Restructures and redundancies: How HR can maintain employee trust, morale

'I think we need to be visible on the floor'

Restructures and redundancies: How HR can maintain employee trust, morale

HR leaders are being urged to "maintain an open-door policy" to foster healthy communication in the workplace amid rising reports of layoffs and restructures across New Zealand.

Requests for restructuring and redundancy support continue to rise in the country as of late, according to the Employers and Manufacturers Association, challenging HR leaders on how to maintain employee trust and morale in the wake of these changes.

Nicole Francis, co-founder of ColourHR, said HR leaders have to "maintain an open-door policy" and create a feedback loop to allow people to communicate and share their concerns.

"I think we need to be visible on the floor, and by that, I mean not sitting at your desk all day getting out there and talking to people, checking and seeing how they're feeling, and get a real pulse feel for the company," Francis told HRD.

HR leaders should also look into investing in employee development as well as wellbeing programmes that would support people and take care of their health, she added.

Addressing survivor's guilt

Francis made the remarks as she underscored that layoffs and reductions are not only challenging to those who will be losing their jobs, but also to those who will remain with the organisation.

Such changes can generate feelings of survivors’ guilt in the workplace, which can happen when reductions impact other employees along with close friends or family.

"I think how HR can assist in this would be to look at that psychosocial hazards and try and mitigate those where possible," Francis said.

HR leaders should help employees acknowledge how they're feeling and discourage them from brushing them off.

"I think we need to, from an HR perspective, support people and acknowledge how they are feeling," Francis said. "Take that time to process their emotions, encourage them to talk to others within the company who might be going through it because there'll be others that will be feeling that way as well."

Consequences of layoffs

In addition to survivors’ guilt, Francis said retrenchments can bring about various consequences in the workplace such as:

Loss of trust: People might lose their trust towards leadership and ask questions why this could be happening to them. Trust among colleagues might also be eroded due to a "why me, not them?" scenario.

Loss of productivity: People can be wrapped up in emotions as they go through a restructure, they can also be readjusting to the changes that occurred, resulting to a dip in productivity.

Fear and anxiety: People would be worried about their job security and what it means for them moving forward.

Workplace culture impact: A toxic culture can potentially be created as a result of layoffs after layoffs or restructures after restructures.

Increased turnover: Employees may turn to other organisations as they grow worried about the future of the company after a restructure or layoff.

Role of leadership amid restructures

Taking steps to prevent and address these consequences are not limited to an organisation's HR professionals.

"It's an opportunity for the leadership as a whole, basically," Francis told HRD.

According to Francis, leaders should offer very clear communications as to why restructures are happening.

"Basically, you need to just over communicate as much as possible," she said. "You need to be more transparent and open in the communications."

Leadership should also treat people with respect throughout the process and understand the psychosocial impact of the changes they're going to implement.

"Coming at the end of the restructure and coming off the back of that… create a real sense of empowerment within the culture," Francis said.

"Enable people to be involved in decision-making moving forward or enable them to make more decisions as well so they're involved in the process."

It is also important that leadership is empathetic to what is happening around the industry and to "look for the silver lining as well,” she said.

"There is an opportunity in every situation and sometimes we look so long at that closed door that we don't see what the open door might be.”

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