What You Need to Know About the RIF Process
February 20, 2019 by Martina Markovska
Although no one really wants to talk about it, downsizing and workforce reductions are an inevitable part of business. One thing leads to another. Positions become redundant, business objectives change, and a shift in management means a new way of doing things. And slowly, but surely, the task of developing a detailed RIF process looms in.
Now, this is the part where things can get a little tricky:
Why does an RIF occur? Who will it affect? What should the RIF process look like?
Let’s take a deeper look at the RIF process to fully explore these questions.
Reduction in Force Reasons
Transparency is key to implementing a successful reduction in force. The last thing you need is misinformation and rumors spreading around the office. This can cause panic among employees, damage your employer brand, and hinder your business operations.
Being honest with your employees and management teams will make the notion of downsizing easier on all parties involved.
Therefore, you want to make sure the reasons for the reduction in force are clearly stated. This way, everyone within your organization is aware of the events leading to the RIF.
These are the most common reduction in force reasons:
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Company reorganization
- Plant closures
Whatever the reason, make sure to emphasize the fact that your decision has absolutely nothing to do with the employee’s performance, personal attributes, or characteristics. But rather that the RIF is the result of purely business – as opposed to discriminatory – reasons. Otherwise, you could come under fire for discrimination and bias.
That being said, demonstrate that you have considered alternatives to RIFs.
Create a Reduction in Force Team
Pulling off a successful RIF is a huge undertaking. It’s not a one-person mission. Rather, it requires a mix of people working together. We’re talking HR specialists, executives, team managers, and accountants.
Form a RIF team that will be responsible for making the hard decisions. This includes miscellaneous tasks like coming up with reduction in force selection criteria, preparing the RIF notice, communicating the RIF to employees, and following up with employees post-RIF.
Essentially, your RIF team should know how to conduct a reduction in force as smoothly as possible. This means they should be able to micromanage tasks as well as be able to communicate processes with one another.
Communicating a Reduction in Force to Employees
There are two ways of communicating a reduction in force to employees: a written reduction in force letter and a reduction in force notification meeting. Both are compulsory parts of the RIF process.
A reduction in force letter is a formal way of communicating a reduction in force to employees. Its purpose is to provide exiting employees with key bits of information about the RIF, including:
- Outplacement support and severance packages
- Employee rights
A reduction in force notification meeting comes after the employee has received a reduction in force letter. The purpose of a reduction in force notification meeting is to stop misinformation, offer support to the exiting employee, and go over the RIF process in detail.
However, you need to be extra careful when conducting a reduction in force notification meeting because you never know how the employee may react. Prepare yourself for multiple scenarios and emotional outbursts.
We suggest you prepare a script to standardize all your RIF communication methods.
Reduction in Force Selection Criteria
Choosing which employees will be leaving is the most difficult – and most dangerous – part of the entire RIF process. Develop valid reduction in force selection criteria to help you decide who will be affected by the workforce reductions. Such criteria include:
- Seniority based selection
- Employee status based selection
- Merit based selection
- Skills based selection
- Multiple criteria ranking
But be cautious. You can learn more about the multiple criteria selection process (which is one of the best to use) with our guide here:
Slip ups in your reduction in force selection criteria can result in legal litigation and liability. So make sure your criteria are free from discrimination or bias and do not result in the disproportionate dismissal of older employees, employees with disabilities or any other group of employees that are protected under discrimination laws. The criteria that underlie any RIF should be clearly identified, uniformly applied, measurable, and documented.
The EEOC share some great tips on how you can prevent discrimination in your reduction in force selection criteria. As always, work closely with your legal team during a RIF to ensure that you are following all local, state, and federal laws. We are not lawyers!
Reduction in Force Checklist
You’ve probably heard of the saying – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Well, this is exactly what a reduction in force checklist is for. It’s here to remind you of what’s been done, what’s being done, and what’s yet to be done.
Here’s what your reduction in force checklist should look like:
- Set goals. What do you hope to achieve by downsizing?
- Consider RIF alternatives. Have you given thought to voluntary retirement, furloughs, and sabbaticals?
- Prepare selection criteria. Who will be impacted by the workforce reductions?
- Create a timeline. When will each step of the RIF process take place?
- Review employee protection laws. Does your RIF plan adhere to the WARN Act, OWBPA, and FLSA?
- Standardize communication procedures. Do you have a reduction in force letter template and script?
- Arrange support. Have you considered offering outplacement services and severance to exiting employees?
- Motivate remaining employees. How will you retain top talent?
- Consult HR. What does HR have to say about your RIF process?
Stay on track of the RIF process with a tangible reduction in force checklist. Print it out, save it on your desktop, or email it to yourself. You’ll find it quite useful when workforce reductions are underway.
Does Your RIF Process Make the Cut?
Implementing a reduction in force is by no means an easy feat. Just ask anyone who has gone through one. You need to select employees, develop a sound RIF notice, organize outplacement services, manage benefits, and comply with legal requirements.
It’s a lot to have on your plate. This we know. One wrong turn and your reduction in force can wreak havoc.
But rather than ignore – or fear – the RIF process, you should be prepared for it. Take in the information above and learn how to conduct a reduction in force successfully.
Consult management teams and speak to your HR department to develop an RIF process that will make downsizing and company reorganization a breeze.
Want to make sure your RIF process makes the cut? We can help make downsizing a bit more bearable. Let’s talk about your RIF and what we can do to help.
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