Businesses facing the tough task of shedding jobs need to maintain honest and regular communication and make sure staff are kept informed throughout, according to an expert from Aston Business School.
In an event this Thursday organised as part of the Challenging Times series, senior lecturer in the work and organisational psychology group Dr Michael Butler will explore the issues facing staff when companies decide to cut jobs and shut facilities.
Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Butler said there were several key points that needed to be considered when a company is facing tough times.
“The first thing is you have got to have the capacity to learn from these events as they take place,” he said.
“So if you are not open to the experience the easiest thing to do if you have a hardship event is to fall to pieces.
“The second point would be to look at what the organisation can do to make people feel positive and resilient. One of the key things is to build up trust between management and staff
“If you have closed communication trust breaks down.
“That communication needs to be open because if people feel that you are not telling the truth they won’t respect the message.
“Also it’s got to be regular. In these hardship events the rumour mill starts to happen and that can be destructive.”
Dr Butler said that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter made it even more important for organisations to be clear from the start about their plans as rumours and speculation can spread even more quickly than before.
Dr Butler highlighted LDV as an example of good practice in this sense – the West Midlands van maker set up a dedicated blog during the period when its factory had shut down and workers were sent home.
Consideration also needs to be given to how the threat of redundancies and closures at a company are perceived from the outside as well as from within, Dr Butler said.
“The third point is that HR and HR management is not enough in itself. You have got to link it into marketing and the brand,” he added.
Dr Butler said he had borrowed from bereavement counselling as the loss of jobs and the closure of a factory can have such a strong psychological effect on staff.
“When people are in shock and when they first hear the news they are not really taking information in,” he said.
“What can happen is that people don’t move through this bereavement transition curve and people stay frustrated and angry for longer.
“People stay at the valley of the curve for longer unless the organisation intervenes appropriately.
“Companies need to be saying ‘this is why we are doing what we are doing’. People will let the organisation do things if they can understand the reasons for the actions.”
Dr Butler said it was also essential that staff members facing redundancy were aware of all their options.
“If people are leaving then organisations can bring in counsellors to talk through their various options,” he said.
“They need to know about the choices in terms of severance packages, pensions, and the company can bring in organisations like the Chamber of Commerce or talk to other employers.
“Companies have more leverage than they might think so they could get in touch with universities so staff can get subsidised rates on courses.
“You keep them on as members but you agree to pay them a minimum amount, for example, people get their unemployment benefit and the organisation then doubles it.
“That allows the person to go off for a year do a masters and when the economy picks up then they can then be brought back in upskilled.”
Dr Butler said Thursday’s seminar will be an interactive event where members of the audience can exchange examples of good practice.
It will also hear from David Crundwell, who helped manage the shutdown of a facility at Vauxhall in Luton.
• Enabling Staff in Response to Challenging Times will take place at Aston Science Park on Thursday, 1-2pm. See www1.aston.ac.uk/aston-business-school/news-and-events/events/enabling-staff-in-response-to-challenging-times