When I first saw the movie “Up in the Air” I always said to myself that this was a product of Hollywood fantasy until last week. I was part of a team from Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) that had to support the Tell-Day of a large company and because of COVID-19 it had to be done virtually. There I was at home sitting in front of a laptop and looking at the scene of an empty meeting room. The employee was being notified in the next room that she will no longer have a job.
Soon they came in and the HR introduced Anne (not her real name) who was a manager and she sat down in front of the company laptop. It was very obvious that she was crying even before I started our conversation. I learned quickly that supporting an impacted employee virtually is almost the same as face-to-face. As I concentrated on Anne, I completely forgot that we were separated by distance and technology.
As we talked, Anne told me that she was ok but was crying because she was concerned for her team. When I told her how we will support her and her team with our transition program, she began to calm down but never really stopped crying. After 30 minutes and as we were about to end, Anne said, “Thank you very much for talking to me. Now I can go home. I understand why the company had to do this because of the pandemic and the lack of sales. I also want to thank the company for helping us through this difficult period.” Powerful words from someone who just lost her job!
Where can you find a situation where you lay-off employees and they still say thank you? In the 20 years that LHH has been in the Philippines, we have seen the evolution of companies now recognizing outplacement as a best practice.
Outplacement, often confused with “Outsourcing or “Job Placement”, is a structured approach towards a next career for employees who have been terminated. It is conducted on behalf of the company making the change and is tailored to the level of the individual in the organization. In short it is “Caring for employees impacted by change.”
The Benefits Of The LHH Outplacement From The Company Making The Changes Are
As part of the preparation, LHH will work with the leaders on how to clearly deliver the message, manage the reaction and to map out the next steps. As in the case of Anne, LHH can be present as part of the Tell-Day support to help the impacted employee cope with the emotions, advice on Do’s & Don’ts and outline the transition support.
As the day ended last week, we received feedback from the leaders that they saw a distinct positive change in the attitude of the impacted employees after they had talked to LHH. They thanked the LHH team for our contribution.
Without a doubt, termination is very stressful to the leaders of the company implementing the change. However, when we start to advice on the best practices, you can see the growing confidence in the ability to implement a successful separation. There are checklists including logistical support, medical and security arrangement, timing, communication, etc. It is no longer a blank sheet but structures, procedures, guidelines and suggested FAQs.
Our most successful experience in helping companies manage changes in the organization are those that included LHH in the planning stage. The key element is to synchronize the messaging to the key stakeholders ie the employee who will be terminated, employees who will remain, suppliers/partners and the market. Timing and content of these messages are important. The results have been a positive image for the company.
The most important group of employees in a restructuring are those that are remaining after the change. They will now achieve the goals of the company with less headcount. The change must be clearly explained and to seek out anyone who has doubts or questions. Sometimes they will experience what we term as “survivors’ guilt” and this must be addressed. Best practice is to deliver a change management intervention for the stayers.
Based on our experience, impacted employees file a legal challenge not because of the change itself but on how they were terminated. If the notifying leaders are properly briefed, then loss of face, promises or hurting words are avoided. When outplacement support is provided, the employee feels the care of the company and rarely ever files a case.
A terminated employee needs to be supported. If the company does not provide outplacement, then it is society (family, friends, and community) that will have to help the unemployed. In some cases he/she becomes a social problem. Outplacement is now increasingly recognized as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of companies. CSR is not just the external activities of companies but internally as well. Proof are the continuing increase in the number of Philippine companies that have become customers of LHH.
About the Author
Vicente KILAYKO - Director, LHH Philippines
Vicente “Binky” Kilayko is a Director of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) Philippines. LHH has more than 7,800 customers around the world and we are the global partner to 50% of the Fortune 1000 organizations. For over 20 years, we have helped companies in the Philippines reorganize by taking care of employees that are laid-off find their next career.