Ensuring that your business makes the transition from “Reset” to “Thrive” can involve some very difficult decisions. No business owner or manager wants to make redundancies, and they are usually a last resort. The furlough scheme – officially titled the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – was introduced to help businesses pay their employees instead of making them redundant during the pandemic.

However, for some businesses, lockdown has had an ongoing impact on staffing and redundancies may be the only option.

What is Survivor Syndrome?

One aspect of redundancy that is often overlooked is the impact on team members that remain – sometimes referred to as “Survivor Syndrome”. Those who remain at the company often feel guilty that they have kept their jobs and can display behaviour such as low morale, increased stress and lower productivity.

Some feelings of guilt may be inevitable but providing clear and consistent communication throughout the redundancy process helps everyone involved to better handle the situation. Here are some things you should consider ensuring the impact is as limited as possible:

Have a clear plan

A clear and compliant redundancy process will help reduce some of the anxieties involved, for managers and employees. For a redundancy to be genuine, you should ensure that the selection criteria you use is objective and fairly applied and you must be able to demonstrate that the employee’s job will no longer exist. The redundancy process is complex, and you need to be conducting the process legally, we recommend seeking HR support if you are unsure of employee rights or you are concerned about an employee making a claim.

Communication is essential to tackle survivor syndrome

The aftermath of a restructure can be an uncertain time for employees even during ordinary times, and you should make sure you communicate with them clearly, regularly check in on their wellbeing and take steps to rebuild teams. Keeping people informed at all stages of your thoughts and ideas and allowing them to make suggestions and give their feedback, will help to keep them engaged in the process.

It will also help those who are retained in the business to settle more easily into the new structure, as they will feel that they understand the business plans, and how they fit into them.

Prepare for employee responses

Be prepared for an emotional or difficult response from employees made redundant and from the ‘survivors’ who remain. Your teams will find it easier to get through a tough time if they know why decisions are being made, and that they have been made in a fair and considerate way. Mishandled redundancies are a huge risk to a business, leading to potential problems such as low morale, conflict and damaged reputation. Train your managers to spot unusual behaviour and watch out for individuals who appear stressed or withdrawn.

Offer further support

For those feeling like they might be ‘next’, extra support is key to tackle survivor syndrome. If you have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), a good idea is to remind them of the details. Also keep employees up to date on any opportunities for training and promotion, this is likely to keep them engaged and reassure them their position is secure. Making sure employees feel like a valued member of the team is important at this time.

It may be that you can make changes to contracts, such as reduced hours or reduced pay, as a way of avoiding redundancies. If that is the case, take advice on how to carry out this process. But if you are unable to find any alternatives to redundancy, our Toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for managers and includes an hour’s support from one of our experienced team.

If you have any concerns or questions around the redundancy process, feel free to contact our team at info@realityhr.co.uk.