Almost every sector in the Indian business scenario, is going through a turmoil. In the last five to six months, we have witnessed several companies laying off thousands of employees at one go, due to multiple reasons. We all know how hard it is for the employees who are asked to leave, with a notice period of a month or three months. Some of them are not even allowed a notice period, but asked to leave with immediate effect.
No matter what the reason for the layoffs is, it is ultimately the HR’s responsibility to perform the dirty work of notifying people and justifying the harsh decision.
Let us dig a little deeper. What kind of an environment is it really, post announcement of layoffs? How do companies handle such mass exits?
We all know about the on-boarding process, where companies organise trainings and classroom sessions before the new recruits go on to handle their actual roles. But what happens at the time of mass exits?
“This is a situation which is high on emotions. Leaders should be at the forefront, handholding every impacted employee through the process, treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
In big companies, these situations impact thousands of people and it certainly affects them psychologically. According to HR leaders, it is a situation that companies need to handle with utmost caution and sensitivity.
“Companies need to show empathy and care as layoffs also impact their own brand and image. The outgoing employees should not be allowed to carry with them a bad impression, which can be very harmful for organisations,” says Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, chief people officer, South Indian Bank.
“An apologetic and caring attitude towards the outgoing employees is required, because all said and done, the employees are in no way responsible for what is happening,” mentions Kinjal Choudhary, senior vice president and CHRO, Eicher Trucks and Buses.
The leaders also play a very crucial role in the whole process. “This is a situation which is high on emotions. Leaders should be at the forefront, handholding every impacted employee through the process, treating everyone with dignity and respect,” explains Amit Das, director-HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co.
There are a lot of things that progressive companies do while laying off people in large numbers.
“It certainly impacts the brand and the image of the organisation. People staying back notice how you are treating your outgoing employees”
Most importantly, they communicate with the employees and explain why they are taking such a step. They counsel the outgoing employees in such a manner that they do not lose hope and also help them build their careers ahead. In addition, they provide outsourcing or outplacement services to the employees and pay for the same. They try to give references to their employees to help them get placed in other companies.
Organisations also offer ample time to the employees by notifying them well before such uncertainty takes hold, so that employees have time to look for other jobs. They also give various options, such as pay cuts if the employees wish to continue with the company.
“It is important to give time to the employees so that they can resign and get new jobs,” shares Choudhary.
He adds, “Many other facilities, such as medical help or compensation and benefits are given to employees, but one policy does not fit all. We need to customise.”
During this phase, employees are worried about their careers. Companies try to counsel them and give them guidance on post-exit opportunities, and also offer financial guidance with timely closure of all dues.
According to Das, “Such an event is always managed through a clearly laid out process basis a sharp strategy. The key steps include setting the objective, preparing the leaders and managers with the plan and clarifying their role in the process. Identification of impacted employees basis a fair and transparent process, and communication across all levels with personalised connect and support is crucial.”
“When such things happen, we tend to lose some of our best performers amongst the existing employees as well. Employees are inclined to lose their faith and trust in their organisation.”
It is important to ensure a smooth exit for the employees because layoffs impact the minds of the existing staff members as well, who need to be kept engaged.
“It certainly impacts the brand and the image of the organisation. People staying back notice how you are treating your outgoing employees,” shares Mukherjee.
Choudhary also adds, “When such things happen, we tend to lose some of our best performers amongst the existing employees as well. Employees are inclined to lose their faith and trust in their organisation.”
To keep the morale of the employees high, it is very important to explain and clearly communicate to them the next course of action. They should know that the transformation process is handled by a credible leader, with a team which is equipped with clear objectives. This helps the company retain employees.
Layoffs will keep happening and companies will again look to hire people in the future. This makes it all the more essential for the employees to go through a smooth exit, so that they leave without any hard feelings. After all, they will be the ones to spread the right image of the organisation out there. A smooth and amicable exit shows the company in a positive light, not only in front of the existing employees, but the future ones too.