Redundancies are an understandably sensitive subject. But with many up-and-coming technology businesses still shaking off post-COVID problems they were unexpectedly faced with, they’re still an unfortunate necessity to many companies.
And while no business wants to make employees redundant, it can hit harder for startup companies, especially in the technological industry, where long hours and innovative breakthroughs can quickly form bonds in your small but intimate pool of staff.
If you’re the founder of a tech startup firm looking to help cushion that fall and support staff who are about to hear this unfortunate news, here are 10 tips to make this difficult process easier for you, your business, and more importantly – your employees.
Tip 1: Implement a straightforward process and don’t deviate from it
By this point you’ll already know which legalities must be adhered to when it comes to making redundancies, so be sure that you’ve aligned a very clear and simple action plan to go alongside it.
It’s never a fun conversation to have, but if you can signify things like notice periods, dates of redundancy payments, and when they’ll receive a P60 (if they’re leaving employment during the tax year), it can offer some small comfort that they’re being supported by a very straightforward process.
Tip 2: Make sure they hear it from you and not through office gossip
Interaction and communication are pivotal parts of what makes a tech company successful. But if you’re going to be having some sensitive conversations over the new few days, this can turn into a double-edged sword rather quickly.
While redundancies have most likely been discussed privately for some time now, these whispers can travel fast, gaining momentum in the process. It’s paramount that employees hear about this from you first before concern and mistrust begin to grow amongst your remaining members of staff.
Tip 3: Compassion, consistency, and constant communication
How are you going to alleviate that mistrust and collective stress as much as possible? By giving clear information and communicating well. Technology companies, regardless of size, require a great deal of passion and teamwork. Understandably, staff will take redundancies personally.
The key is to make sure you’re consistent with regular updates – even if there’s no concrete information to give. It’s okay to say that there are no new updates, as long as you remain compassionate and keep those avenues of communication open.
Tip 4: Be sensitive about the timing of the redundancy conversation
Try to avoid announcing bad news or beginning to make redundancies right before employees have scheduled holiday time. In fact, unlike firings, which are always considered to be handled best on a Friday, redundancy news should be announced at the beginning of a week.
Not only does it give your team some time to process, but it provides them with an entire week to ask other questions and come to terms with it as a group.
Tip 5: Allow time in the conversation for you to just listen to how they feel
Startup employees in the technology industry get to see the progress of a business first-hand from the company’s inception, so they’ve certainly earned the right to express their fears, concerns, and frustrations about potentially being made redundant.
It cannot simply be a one-way conversation. Yes, you have a lot of information and bad news to communicate as clearly as possible. But time needs to be dedicated to an open forum for questions and queries to be fielded. Your employees are inevitably going to be worried about their money, family, and career opportunities. It’s a lot to take in. Try to be sensitive to these facts, and allow the team to express themselves fully.
Tip 6: Being fired and being made redundant are two very different things
If your technology company employs a lot of young people who are in their first full-time roles, or long-term technology workers with a solid CV of constant employment, it’s easy for the term ‘redundancies’ to translate quickly into being fired for performance, attitude, or other personal reasons.
This may be one of the toughest aspects of the entire process, as it’s so important that your staff understands this key difference. You’ll likely need to offer a great deal of reassurance that this is a reflection of the economy and the overall condition of your business, not a reflection of them as individuals.
Tip 7: Be a leader in every sense of the word
The landscape of technology startup employment is tricky to manoeuvre, and it’s during these difficult times that your leadership skills are tested more than ever before. Your staff will understandably feel like they’re at an important crossroads in their career, so treating them with sensitivity while inspiring them to keep pushing forward is essential.
A true leader knows when to motivate and when to offer support and compassion. Combine open discussions and company updates with information on recruitment agencies that specialise in finding tech workers new opportunities.
Tip 8: Keep a proactive attitude about the future
Company culture is going to be influenced by your reaction to these redundancies, as will your employees. Once a clear understanding of redundancies has been implemented, dedicate some time to helping people polish up their CVs and begin the difficult process of finding work elsewhere.
Offer to use your pool of business contacts to put feelers out for new roles. Let other tech-industry companies know that some highly-skilled workers will soon be available. Don’t be afraid to ask what your employees would like to do next, and how you can help to facilitate that in a new role elsewhere.
Tip 9: Accept that their final week won’t be easy
The final week before people are officially let go is going to be an emotionally draining affair for your staff. They’re depending on their management team to make this uncomfortable transition go as smoothly as possible.
Emotional support is just as important as providing them with clear dates and insights into what they can expect payments-wise. Let your team know just how vital they’ve been to your company, and thank them for their hard work. Don’t forget to offer recommendations, or reply as soon as possible to requests for them.
Tip 10: Take time to process the situation for your own mental health
Now that your employees have been made to feel as supported as possible during such a sensitive time, don’t feel guilty about taking some time for your own wellbeing. You’ve maintained your start-up business in a very competitive market, endured COVID, and done what’s best for your company.
Allow yourself the time to reflect on an extremely stressful few years, and process the unfortunate incidents that come with these redundancies.