Standing down employees or worse? Here’s how to look after your people

These are certainly strange times we find ourselves in. Every day, more countries (and businesses) are shutting their doors. Whole industries are worried about their future, including anyone associated with travel, hospitality, and leisure. The virus is in almost every country on earth – and in almost everyone’s minds. 

While companies are currently scrambling to figure out what their future might look like, a lot of us in HR might have received the news we were dreading – that we’ll have to stand employees down, or worse. None of us want to act on these requests, certainly not at a time like us. But as we often have no choice, many of us want to do right by our people by seeing whether we can support them through this difficult time, even if we do have to make redundancies. 

In the challenging situation we find ourselves in, ‘traditional’ career transition support is insensitive at best, completely ineffectual at most. Right now, providing your people with the opportunity to only redo their resume and cover letter, as is often offered, is certainly not what’s required given the job market they are about to enter will be so challenging. What they need, regardless of whether they are being stood down temporarily or permanently, is choice and control over their situation. Here’s how you can give it to them: 

Explore leave options 

Although the current coronavirus situation is terrifying, it is temporary. Even though it may not seem like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel. China has already witnessed this – today, for the first time, there were no new reported cases of the virus in Hubei, the province where it all began.

What this means for businesses considering redundancies is this: even if you believe you have to let anyone in your team go, there might be a period in the not too distant future where things ramp up again and you need to rehire them. Knowing this, it’s important to explore all options as to whether you might be able to keep people.

One great option to consider is offering your people leave. This could come in many forms, for example, annual leave, paid at a half-rate, or even unpaid leave. Offering leave options helps your people feel more control of their situation, and also gives them hope that they may be able to retain their job. 

Invest in upskilling 

There’s no doubt that regardless of our job situation, everyone is feeling anxious right now, so much so that the World Health Organisation has told people to stop watching the news if they can. And even though the anxiety (and the situation) may not be resolved anytime soon, a great way to help people through is by instilling a sense of purpose through giving them something to work towards.

Purpose can be achieved through working towards a worthwhile goal, From a business and personal perspective, this goal can be learning a new skill. This makes now the perfect business – and personal – time to be upskilling your people. 

Upskilling is a great solution if you’re standing your people down, or if you’re unfortunately having to make them redundant. If they’re being temporarily stood down, they’ll return to the work with better skills than ever. And if they’re being made redundant, they’ll be able to focus on something interesting and valuable until the job market picks up again. 

Defer benefits

If you are making redundancies and offering your team benefits such as career guidance or resume help, you may find that they aren’t the benefits your people want – or need. Conversations about careers right now, especially those which involve jumping right back into the job market, might feel misplaced. 

So if you are offering benefits to your people, give them choice over what you offer them and give them the option to select the right services when they’re ready. They may be best to wait for weeks or even months to use any benefits you’re offering them. 

Give virtual support

When making redundancies (especially if we’re making a number at the same time), typically, we’d offer our people the opportunity to access onsite career and resume help. But right now, with the majority of us working from home, this option seems like an unnecessary risk. 

For this reason, if you’re offering support to your people, ensure you do so virtually, including virtual counselling, career coaching, upskilling, and even virtual exercise options. 

Doing what you can – it will make a difference 

Right now, everyone’s feeling frightened, uncertain, and looking for any opportunity for relief. As business or HR leaders, if we’re faced with the worst decisions, the best thing we can do is support our people through the process, in a way that’s appropriate for them in this situation, and more broadly, in a way that enables them to retain dignity, choice and control. 
To help organisations and employees in this challenging time, Career Money Life is currently offering free access to their careers experience platform. Using the platform, your people are able to completely customise their stand-down or transition experience. They can choose from hundreds of different suppliers and services, and redeem any benefits funds at their convenience.

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