So, you’ve implemented the redundancy programme. Individuals have left the organisation and you have achieved the right size and shape for the future. Now you can relax and look forward. Or can you?
The manner in which organisations manage and motivate their workforce after a redundancy programme can have immense implications for the remaining employees. If the organisation neglects those who have made it through the reorganisation, it can pose great risks on the health and wellbeing of those who remain in work. Although they still have their jobs, they may experience greater pressures as they are required to take on extra activities that those who have left were doing. Morale will have dipped, if not plummeted, as they will have lost some good colleagues and may be experiencing the anxiety of, ‘if they could cut so and so, I could be next’. “Survivor Syndrome” will probably have kicked in.
Employers need to be aware of the issues and repercussions that organisational change poses, not only to their bottom line, but also to the employees affected by such change. Maintaining the psychological contract between surviving employees and the organisation, through the continuous involvement of all employees at various stages of the downsizing process, helps employees to perceive themselves as active stakeholders with a future.
Employers have a statutory duty to assess the risk to their employees of stress-related ill health arising from work and to take measures to control that risk. They can be exposed to a range of possible stress-related claims if they fail to manage the aftermath of a redundancy or change process properly. An organisation who has recognised this and has taken steps to counter such negative impacts is Intel. Intel have a strong policy for dealing with ‘survivors’ (i.e. employees who remain) and ensure that employees are clear that they must not pick up everything that others used to do. They recognise that cutting staff, must also mean cutting activities and processes that previously used to be done by people who they have let go. And they make a strong point to explain that to staff.
A recent study by the University of Cambridge found that job insecurity, rather than redundancy itself, took a far greater toll of the mental health of both men and women. Interestingly, though men put on a brave face in times of uncertainty, they recorded higher measures than women of depression and anxiety on the standard clinical measure, which records symptoms such as insomnia, poor concentration and unexplained sadness.
In 2011/12, around 22.7 million working day were lost due to work-related illness according to the Health and Safety Executive as compared to 2008, when 13.8 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression and anxiety. A redundancy process is one of the most obvious examples of large-scale workplace change, and failure to manage employees’ workloads or work patterns post-redundancy can cause them to suffer high levels of stress.
Corporate Alchemy can assist organisations to effectively counteract this negativity by providing Support for the Survivors. Such a gesture shows the remaining employees that their employer cares about them, recognises their responsibilities towards them and sees them as key partners to future success. Such support workshops can be supplied to teams or group to air problems, issues and emotional reactions so as to highlight to the organisation real issues that need resolving.
- Implementing a “survivors’ strategy” by providing a timely, accurate and thorough communication strategy
- Training managers to look for signs of stress and ensure they have the skills to manage the remaining employees in a supportive manner throughout the reorganisation period
- Advocating the monitoring of absences closely and working with occupational health professionals
- Warning that some employees will be carrying out a new job and may require a transition period before they become fully effective
- Considering what retraining needs employees need after a reorganisation
- Advising line management on having regular discussions with staff to ensure they feel supported in their new roles or new reporting structures.
Corporate Alchemy have specialist consultants who have personally delivered the range of services listed above and who would be happy to support you to ensure that the redundancy programme you’ve implemented succeeds, by leaving behind a workforce that’s motivated, engaged and committed to remaining with you for the long term.
Senior Outplacement Consultant