Redundancy communications - should I stay or should I go..?
Redundancy conversations are difficult. Really difficult. Remembering there are people involved - real everyday humans - will help you to do the right thing and be respected for the way you treated people.
If you don't the people who decide to stay might not be the people you want....
You need to juggle being honest, respectful, clear, and timely with the people who might leave, with being positive, forward-thinking, and focused with the people who’ll stay.
And don’t forget your customers, who’ll want to know if your service will be the same and if they should stay or go too.
Then there are your suppliers – who’ll be worried about how it affects their future. Big changes will also feature in the court of public opinion – judging if you’re doing the right thing and can have a huge impact on your brand.
A tricky narrative to keep balanced and keep all your senior leaders authentically on message.
Here’s our checklist for creating a good experience with a 360 degree comms plan:
A clear and straight forward story
Gather all the facts before crafting the narrative. Include context, reason, the outcome for people, the business, and customers. Ideally, you should build on the story you’ve already been telling.
Prepare all your material from one story and Q&A pack. Tailor the messages for employees, TU, customers, media, social media, suppliers and partners. Decide if your media plan is to be reactive or proactive and don’t forget the best external approach is often not to speak.
A heat map
You’ll need a detailed understanding of who’s affected and particularly if a whole store or branch is impacted. Map out the full 360 degree stakeholder plan so you know who you need to reach and when.
The golden rule is of course to tell your own people first. But if you’re a regulated business you’ll be tied to market timing. If people will have heard it on the news first, make sure you acknowledge how this will make them feel and why it has to happen this way.
Tell everyone quickly – then go back and re brief and answer questions. Make sure you manage as many of your conversations in person – nobody wants to find out they’re unemployed via text message. Plan when you’ll talk to suppliers and partners and who’ll manage media and social media.
A customer plan
Think about who your customers will talk to – they’ll use their usual channels, so make sure the teams are prepared and self service points updated. Think about if these teams will have just heard their own news. Be realistic about what you can ask them to say. Ideally plan for out of hours briefings so they have time to absorb the news before speaking to customers.
Strategy in the event of a leak
News does leak, so decide what to do if this happens. You could bring the briefings forward or send holding statements - either way have all your material ready in advance. Think about this will make people feel.
The Exec team and senior leaders need to own the message and know the story - help them to rehearse carefully. Create a toolkit to help them to plan their communications week. Write scripts that give them licence to personalise – it’s absolutely vital to be human. An easy route is to include ‘I’m reading this part from a script so I don’t miss anything’.
Everyone needs to hear the news from the most senior leader possible. If you have a network of stores or branches, then create a video message from CEO or Exec leaders.
Think about other things that are happening. From the obvious – don’t launch anything new and exciting in the same week. To the more subtle – are your walls plastered with ‘caring for your career’ posters that will ring hollow? – remove them.
Finally, create a place where everyone can access the announcement material, Q&A, and other supporting info. Ideally, make this accessible from home so people can use it whenever they need to.
The announcement is just the start
Redundancy announcements are not just a one-off event. It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief once the news is out, however, this is the most important time to plan extra engagement. You’ll be judged on your conversations with people throughout the process – how you support them, how you face questions, and how you make them feel.
Create a robust measurement and feedback process so you know how people feel and what they want to know next.
Talk about the future. And keep listening.
Don’t just focus on the people who might leave. You need to bolster the people who’ll stay. They might feel guilty, or awkward that they’re staying while friends are leaving. Talk confidently about the future.
Don’t apologise for the decision you’ve taken, but do be sympathetic about the impact that it has on individuals.
Help your leaders to create a story for their team that’s respectful as well as forward-thinking. Hold more townhalls or Q&A sessions than usual. Open new channels so people who work remotely feel involved. This is about being visible and available during challenging times.
People will judge you on how you made them feel – give them every chance to tell you and they’ll respect the way you treated them.
How we can help
We've delivered redundancy, restructure, TUPE and change comms for over 100 situations. Our experience can help you to make sure people feel informed, they see and feel they were treated fairly. And that the focus remains on moving the business forward.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org