Implementing Virtual Terminations, Layoffs, and Furloughs

COVID-19 is redefining future talent management practices for businesses small to large, predominantly those who must make tough decisions to manage costs that require employee reductions. COVID-19 and all of the unprecedented government and corporate activities that we are all experiencing right now will go down in history. Its impact reaches beyond individual wellbeing, meaning it affects humanity as a whole. Many businesses and organizations have been forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future. We are changing how we work and making working from home a new normal, a move which is indispensable for companies to keep generating productivity and positive cash flow.

Business leaders are being forced to deliver layoff and termination notifications virtually and during an already very stressful time.

In the age of this pandemic, here are some questions we have been asked by our clients in the last couple of weeks.

How can we virtually carry out layoffs while ensuring an approach that respects human dignity?

How do we preserve our brand and strong organizational culture we have worked so hard to build when we need to lay off so many people?

How can we bring in an onsite career coach to make sure our employees know they have both emotional and practical support to get through this?

In these times, would it be acceptable to deliver the termination message to a group, especially when terminating whole departments?

The following tips will answer all of these questions:

  • Decide and clarify what you are offering your employee for post-employment support to ensure you are keeping your brand and culture as an employer strong.
  • If it is a temporary layoff/furlough you can provide a career development program to support your employee with skill upgrades and professional development.
  • If this is a permanent termination you can provide a career transition program to support your former employee with preparation for job search and professional branding.
  • If you are planning a group layoff, you will want to set up individual communication with each affected employee immediately after the group announcement.
  • Ensure all termination documentation is prepared, checked for errors, and ready to send immediately following the conversation.
  • It is highly recommended to deliver the message in a video/Skype call rather than a phone call.
  • Make sure you have a clear script that has been vetted by a labor lawyer/HR professional and stick to that script. Practice it ahead of time so you are not looking down at it. You will want to look directly into the camera so that your employees will feel that you are looking at them.
  • Be empathetic, practice a neutral tone and speak slowly. Allow for an emotional response.
  • Conduct the video call in a quiet and private room with no background noises or distractions.
  • Practice with the video technology, making sure your camera works properly and is at eye level. It is important to know where your mute and unmute function is; you will want to mute yourself as your former employee speaks and seamlessly unmute yourself when you need to speak.
  • Schedule plenty of time so you do not rush through the delivery of the termination message.
  • Make sure you have a clear plan to return all personal items to the employee and a plan for the return of any company property the former employee might have in their possession. Consider putting the instructions in the termination letter (the method for returning company items, and confirming that the company will be responsible for payment as well as how the employee can expect to receive their items).
  • Request a personal email so the impacted employee does not have to wait until the next day for documentation to arrive. Some employees may choose not to provide it. Make it optional!
  • If you are offering your employee post-employment support, remember to ask their permission to share their personal contact information with the company offering support, and let them know they will be hearing from a coach to offer support.
  • Set up your virtual meeting to have available a career support coach who can join in after you delivered the termination message to assist your employee. This can be done by having the support coach standing by, waiting for a text from you to follow up with a call after the notification has been given.
  • Make sure IT is in the loop for the company to terminate all access the former employee has electronically. This is easy to overlook when decisions are being made remotely.
  • Set up a virtual meeting with the rest of the team who will be still working, just as you would if the termination was occurring in regular circumstances. This communication is important to keep your present employees engaged and productive.

We hope you have found these tips helpful. There might be circumstance that might call for more steps and customization of your process.

Content courtesy of CPI Partner Nance MacLeod from Career Compass Canada

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