From the hiring process and onboarding, to outplacement and offboarding, every step of the employee life cycle is important and must be treated with care and diligence.
In recent weeks, Elon Musk’s attempts at managing staff have been in the spotlight – in particular, his methods of letting employees go. From cutting staff across every department and country, to firing employees publicly via his own platform, the journey of Musk’s Twitter takeover has been messy, unprofessional and quite confronting for many who have worked for the organisation for years. While the billionaire’s antics will always be front and centre for the newscycle, it is part of a wider trend of layoffs across the tech industry.
Throughout all of this, there are plenty of examples of bad firing techniques – and it’s something that sadly, I see a lot of through the people I have the privilege of working with.
Firing employees – what not to do
Earlier this year, I spoke with Jack, who had been a senior-level executive within a membership organisation. The organisation had recently appointed a new HR team and, one afternoon, with very little notice, he was called in to speak with them. Of course, he was suspicious about what might have been going on, so he took a support person with him to the meeting.
Jack was right to be suspicious; the meeting was with his Managing Director and HR, who presented him with a document giving notice about his redundancy. Having worked with the organisation for many years, producing great results and building a good rapport with clients, Jack was in shock at this development. There was no performance review, no clue that a restructure was being considered and a plan for moving forward was not communicated.
Along with his redundancy, he was offered lower-level roles in the organisation or a redundancy payout. After negotiating the payout – the organisation had originally offered something much lower than was appropriate – Jack reluctantly accepted it.
Clients soon got wind of Jack’s departure, and they weren’t happy! Jack decided to write a letter, explaining that there was no ill will, that he was grateful to have worked for the organisation, and that he wished everyone the best for the future. Management blocked the letter from being released, and wrote one of their own, pushing their own narrative, naming false reasons why Jack had left, and casting aspersions on his character.
Needless to say, Jack was angry, frustrated, and disappointed that his time with the organisation had come to an end in such a way and that his reputation had been marred.
How to get it right when you let employees go
Jack’s story isn’t isolated. He ended up working with me through Career365, on his outplacement journey. I coached him through the situation and have supported his move forward in a positive way. The organisation he left isn’t the first to make these mistakes in firing, and they won’t be the last.
So, what can you learn from Jack’s story? First, there are the things the organisation did right. They did:
- Offer access to an Employee Assistance Program – offering counselling through this transition is a great thing to do. Even when redundancy is anticipated, the lead up to the exit can be emotional and frustrating. As with any major upheaval in life, having this extra support is essential.
- Offer outplacement – outplacement is a great way to give employees direction and support after redundancy. The search for a new job is daunting and – especially for those who have been with one organisation for a significant amount of time – can require a lot of work to feel ready for interviews and starting new roles. And, it’s not just employees that benefit from outplacement. It’s good for organisations too. Outplacement should not be a consideration for your employees, it is a necessity.
- Payout correctly – despite a short negotiation, the organisation was happy to pay out appropriately. Making sure the financials are in order is a huge part of supporting your employees through redundancy. Ensure you pay on time and correctly.
Then, there are the things that organisation got horribly wrong. They failed to:
- Give warning – restructures are a normal part of organisational life, but they needn’t be a complete shock. Taking employees on the journey, communicating clearly, can make a huge difference. Redundancy isn’t ideal, but employees can feel prepared.
- Communicate a plan moving forward – what do operations look like going into the future? What should the exiting employee do next? These questions need to be answered for everyone in the organisation.
- Finish strong, and on a positive note – there can be frustrations and hurt feelings throughout restructures, but there’s no need to introduce unnecessary negativity and, in particular, there is no reason to publicise negativity to clients or customers. Keep things civil and amicable. After all, you never know when you might want an employee to return to you.
It all comes down to finishing strong. When you look after your employees, even as they’re leaving you, they’ll remember it forever.
When you don’t, you put your organisational reputation on the line.
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