Conducting a RIF with a Smile?

May 13, 2013 by Careerminds

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A reduction in force is no easy task and unfortunately, no matter how well prepared you and your employees are, it’s something that does eventually happen to many of us in HR. And it’s not just the event itself, it’s the build up, the explosion, and the aftermath. Conducting a reduction in force can be dirty, scary business if you don’t have a plan. So let’s talk you through it.

The Build Up

When considering a RIF, first clearly define your goals as a company. Whether that’s a numbers issue, an expansion thing, or simply keeping your ship afloat, ask yourself, “Will this help me get there?” This is crucial step that many leaders overlook. When times are difficult or there is change in the air, some companies may have a knee-jerk reaction and immediately think layoffs.

Once you’ve determined that reducing your workforce is the best option for your company, compose a team to help you implement the RIF. This team should be as diverse as possible: men, women, different races, different age groups and from different areas of the company. Clearly define the parameters for who is staying with the organization and who is being let go. Be consistent and as fair-minded as possible. Ensure that everyone on the team is exempted from current or future reduction. While this is a popular misstep by leadership in movies, no one wants it to happen in their organization. If you are planning to let someone go, keep them off the team.

Make plans for where the work will go. Know the skills and abilities of your key players. Be realistic about what can be shared and what might be lost. Additionally, consider what your remaining workers might want as compensation for this added workload. Knowing what makes your workers tick is vital. Time off, loose social media policies, work from home options and other small and inexpensive perks are great options to offer pre-emptively. Go granular with managers on both of these areas; they’ll be able to give you a heads up as to which members of the team can handle it and what the remaining employees will need to stay productive.

Do your research on a good outplacement firm, they are not all made equal. Offering former employees a safety net during this scary time lets shows the company values their time. It can also help ease the guilt and uncertainty that remaining employees may feel. And while it’s tempting to think recruiting is not tremendously important during a frustrating layoff cycle, don’t forget about the all-important employer brand. When even your ex-employees speak highly of your company, you’re doing something right.

The Explosion

Respect is the key word. Conduct the whole process with respect for all of your employees. Think about how you would feel and what you would or wouldn’t want to hear at a time like this. While every company has specific guidelines for reducing the workforce, avoid going through the process as if it is rote, even if you have to layoff ten people in a row. Your goal is to give them a dignified exit.

The termination should be swift and without apologies, they don’t want to be in that little room any more than you want to be, do them the service of sparing the speeches and beating around the bush. Excuses, emotion and stories about you do the soon-to-be-transitioned employee very little good.

Follow this talk up quickly with what you can offer in the way of help and compensation. Have packages, information and outplacement options ready. Now is not the time to go hunting for scattered papers and passwords. Create a packet for each employee and make sure they understand their options, even if things get emotional.

The Aftermath

We can’t stress outplacement enough. It reduces the time of unemployment, gives your former employees networking skills and personal branding knowledge, lends piece of mind to both your former and current emloyees, and again, does wonders for your employer brand. Virtual outplacement has even higher placement rates and offers a much better ROI for your company.

A RIF can leave an office uncertain and stressed out. Keep communication lines open between the RIF team, managers and front-line employees. Be as honest and forthcoming as possible about the status of the company. A distracted workplace is an unproductive workplace. Don’t keep ’em guessing.




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