It’s not you – it’s me, it’s COVID, it’s the world!

Whether you call it right-sizing, career transition, redundancy, resignation or mutually agreed separation, the reality is the same – an employee is leaving the organisation and heading into employment uncertainty. This is especially the case now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global health crisis has affected us all, but not equally. As time goes on and the situation progresses, the medium- and long-term impact on businesses will become clearer, and these ramifications will also not be felt equally.

Qantas has announced that 20% of their staff – 6000 people – will be made redundant in the next few months. Flight Centre has announced another 1500 employees will be made redundant, in addition to the 3800 who were stood down at the beginning of the COVID outbreak. I am speaking to organisations every day and whether it might affect one person or 1000 people, redundancy and restructure is top of mind for every Human Resources Director in Australia, if not the world.

As CEOs, employers and managers we have obligations to a number of stakeholders, including (in no particular order):

  • Our shareholders and investors, to ensure that business is viable and sustainable into the future.
  • Our customers and clients, to ensure that we can sustainably provide our product or service to meet our customers’ needs.
  • Our current teams and employees, to provide safe, challenging, sustainable and rewarding workplaces and an environment where employees feel respected and cared for.
  • Leaving employees, to provide support as they seek new beginnings. How we treat these employees as they leave sends a message about how the organisation values people generally. Survivor guilt is real and remaining employees will judge the organisation on the way in which their friends and colleagues are treated during this difficult transition.

We know that robust outplacement programs are important for both exiting and remaining employees, to fast-track new beginnings and also for the sake of the mental health of everyone affected.

The essential components of best practice outplacement and transition programs include the following.

Customised programs to meet the needs of the exiting employee

Everyone responds differently to change. While some may be excited about leaving and the opportunity to start something new, others will be bewildered. Others might be angry or sad. Some people may have been made redundant previously, while others might have worked in the same organisation for 30 years. Programs need to be tailored to meet the individual where they are at.

One-to-one support

While group or team environments can be very effective in facilitating some types of learning, other forms of support need to occur on a one-to-one basis. Discussion of such matters as finding a new role, future dreams, skills, areas for development and the income needed to support an individual and their family needs to take place in a private setting. These conversations need to be held with trusted professionals who can ensure confidentiality.

Employees should have the opportunity to select their own coach or consultant. Feeling a connection and having a sense of trust and mutual respect are essential for achieving the best outcomes for the leaving employee.

A mix of hard and soft skill development and support

The basics of any outplacement program need to include the development of hard skills and tools. This is the easy part, and any credible or even semi-credible organisation can help with such tasks as resume writing, interview training, LinkedIn development, job search strategies and market updates. In fact, any individual with initiative can simply Google the information they need.

But additionally, good outplacement programs assist people with the development of soft skills and help them to overcome the emotional setbacks so often associated with job-hunting. A great outplacement coach will challenge their coachee to think beyond their current skills and experience. They will support them to learn from rejection and to pivot if required. They will do roleplays to hone interview skills and make sure their coachee is thoroughly prepared.

Programs should be available over a period of time, between three and 12 months, to provide support throughout the journey. Unfortunately, not everyone will find their next role in a week or a month.

Minimise impact of isolation and alienation

Redundant employees can often feel alone and isolated, and this is likely to be exacerbated during the current COVID crisis, during which many of us continue to face social restrictions. Ideally, outplacement programs will have a group coaching or networking component that allows individuals to gain support, share learnings and build and maintain their networks.

As organisations continue to navigate changing circumstances as a result of the pandemic and start to consider new business models, re-structures, process redesign and redundancies, responsible organisations will invest in robust outplacement programs to respectfully support exiting employees and to minimise the impact of survivor guilt.

If you would like to find out more about Peeplcoach’s coaching-led approach to outplacement, contact us here. With our one-to-one coaching and outplacement programs starting from only $99+ GST per person per month, Peeplcoach ensures equal access for all employees in need of career or leadership support.