How to support staff – and yourself – through redundancies: a guide for NFP leaders

Managing-Redundancies-blog

Have funding cuts and uncertainty left your organisation considering restructuring and/or redundancies?

People are at the heart of all NFP organisations, so when the going gets tough ensuring people are treated with dignity and respect is of utmost importance.

A new guide created specifically for not-for-profit leaders aims to help NFP leaders to manage staff through perhaps the most difficult times any organisation will face.

Jobs Australia’s “A Guide for Leaders: Resilience – during the tough times” provides practical advice and resources to the community sector on how to best support staff (and leaders) when faced with difficult employment decisions.

The guide is designed “to assist leaders to navigate their way through a period of difficult change. We aim to help you manage this process in a way that is consistent with your organisation’s own values of fairness, dignity and respect, and in a way that will achieve the best outcome possible for all in the circumstances.”

Drawn from the new guide, here are four essential elements of a fair and respectful restructure:

1. Eliminate or reduce uncertainty

One of the biggest sources of stress during times of change is uncertainty.

To reduce the impact of stress on your staff – and to minimise potential staff turnover in the future (more on that later) – it’s important to provide as much information to staff as possible. This might include:

  • Timelines: Being open about the timelines of decision making – whether that’s your organisation’s timelines or the timelines of your funding bodies.
  • Financial advice: Communicating to staff where they can get financial advice, and subsidising or supporting this where possible.
  • Entitlements: As soon as you have information about what entitlements are available to staff, let them know so that they can begin planning.
  • Outplacement services and Employee Assistance programs: Making available or directing staff towards these services can provide much-needed practical and emotional support they need to help make important decisions about their future
  • Options for redeployment: keeping staff informed about progress on possible opportunities either within the organisation or in another organisation.

It’s important to remember that staff will take on information in different ways so be diverse and flexible with how you communicate with your team.

That includes using a mix of one-on-one chats, team meetings, emails and printed bulletins to circulate information.

2. Understand and manage staff facing redundancy

As well as the financial and career impacts of redundancy and retrenchment, staff facing an uncertain future will experience emotional and psychological stress.

As a manager, understanding the emotions your staff may be experiencing and having strategies and resources to support them is crucial.

beyondblue offers a guide called “Taking Care of Yourself: After retrenchment or financial loss”, and it’s worth circulating this to staff as a resource they can read in their own time, and come back to when they need it.

It’s also important for you as a manager to read it, too. Understand that emotions like shock, distress and anger may also manifest into physical symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue, forgetfulness and vagueness and even heartburn.

Knowing to look out for these symptoms is your first step to providing appropriate support to staff.

Some things that you can do to support staff include:

  • Listen to concerns raised by staff and refer them to other resources where needed;
  • While you can expect some heightened emotions ensure that you stay calm and respectful at all times;
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep;
  • Understand – and communicate – that it’s the job that is being made redundant, not the person; and
  • Practice patience. While the job needs to be done you must give staff time to absorb the news and work through their response.

3. Look after the staff who are left behind

After a round of redundancies, it’s common for there to be increased turnover amongst remaining staff. This is often linked to the emotional state of staff left behind and the on-going uncertainty that major restructures can create.

To minimise this turnover and to look after remaining staff, organisations should consider:

  • Keeping everyone, not just those facing redundancies, informed of the process and be upfront and honest about job security;
  • Keep an eye on the workloads and stress levels of staff;
  • Ensure that adequate training is provided where remaining staff have had a change of duties to cover redundancies or restructures;
  • Listen to the concerns of remaining staff and, where you aren’t able to help, ensure that staff are referred to support services; and
  • Follow a good redundancy process – if staff see the process being carried out fairly and respectfully it will help with their own wellbeing and motivation.

4. Manage your own health and wellbeing

Often forgotten in times of change and crisis is our ability to look after ourselves. Remember that you may be experiencing the same emotions as your staff, so ensure that you keep an eye out for any symptoms yourself.

beyondblue suggests tracking the following in whatever way suits you:

  • Are there any particular worries or concerns that you can’t get out of your mind?
  • Are you drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs more than before?
  • What are your sleep and diet like?
  • How much exercise are you getting?
  • How is your general health? Should you go to the doctor for a check-up?
  • Do you have family members and friends to whom you can turn for support?
  • Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions that may be aggravated by a period of stress?

You should seek help from a GP or mental health professional if:

  • Emotional reactions are severe or persist for more than a couple of weeks;
  • There is an inability to function and carry out day-today tasks;
  • Alcohol or other substances are being used to “self-medicate” or cope;
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide are being experienced.

For more information, download the full guide at www.ja.com.au/workplace-relations/publications/guide-leaders-resilience-during-tough-times.

Has your organisation had to restructure or undergo redundancies due to funding cuts? We’d love to hear how you manage this difficult challenge in the comments below.

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