How To Protect Your Employer Brand Through a RIF: 3 Keys to Conducting A Respectful and Empathetic RIF

Brenda StantonRob Byron Culture, Outplacement, Talent Management

During these uncertain times, organizations are having to consider the possibility of planning a Reduction in Force (RIF). Recently, Keystone Partners worked with a client who had to make the difficult decision to conduct a large RIF. The organization implemented key strategies and tactics which allowed for a successful logistical event. Their commitment to threading compassion and empathy into their communication plan was the key distinction to treating employees with the utmost dignity and respect.

3 Keys to Conducting a Respectful and Compassionate RIF

Whether you may be facing a large RIF, or a smaller scale layoff, there are important factors to consider as you deal with the inevitable planning complexities. Here are the three key areas our client focused on to conduct and implement a successful RIF.  

1.          Proactive Preparation 

A critical part of an empathetic and compassionate reduction in force is preparation and planning. In this situation, our client reached out to us months in advance to discuss how we could support their upcoming RIF. Some of the key planning steps included: 

  • Identifying the date of the action
  • Identifying members of the RIF management team
  • Establishing a project timeline
  • Determining the list of impacted employees
  • Selecting the level of outplacement programs and severance for each employee
  • Notifying managers and teams

The goal of this advanced preparation was to ensure the self-respect and dignity of both the impacted and remaining employees.

2.          Collaboration & Logistics 

After the initial planning steps were completed, the next phase was logistics and collaboration planning. Working in a hybrid environment adds another level of complexity when planning a RIF, especially regarding logistics and collaboration.

The organization leveraged technology to overcome these logistical challenges, ensure the right people were where they needed to be, and confirm the information delivered to the impacted employee was correct and accurate.

A plan was put in place to ensure the best possible experience for impacted employees, and included:

  • Virtual meeting technology for separation meeting notifications
  • Shared drives with clearly defined access to the important documents
  • Shared timetable spreadsheets updated “on the fly” so managers and HR notifiers had information in real time
  • Slack channels to collaborate and communicate any changes to the schedule or urgent messages to the Control Room

3.          Empathetic Execution 

The day prior to the notification meetings, the organization’s HR leaders and representatives from Keystone Partners delivered a thorough training session to the notifying managers and HR staff. This training was designed to ensure the seamless conduct of the upcoming layoff notification meetings, and to confirm the notifiers were comfortable with delivering the message to the impacted employees. The logistics of the technology plan were also reviewed, as there were many moving parts involving the organization’s managers, HR team, and Keystone. 

The notification timeline was also reviewed while we trained the notifiers on the specific language to use, how to deal with the emotions of notifications, and the importance of empathy and compassion when delivering the message.

CEO’s Commitment to Compassion 

Having HR and Keystone Partners collaborate and lead the leadership team through the messaging and logistics was critical to the successful execution of this RIF. Another key aspect was the organization’s CEO, who was visible and vocal through the entire process. The CEO echoed our message regarding the importance of communicating with compassion and empathy and reminding the leaders to:

  • Not make this about themselves
  • Be present for the meetings
  • Listen intently

Notifying employees that their positions have been eliminated is one of the hardest things a leader can do. Being able to take yourself out of the equation and assume the role of a true servant leader in this situation makes a huge difference and the impacted employee can feel that.

Positive Employee Experience = Protecting Your Employer Brand 

How an organization gauges the success of a layoff will vary based on your organizational values and culture. At Keystone Partners we get to experience first-hand each employee’s experience through the layoff process as we continue to work with them after the event. Not only do the engagement and utilization numbers tend to be higher with a well-orchestrated RIF event, but survey data and overall employee feedback tends to be much more positive. This creates the results that the organization is after – providing employees with the best experience possible considering the circumstances, and protecting your employer brand by demonstrating compassion, empathy, and respect for your employees. 

Interested in learning more? We have been helping organizations of all sizes, across all industries, conduct successful separations for more than 40 years. Whether you are laying off a single individual or are planning a large-scale reduction in force, we can help ensure everything goes smoothly while also protecting your employer brand. Contact us today to learn how we can help with your layoff-related needs.

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