Fixer: I’m not ready to axe employees

22 Aug 2019 By PM Editorial

How can I prepare for restructuring meetings?

My organisation, in the public sector, is going through a large consultation exercise at the moment, which will result in several roles being cut. It will be my job, alongside managers, to speak to those involved, inform them when decisions have been made and deal with any fallout. I am an HR business partner with just a few years’ experience and I don’t feel I have been prepared at all for the situation. It’s not something I’ve been asked to do before and I find it extremely daunting. How can I prepare myself?

A restructuring is always a busy and stressful time and requires both professional and technical knowledge as well as emotional intelligence and empathy. But being prepared will improve your confidence on the day and make the experience better for the affected employees.

A good first step is to think about the type of scenarios you might face. They could range from someone who wants to stay and has been appointed to the job they want, through to someone being offered a role below their current grade or being served with notice to leave. 

Prepare a script or bullet points for each scenario – and in the case of people leaving, remember that redundancy is a form of dismissal so what you say needs to be legally sound. Try to be consistent with your messaging throughout and think about each meeting from the other person’s point of view: they might want to know when changes will take place, who they will work for or what compensation is on offer, so you need to plan your answers. 

If questions are raised that you can’t answer, agree a time to get back with a response rather than making something up on the spot. You may want to hand over an outcome letter in the meeting, or explain when it will be sent.

It’s also important to understand that people might respond differently to the conversation. Some may be tearful, some angry, some quiet and some elated. Rehearse techniques for dealing with these emotions. Settle people at the start of the meeting, use a private room and have water and tissues on hand. Take notes and emphasise that confidentiality is paramount. 

Finally, look after yourself on the day. Even experienced HR professionals get nervous under such circumstances, so pace yourself and ensure you have a good mix of tough and easy conversations with suitable breaks to clear your mind.

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