How to protect your reputation during major change

One employment lawyer explains how HR professionals can minimise risk and support employees through times of change.

How to protect your reputation during major change

Organisations often come under intense scrutiny when executing major change initiatives or making mass redundancies but there are some measures employers can take to mitigate reputational damage, says one industry lawyer.

“Going through the process in what is clearly a fair way, where you’re not trying to rush it, where you are providing good information, where you are providing personal support and giving feedback to employee comments – that’s key to avoiding reputational harm,” says Hamish Kynaston, partner at Buddle Findlay.

“I think one of the worst things is when an employer receives all of these comments and they just disappear into a black hole and employees get the response of; ‘Well thanks for that but we’ve decided to proceed anyway,’” continues Kynaston.

“If you actually go back with a meaningful and considered response that hasn’t been knocked out in the space of half a day, employees might not like it but it is appreciated.”

Kynaston also says that employers should think carefully about how they can help outgoing employees transition into new work.

“There is a legal obligation to mitigate the impact of redundancy and to think about the ways in which you might do that by helping employees transition into other roles – either by outplacement, by tapping networks, or giving people an opportunity to connect with a recruitment agency, whatever it might be – those are all really positive ways to mitigate and I think they lessen the risk of people actually taking action against you,” he says.

“If you do take these positive steps and you do think about the ways you can assist these people with the transition and if people see that you’re making genuine efforts in that area, they may still not like the fact that they’re being made redundant but they might at least appreciate the effort that is being made to place them elsewhere or help them in some way.”

While employers’ efforts are good for outgoing employees and the external reputation of the company, Kynaston says they also have an important impact on the staff left behind.

“You’ve got to think about them – they’re seeing their friends, family and colleagues go down the road to redundancy and it’s critical that they can see those people have been given a really fair go in the process,” says Kynaston.

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