3 Ways HR Can Make a Strategic Impact During a Layoff
Let’s face it: most employers don’t think about outplacement unless they have to—if they think about it at all.
Layoffs do not make for pleasant cocktail chatter, and they certainly don’t brighten up the conversation around the water cooler—so talking about the ways in which you might be able to support your employees in the case of a layoff is often left until it becomes absolutely necessary.
While not thinking or talking about layoffs might make you feel more comfortable in the short term, not talking about or strategically working to implement outplacement long before a layoff is even expected can have a ripple effect.
Everything from your bottom line to the local economy is affected by the ways in which you carry out a layoff; whether you’re expecting to be affected by our unstable economy or not, consider how planning for a layoff with outplacement can affect your financial, personal, and social responsibilities:
While Human Resources is all about taking care of and looking out for the humans of the business, HR professionals still have a responsibility to the business of the business. In fact, HR is, in many ways, the bridge between person and profit, helping talent reach their maximum potential as employees and employees maximize the potential of the organization.
And when layoffs occur, they are more often than not motivated by finances—as a means of reducing costs to the organization in both the short and long term. While benefits like severance and career transition services can seem like unnecessary expenditures in the face of economic hardship, they can actually go a long way to reducing future financial burden:
The average time that a laid off employee is out of work is around 26 weeks, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, employers are responsible for paying unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. So most employers are on the hook covering employees’ unemployment benefits for the entirety of their unemployment. While this may not directly affect the budget, as unemployment claims are made against your organization’s unemployment reserve, unemployment taxes are raised in the coming years.
And while this may not seem like something that affects you, as a human resource professional, and your day-to-day work, if you are trying to establish HR as a more strategic partner to the business, concerning yourself with how you can play a part in positively affecting the bottom line should be at the forefront of your agenda.
Providing employees with the support they need to quickly land a new job may cost money, but you actually may help your organization save money in the long term by shortening the unemployment period and potentially lowering unemployment tax charges levied against the company in years to come. (You can learn more about this in our latest whitepaper: “The Unspoken Costs of a Layoff.”)
Back to the “human” in human resources: yes, you are responsible for helping your organization balance the check book if you want to be a strategic business partner; however, you can’t forget your most important job: taking care of your people.
That includes your people as they transition out of the company. Because your people remain your people, even when they no longer list your company as their present workplace on LinkedIn.
From the moment they become your potential candidate to the moment they leave the company, your employees are a significant investment for the company. Why squander that investment when they leave? The relationship that you have built with your talent continues after the layoff, as they become sources for potential rehire, referral, and even customer and partner opportunities.
Set the right tone for continuing a positive relationship with your former employees as they become your alumni by offering outplacement as a goodwill measure. By supporting them through one of the most difficult transitions of their lives, you will be proving that you care about their wellbeing, even if they are no longer in your employ.
Layoffs do not occur in a bubble. And while immediate financial concerns may be top of mind and personal concerns connected to your mission and employee value proposition, social concerns connect your organization to the local (and sometimes global) community.
When you lay off an employee, you are not only affecting their immediate future, but also making an impact on their ability to save for retirement, care for their family, or attend to their immediate needs. When an employee’s spending power is reduced for extended periods of time, it actually affects other businesses in the area, potentially affecting their profitability and driving the need for cost reduction. Families are affected by both the financial strain and the emotional stress it causes.
By providing employees with outplacement, you do more than help them cover the costs of a few weeks without salary (as with severance): you actually give them the tools and skills they need to successfully identify, apply for, network for, and interview for fitting roles at a new company so they can cover their costs and contribute to the local markets for the foreseeable future.
(And if taking care of your community is not incentive enough, find out how helping employees land the right roles with their new companies can save your company even more money in the long run here.)
As an HR professional involved in layoffs, you have the ability to become a strategic business partner, to affect your employee relations, and to impact the greater community and economy through your actions.
You don’t have to like talking about layoffs, but you do have to talk about them—at least if you want to make a significant impact on your organization.
And if you’re having trouble making the case to stakeholders outside of HR, why not send them a copy of RiseSmart’s most recent whitepaper on the hidden cost of layoffs? Get ready to change the way you look at the financial impact of a layoff. Download your copy here.