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Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

Sorry, but we have to let you go

There’s no getting around it—redundancies happen. But the way an organisation deals with those involved can make all the difference. The key, says Karon Campbell, is to ensure each individual is treated with dignity, fairness and consistency.

If you had to tell one or more of your loyal staff “Sorry, but we have to let you go,” wouldn’t you want to make sure that they had the very best change and transition support available to them? Support which:

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    Is appropriate for their immediate, long term and individual needs; and
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    Helps them in a proactive and pragmatic way to make a successful transition to a new role within your organisation or a new role or career in the external market.

Early in the change planning process it is important that your leaders and managers understand their role in a successful change management and transition process, and that they are fully equipped to lead this difficult management task.

The Change and Career team at H2R recommend that as an HR professional you ensure that your leaders fully understand their responsibilities in this sensitive situation. We have, for many years, advocated that three important principles be front of mind when planning a change which has an impact on people’s roles and the structure of the organisation. These principles are: that you treat each individual in your organisation with dignity, fairness and consistency.

It sounds straightforward and pragmatic, but the need for authentic consultation, considerations around good faith, and for effective leadership can complicate things if leaders are not trained to effectively manage this situation.

To lead a restructure effectively, managers have to understand the “rules of engagement”. Many will think they know how to plan the process and deliver the news. Experience tells us, and you as HR professionals, that this is not always the case.

Leaders need to manage the change, sometimes manage their own careers if they are personally affected and, at all times, maintain expected leader behaviour.

The last point comes as a surprise to some leaders—they do not always realise that how they think, feel and act during a change process can have a lasting impact on both departing and remaining employees. On the other hand, leaders who feel adequately prepared, through experience and previous learning, can play a vital role in the planning and preparation of restructures by sharing their knowledge with other leaders.

Tried and trusted change methodologies can be mixed with “what works in your culture” and this results in a strong communication plan which ensures that leaders do not damage the business, your employees or themselves.


When organisational change involves significant restructure and potential impact on roles within the organisation, New Zealand law requires that a consultation period be observed post the announcement of these changes. If you invite feedback during the consultation process then you must give due consideration to this feedback and communicate any further changes to proposals in a timely manner.

Good faith underpins the process. If you expect people to participate, then you must have open, honest communication and tell them what you know, when you know it.


As part of an effective change and transition management plan, it is often advisable to have independent support available onsite on the day that announcements are made to individuals or to the organisation as a whole, and that support is available throughout the consultation process.

This critical step will ensure that leaders and employees feel supported as they have an independent, confidential environment in which to voice their concerns, deal with their emotions and contribute to the consultation process in a positive way. Communication is key.


Where there are realistic redeployment options within the organisation, in terms of existing vacant roles or newly created roles in the structure, individuals will often need help to review these options and prepare themselves for internal, contestable recruitment processes. In fact, it is frequently stated in the formal communication notifying people that their role has been disestablished, that “every effort will be made to assist them with redeployment within the organisation”.

It is vital to fulfil this commitment. By engaging external career consultants at this stage, the organisation is providing independent, confidential and unbiased support to people who wish to make informed career decisions, fully participate in the selection process and present themselves professionally in terms of expressions of interest, CV, interview and assessment, in order to secure a new role in the new organisation.

Communication of critical processes and timelines is particularly important during this period—people need to know that they have sufficient information, resources and time to put their best foot forward and really engage in the process.

Those who are unsuccessful in securing a redeployment option or who choose not to participate in a contestable process will find themselves in a redundancy situation and will need effective outplacement support.


A definition of best practice outplacement (career transition) is often not clearly understood by users and potential users of outplacement services. For the most part, however, many organisations do have a basic idea of the outcomes that can be expected of an effective change management and outplacement plan.

A successful change and outplacement process should have a tangible and positive impact on the organisation, its employees, its performance and, most importantly, be successful in assisting exiting employees to transition to new roles and careers. Although there appears to be little evidence that any form of assessment of these services is taking place, here is what we know to be key drivers for organisations to provide change and outplacement support:

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    Concern for affected, transitioning employees—minimising anxiety and disappointment;
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    Minimising “flight risk” and ensuring employee retention in key roles in the new structure;
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    Ensuring that remaining employees stay focused and engaged;
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    Protection of the image and brand—to be seen as an employer of choice;
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    Mitigating possible legal costs.


Providing outplacement support reduces distress, angst and disappointment for transitioning employees, while providing reassurance for remaining employees when they know that exiting staff are being assisted in their transition and treated with respect.

Remaining employees will find it easier to maintain focus at work and remain productive while those employees who will ultimately exit the organisation are more likely to remain engaged up to the time they leave, and feel more positive about finding new employment.

With increased goodwill between the organisation and outgoing employees there is also less likelihood of costly litigation.


Outgoing employees will gain a feeling of support—“I am not alone”. Through the process, they will gain greater confidence of their value in the marketplace and their ability to market themselves—online, on paper or face to face. All of this improves their likelihood of gaining new employment quickly.

Even if an affected individual understands the rationale for the change, and accepts that it is an organisational decision not a personal one, the journey can still be an emotional rollercoaster, so to have independent and practical support through the process helps each person to move forward in a positive way and not to dwell on what they have left behind. Again, there is less likelihood of litigation.


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    One-on-one coaching that is tailored to suit the individual’s needs
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    Identifying their key transferrable skills and preferences, achievements, values and drivers;
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    CV preparation—a CV, cover letters and profiles targeted to desired roles;
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    Job search techniques including a proactive approach to networking;
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    How to get the best results from online job sites such as Seek and LinkedIn;
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    Working with recruiters, search firms and employment agencies;
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    How to promote themselves professionally in the marketplace—CV, interview and social media;
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    How to present themselves confidently in an interview;
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    Information on selection techniques including assessment centres, video presentations, psychometric testing and 90-day plans;
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    Identifying and exploring other preferred options for the next step in career and life, including self-employment, contracting and consulting, retirement options, portfolio careers and directorships.

Whether it is an individual going through change, a large part of an organisation being restructured or an entire operation being closed, one of the most valuable parts of the outplacement support is to provide the affected personnel with real information about the current job market and how to navigate it, and real connections to job opportunities through recruiters, search firms or companies that are recruiting in their particular field.

An experienced and well-connected outplacement specialist will have the know-how and strong networks that they can call on.


Organisational restructuring can be a difficult process for all concerned, especially when it results in redundancy. The effects on all parties involved cannot be underestimated—our jobs and the organisation we work for are a significant part of our lives and our identity. Providing strong support for individuals and teams during this time of change is, quite simply, the right thing to do!


When planning for restructure and redundancies:

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    Engage and train your leaders to do it well;
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    Provide scripts, guidelines and the opportunity to discuss and practise;
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    Communicate the process and critical timelines effectively;
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    Treat everyone with dignity, fairness and consistency;
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    Ensure that “good faith” underpins the process;
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    Provide inplacement (redeployment) and outplacement support for those whose roles are directly affected;
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    Remember to put sufficient focus and attention on the needs of remaining leaders and employees.

KARON CAMPBELL is a career and change consultant with H2R Consulting. Visit or contact

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