Making Reductions in Force (RIF) Sexy

Perhaps “sexy” is a stretch, but “bearable” would definitely get fewer reads. It’s one of the more taboo subjects in HR, layoffs. Looking back, I’m still not sure if I was crazy to get into the outplacement business. No one wants to talk about it, no one wants to address this pretty common part of the HR world. Maybe that’s why. Outplacement takes the nastiest part of the HR business and makes it…sexy bearable.

As we steadily make our way out of this recession, we’re still looking at reductions in force as an everyday occurrence across the nation. In the first quarter of 2013, 914 extended mass layoff events involved 154,374 worker separations, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Layoffs are still happening, and they’re going to continue to happen. When no one wants to talk about them, no one knows how to handle them. So let’s talk about reductions in force and how outplacement can help.

Being the Bad Good Guy

Layoffs are a hard time for everyone involved. A lot of employers believe that there is no way to get through a layoff unscathed, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s a right and a wrong way to do everything. Outplacement presents the right way to conduct layoffs. When a company is downsizing, they should offer outplacement services to help former employees through the transition to new jobs and help them re-orient to the job market.

At this point, employers have a choice. They can either offer tools, services and support, and be the good guy in a bad situation, or they can say “adios” and be the…well, jerk. Showing your former employees that the company cares about what happens to them outside of their role in the company, means a lot.

Employer Brand

When layoffs are conducted with little or no severance benefits, that is what we call the wrong way to do it. This can be extremely damaging to a company’s employer brand. When a company tells employees that they matter very little to the organization by not offering outplacement services and support, that company is sending a clear message to current employees and future candidates.

People talk, they tweet, they Facebook, they post on GlassDoor; Employees who feel slighted will let others know. It’s so easy to get a poor reputation as an employer. A positive employer brand takes work, but it’s worth every dime you put into it. When it comes time to recruit, you’ll be very happy for all of those investments into your employer brand.

The Ones Left

The survivors are left with empty desks and depleted morale. Some of the people that they used to spend anywhere from 40-50 hours with per week are gone. While sometimes that’s a welcome thing, for the most part co-workers care about the well being of one another.  They want to know that sweet Patty from accounting is going to be just fine and that she’s in good hands. And now companies have the option to see to it that sweet Patty will be just fine. The employees that made the cut often feel a sense of guilt. The more companies can offer their former co-workers in the way of support, the faster everyone can reengage and get to getting back to normal.

According to Insala, the number of individuals receiving outplacement support has increased by 50% over the past two years. “Belt tightening” is truly just a part of HR that isn’t going away, being prepared for it is vital. Being one of the few companies left that doesn’t offer outplacement solutions tends to put a big old “quarantined” sign on your employer brand. Be the good guy, offer outplacement.

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