer them resources for stress management, having more patience for others, and being empathetic for those impacted with the downsizing. Ask them, “what do you require during these changes?”
Downsizing can be a traumatic experience for the employees that were let go and the employees that still have a job. This may include the fear of being on a future list, the uncertainty of the changes ahead, lack of trust in the company and the upper management, and for many it is a time of distraction from the growth of the business.
Recommend to your leaders and their direct managers to schedule a meeting with the remaining staff for the day after the downsizing. First address the elephant in the room and ask open ended questions to engage the employees, change the energy, and the uncertainty that was created. Having a vision and game plan of where the organization is headed and how their role will be part of the strategy is key. Ask questions and invite the employees to share their ideas and ways they can be part of the solution and growth of the business.
While hiring an employee starts a new journey for that individual and the company, the elimination of their role is an immediate and impactful action that touches all involved directly or indirectly. It is critical to communicate and empower the remaining employees during and after the changes to ensure that the downsizing is not an event that stops forward progress of the company.
Laleh Hancock is a management consultant, Joy of Business facilitator and the CEO of Belapemo and Global Wellness For All. With nearly 30 years of experience in operational excellence, change management, and organizational wellness, Laleh has inspired and empowered hundreds of thousands of individuals, including Fortune 500 executives, to seek greater success, happiness and wellness.
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