HR's role in helping to turn redundancy into a positive

With job losses rising, Nina Zeilerbauer says there is plenty that can be done for employees

Nina Zeilerbauer

We know that redundancies are on the rise in the UK. Many HR managers and teams will find that the redundancy process is taking up the majority of their workload currently. These processes are often fraught with complications and stress. However, there are ways to help those facing redundancy to see the positives. 

According to the latest ONS figures, 108,000 redundancies were made in the three months to June 2023 compared with 95,000 in the previous month. In May, ACAS undertook a survey on redundancies which found that 30 per cent of larger employers (with 250 employees or more) are likely to make redundancies in the following 12 months. As recruiters, we are seeing an increase in candidates coming to us for help and advice with their options and as HR professionals redundancy will be a large part of your workload.

For your employees on notice or at risk of redundancy, it can be hard to feel positive. It can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, isolation, shock and low self-esteem. However, there can be positives to being made redundant. Potentially redundancy gives an individual the chance to consider professional choices that they may previously have shied away from.

For example, we see people diversifying their skill sets. This might involve learning new skills, new qualifications or gaining experience in different areas of their industry which may be more redundancy-proof. Diversification can make your employees more adaptable and versatile, increasing their value to you elsewhere in the organisation.

As recruiters working primarily in the real estate industry we are seeing people with transferable skills move into our industry and many people do not realise they have these important transferable skills. As HR professionals it is worth looking at ways to help those on notice of possible redundancy access courses or qualifications which may help them on their journey as well as help them to quantify those skills.

There are well-known household names where redundancy has arguably changed the course of their lives. After co-founding Apple, Steve Jobs was ousted from the company in 1985, only to return in 1997 to play a pivotal role in reviving Apple's fortunes. His innovative thinking and leadership transformed Apple into one of the most valuable and influential technology companies in the world. Early in her career, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a news reader.

Undeterred, she went on to launch her own production company and became one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry. One of the world’s richest men was helped to realise his dreams after redundancy. Before founding Amazon, Jeff Bezos worked at a hedge fund. He was let go from his job there, which ultimately pushed him to start his own venture.

Amazon started as an online bookstore and later evolved into the global e-commerce and technology giant we know today. While perhaps it may be a little disingenuous to start listing these success stories to employees facing redundancy, the sentiments behind their success can be used to bolster positivity and confidence. 

Generally, as recruiters, we are not seeing widespread panic with many of our candidates using their time to network for example. Promoting networking within your organisation is key for HR professionals who are dealing with redundancy issues daily. Networking is a lifeline for many of those on notice of redundancy. It is a chance for them to connect with other professionals for support, advice and potential job opportunities.

Helping them to seek out any opportunities and gauge the market from other professionals in your industry is imperative to those facing redundancy. Building or strengthening these connections will almost certainly have long-term benefits for their career advancement. When we talk to individuals facing redundancy in our sector we find that many are seeing it as a chance to catch their breath and look for their next challenge as well as focus on their mental health and well-being.

One asset manager facing redundancy said he plans to take a few months off and travel as well as focus on networking. Others are focusing on home improvements and hobbies over the next couple of months before they take on another role. It is interesting to see that not all are in a race to find a job, rather preferring to wait for the right job than any job. In many cases, a redundancy package allows you some breathing space. However, that is not the case for everyone. Many do need to find alternative employment quickly and in a stretched marketplace and a difficult economy that is undoubtedly a challenge but not insurmountable. In my 20 years of experience as a real estate recruiter, I have never seen a redundancy that did not result in a better outcome for the person concerned in the long term.

At Madison Berkeley when candidates facing redundancy come to us we advise them to ensure that they stay informed of their industry's trends, challenges and opportunities. Being knowledgeable during interviews can demonstrate their commitment and enthusiasm. It is also important that your outgoing employees are furnished with strong professional referees who can vouch for their expertise and commitment from your organisation.

Speaking to recruiters is a positive thing for your employees to do, both in terms of opportunity and advice. However, advise them to limit speaking to 2 or 3 as an absolute maximum, otherwise, they can lose control and risk their CV being sent out to the same business. 

Redundancy can prompt individuals to reassess their career goals, interests, and values. It can encourage self-reflection which can lead to the discovery of new career paths. After the initial shock and upset redundancy is usually positive in the long run. Your advice serves as a valuable roadmap for your colleagues navigating the transition.

Nina Zeilerbauer is co-founder of Madison Berkeley