Downsizing with dignity: questions HR must address

After one company made the ultimate termination faux-pas, HRM chats to an expert about how HR can avoid angering employees when making the tough call to cut jobs.

Downsizing with dignity: questions HR must address
In August, Hutchinson Ports in Australia dismissed 97 workers via SMS and email. This angered staff members, who felt that the company’s technique was cruel, particularly due to the termination’s sudden nature.

The story subsequently gained interest on mainstream and social media, leading to protests in Sydney and Brisbane. Protestors blocked the firm’s terminals, ultimately causing a temporary cessation of Hutchinson’s operations.

Natalie Ashdown, CEO of Open Door Coaching Group, told HRM that Hutchinson’s mistake is not uncommon among companies who are forced to make the decision to cut jobs.

“Throughout these decisions, [Hutchinson] could have asked better questions, called on other points of view, considered the organisation’s values, and considered the people as more than just numbers, headcount and dollars translated to the bottom line,” she said.

Ashdown added that in the turmoil of downsizing, it’s HR should be constantly wary of losing touch of the ‘human’ in ‘human resources’.

Questions HR should be asking

According to Ashdown, HR should consider the following questions when forced to make workers redundant:
  • How can we do this with respect and dignity?
  • What communication options do we have?
  • What message do we need to convey and what’s the best way to do this?
  • Who do we need to get involved to support people through the process?
  • What support are the workers going to need?
  • Is there anything we haven’t thought about?
  • How can we go through this difficult period and still be proud of the way we treated people?

Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up-to-date with the world of HR. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from HRD New Zealand.

Recent articles & video

How to offer a stellar employee recognition program

Insights from an award-winning HR leader

Is your organization making this killer diversity mistake?

'It starts with people and it ends with people'

Most Read Articles

How to handle a toxic boss

‘Diversity cannot thrive without a culture of inclusion’

Company fined $250K after fatal incident