Handling redundancy communications

We’re not out of the woods yet.

There was belated joy (or perhaps simple relief) last week as the UK finally emerged from the longest recession since records began.

So can we expect the narrative to now be about “growth”, “”upturn” and “recovery”?

But I would also expect to see a lot of other words beginning with “R”. Like restructure. Or reorganisation. Or redundancies.

Recent announcements from AZ and GSK are unlikely to be the last big announcements this year.

My team and I have spent a lot of time working with big organisations on redundancy programmes. We have gathered a number of lessons in that time.

So, we’ve pulled our thoughts together into a short “how to” document. In summary the 5 key things we’ve learnt are:

1. Think about the context and tone

  • Say what the change is not about as well as what it is
  • At the start of the process explain the rationale, process and key timings
  • Tell people where more information can be found and how they can ask questions
  • Set expectations about what can / cannot be shared as part of the consultation process
  • Avoid being overly legal in tone – try to keep it warm and human

2. Design a rigorous approach to supporting “at risk” employees

  • Decide what support / advice will be available to colleagues who are “at risk” of redundancy and tell them about this support as soon as possible
  •  Ensure that local managers are well prepared (in advance) for redundancy announcements and that they are able to explain the process and next steps in more details
  • For people who are impacted pre-arrange 1:1 meetings with their manager (too often these meetings take too long to set up after the initial announcement – causing anxiety and uncertainty)

3. Decide what support / guidance you will provide to managers

  • Provide managers with support materials including information about the process and likely Q&As which may come up
  • Provide managers with access to counsel / advice.
  • Remember many of them may not have gone through this before.

4. Plan how you will interact with the Unions and Employee Forums

  • Decide who in the leadership team will lead the interactions with the Unions and Employee Forums
  •  If you have had a historically difficult relationship with the Unions make sure you handle it with care and sensitivity.
  • And have a rapid-fire response ready just in case there are any leaks.
  • Think about how the role / status of the Employee Forum will be positioned next to the Union

5. Be proactive in ensuring that employees remain motivated and focused

The emphasis is rightly on “at-risk” employees. However, ensure there is also a focus on messages to employees who will remain part of the organisation.

Acknowledge the loss. People may be losing friends they have known for years (and may be feeling guilty – known as “survivor syndrome”).

Thank everyone for their hard work.

As soon as is appropriate provide a focus for the future and engage people around the new organisation.

If you’re facing up to the prospect of communicating about job losses I hope you found that useful.


  1. The second from last line in the post is kind of tucked away there, but in my experience is the thing that organisations forget. They say “that’s it, job done, let’s get on with it”, but many people have forgotton what they have to get on with, or don’t believe in it anymore.

  2. the comm says:

    lots of typos here….

    • Hi Lorna, Thanks for letting us know and being our proof reader 😉 I’ve spell checked and amended now. Some of these posts have been imported from our old blog, and we’ve just not had the resources to check them all through, so I appreciate you flagging those howlers to us. All the best, Katie

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