Insight article

Redundancy makes waves

Today it was announced that a number of long-serving officers in the armed forces have been made redundant – notified by email.

Recently my colleague Kate wrote of her brother's experience in finding out whether he still had a job from the armed forces via a website. This impersonal notification will send shivers down the spines HR professionals, so many of whom have had to bear such dim tidings for thousands of employees during the recession.

Sadly, public and private sector redundancies in this new era of austerity are inevitable.  Yet the implications of quick-fire redundancy affect far greater numbers than those made redundant themselves.  In the case of the armed forces, negative PR rages on externally, affecting the public reputation of the organisation.  Internally, plummeting morale and resentment will cost them dearly in productivity, efficiency, respect and performance.  In any organisation, of any size, those left behind often feel guilty that their colleagues have been removed.  The fear factor of 'me next?' – particularly in the private sector – can result in people jumping ship, a costly exercise at any level.

The ramifications of 'how' redundancy is handled, outside the technical process, can make a huge difference to the mood and engagement of a wider workforce, whether an immediate team or indeed – in the armed forces' case – the entire organisation.  Leaders seeking high performance organisations must be prepared to create the most efficient infrastructure possible .  But in shedding jobs, treat people as human beings, with respect and care.  Good leaders will prepare everybody first with an honest story of the forward ambition of the organisation which builds pride and an understanding of the higher purpose as well articulating the need for changes yet to come, so people can understand why it's all happening when it does. And with any contentious email, before hitting 'send', think very carefully about how the rest of the workforce will react.

Nailia Tasseel