GeneralHr Library

Converting Painful Layoffs into Dignified Separations

Source | LinkedIn : By Manoj GARG

In the last 1 week, there were layoff news from three different companies. All three of them in different industry segments, with different maturity, different geographies and different size and scale. Layoffs are not new or recent phenomenon. Nor they are going to vanish. Layoffs are integral part of the life-cycle of companies, who need to navigate the ever changing landscape of new technology, evolving consumer needs, disruptive ideas from startups, and regulatory environment.

 In the dynamic (or VUCA) interconnected world, the boom to bust cycle time has shrunk considerably. World over new business are getting incubated daily. It is a function of new business models backed by technology, easy availability of credit and the overall acceptance of “failure” as a new competency. Going by the number of articles published on startups, the eco system etc., it is very likely that every professional in the age group of 20-30 years is grappling with the fear of missing out this wave of creating value for self and the mankind at large.

 With only 1 in 10 startups succeeding, it is very evident that while 10 HR professionals are busy helping their organization scale, 9 of them are also facing (statistically speaking) a risk of managing layoffs within 24-36 months of start of the journey of the enterprise they are associated with.

If one goes by the various news items around closures of these startup business in last 6 months  (some of them were very known names like tiny owl, peppertap …) , it is evident, that despite the full knowledge of the inherent risks associated with the startup business models, neither the employees, nor the management were prepared for the unpleasant outcome.

HR leaders who are part of these organizations have a big role to play. They were hired by promoter of these companies to scale the workforce rapidly, establish a great youthful culture, create a performance and meritocracy driven environment, and be a strategic partner to the business (have a seat on the table).

What is their role in case of situations where they are staring at the inevitable situation of layoffs (partial or complete workforce)?

Actually their role starts much earlier. Even before the decision of layoff are taken, they should have sensed it at least a quarter before the final decision (if they were having a seat on the table, and were truly partnering with the business). Many a times, a thorough people cost analysis, and tightening of belt can buy the organization few extra months. A clued on HR leader can definitely delay the whole process, if not completely avert it. However, that’s not what I want to cover today, that’s for another article later someday.

Once the Layoff decision is made by the senior management of the company, HR (and hopefully senior leadership team) is supposed to execute it flawlessly. More often than not, the HR leader is called upon to opine on the statutory and legal aspects (governed by the laws of the land) of such action and create an implementation plan accordingly. HR leaders are part of the team (and sometime lead the team) who is entrusted with this onerous task. In this process, many a times both the organization and the HR leader miss out their obligations (which are not mentioned in any law / statute) towards their employees. Actually it is unfair to say that HR leaders miss out on this critical aspect. Most HR leader I have met, are conscious about the needs of the employees, they try and make their point as well, but more often than not, they do not pursue this with conviction. They are caught between the task assigned to them and the role they ought to play as an HR professional.

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