It may not feel like it but the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to last forever and there will come a time when individuals and businesses reflect and look back at how they responded to the challenges which arose and ask themselves whether they acted in the best possible way.
At the start of lockdown, business leaders, like everyone else were ‘feeling their way’ and were sometimes portrayed as getting their responses to the growing crisis badly wrong. High profile examples included Richard Branson, apparently quoted as ‘telling his staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave’ with some branding the Virgin Atlantic statement as ‘an entirely avoidable PR disaster’.
More recently as pubs started to reopen, there were renewed calls for drinkers to boycott the Wetherspoons chain with social media making sure people remembered the chairman allegedly telling
the company's 43,000 employees that they would be laid off until the government furlough scheme began. This decision was later reversed due to the online backlash.
As we emerged from lockdown part of the ‘new normal’ was that the UK economy would be expected to enter its deepest recession for centuries. This was confirmed on 12th August by the chancellor who said ‘the government is grappling with something that is unprecedented’ after official figures confirmed that the economy shrank 20.4% between April and June compared with the first three months of the year. Coupled with the government furlough scheme set to end in October, employers are already looking at whether they need to right size their business and consider redundancies. In the same way as businesses were judged at the start of lockdown, how organisations handle this next phase and the way they treat their people is vitally important for many reasons.
It is well documented that the expected impact of lockdown on the mental health of the population will be huge. Employers who make the duty of care they have for their employees paramount, will also take seriously the possible effects on the mental health of their people in the event of a redundancy programme. They will think carefully about how they might support people through this difficult time.
70% of people trust what employees say about a company over brand advertising. We would like to think that every employer treats their people well, but we know that is not always the case. Employers who genuinely want to support their employees in the best possible way even when it comes to difficult times will not only be viewed as a good company to work for, but also a good company to buy from.
Integrity, honesty and fairness are all qualities which not only make a business great to work for, but a business which is also likely to deliver a great customer/client experience.
Review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed allow former and current employees to rate what it is like to work for a company. Add to this prolific commentary on social media it is difficult for businesses to hide poor employee feedback. These sites are also being used as a platform for people to talk about how businesses are treating their staff during COVID-19 and unfortunately we should expect to see reviews about how people are being treated as they are let go.
‘Disgusting way to treat loyal employees who have given their life to the company’ and ‘I feel for all hospitality staff that have worked hard and been pushed away like nothing’ are sadly some of the reviews already out there damaging well-known brands. It is often said how you say goodbye is more important than how you say hello, this resonates now.
The recession will not last forever and when an organisation is ready to start hiring again, potential new hires will visit these sites and what they read on there will influence their decisions as to where to apply.
Think about when better times return
Sometimes businesses find themselves letting valuable talented people go because commercially they have no option. A significant amount of time, money and effort will have been invested in hiring, training and retaining these people – it will be soul destroying to have to let them go and maybe see them move to a competitor.
Imagine being able to rehire these people as the recovery begins and strengthens. What will make someone want to return to work for an organisation that has made them redundant?
Outplacement and Careers Transition
More and more businesses are offering their people affected by redundancy services and support which sit under the heading of outplacement and careers transition. Providers usually offer a range of services, from basic CV writing skills, group workshops and one to one coaching.
Often those on the receiving end of this support, express surprise that it is available to them in the first place; grateful that they have been offered it. Particularly if they have been out of the job market
for some time, individuals appreciate the value and benefit of the support they receive. It may feel like an extravagance to spend money on something like this during a time when costs are being cut, but fast forward to the time when hiring has recommenced; on average it costs £5,433 to hire and onboard a new member of staff. The cost of outplacement is a fraction of this and could secure your future hires in the form of returning talent.
I have facilitated dozens of outplacement workshops and one to ones during the last few years and it is always rewarding when you get feedback from delegates who say that the service has made a real difference to their job search and in some cases have cited it as instrumental in their being able to secure their next role.