What is a Voluntary Reduction in Force?

September 23, 2013 by Careerminds

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Every business and industry has its ebbs and flows. Any successful company will make a continuous effort toward aligning their workforce with the needs of the company. This alignment will sometimes call for a reduction in force. Even the greatest employee or team, taxes the company if their skill set is not needed or can’t be afforded.

You can download our voluntary layoff checklist here.

Whether it is because of a lack of work or lack of funds, reductions in force are a reality in business. While this can be a trying time for many companies who have had to conduct lay offs, sometimes there is the option to conduct a voluntary reduction in force. According to a SHRM policy template, a voluntary reduction in force is:

“The meaning of a voluntary reduction in force is when employees are selected in certain task areas and are allowed to volunteer for a layoff. The selected task areas will generally align with contract reductions.”


voluntary reduction in force

In traditional layoffs, management will bring together a team ora leader who will decide who goes in the layoff based on a number of factors. 

When companies have the opportunity to conduct a voluntary reduction in force, it is a more ideal situation. Voluntary reductions in force can focus on speeding up the process of retirement or early separation through the offering of benefits and assistance. There will usually be employees who are in a far better situation to be laid off than others. Voluntary RIF programs allow these such people to take the place of someone slated for a layoff. These aren’t always necessarily workers on the brink of retirement. For instance, there might be an employee who was considering transitioning anyhow. It makes sense that they could volunteer for the RIF, and leave one fewer person affected by this process. Due to this, voluntary reductions in force are much better for the overall morale and culture of an organization.

The definition of a voluntary reduction in force surrounds having the same goal as traditional layoffs in that they are aimed at meeting the needs of the company as well as the transitioning employee. Opening up the opportunity for a voluntary transition can minimize some of the common negative effects of a RIF. Conducting a voluntary reduction in force program sets the guidelines for those employees who wish to volunteer for the layoff.

The structure that these programs provide usually prevents highly skilled or specialized workers from being eligible to participate. Workers in hard to fill position, or those with critical knowledge are also generally exempt from volunteering. Again, those types of workers who qualify to volunteer will be determined by the alignment of their skills with industry trends. There are instances in which workers who would usually be exempt from volunteering can gain approval from management to participate in the voluntary reduction in force, or the project manager of the RIF.

While it is still at the discretion of the company, who can or will participate in the layoff, these voluntary programs are designed with the interests of both the company and the employees in mind. These programs are meant to help reduced the implementation of involuntary layoffs and therefore reduce the impact of the layoff throughout the company.

For companies like Careerminds, that is exactly the goal. We offer outplacement services to voluntary and involuntary transitioning employees to ease the burden of this process. Outplacement services can also be offered as an incentive to those who wish to volunteer for the reduction in force because employees are placed sooner and have a far easier transition with outplacement services. Voluntary reduction in force programs can be a great solution to a very common business problem.




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