As we move towards a workforce that’s becoming more and more automated, it’s important to remember that employees should be viewed as more than just replaceable cogs in the wheel of your business. Employees are real people with families, hobbies, and lives beyond the company where they work. Perhaps we need to reevaluate our values and consider truly putting the “human” back into Human Resources.
While that phrase “Putting the ‘human’ back into Human Resources,” may sound cliche, it’s a powerful reminder of the importance of valuing employees as individuals. Companies need to prioritize the well-being and development of their employees, rather than solely focusing on profits and potential liability. By taking a big picture perspective, companies can understand how their decisions and actions impact their people at the individual level. This approach leads to a more engaged and productive workforce as well as greater loyalty and retention rates. Ultimately, investing in the human side of your business is not just the right thing to do – it’s a smart business decision too.
Human Resources Gone Wrong
These two TRUE stories illustrate the wrong way to go about handling layoffs and employees on leave.
Company A was undergoing a large restructuring process that entailed many layoffs. A manager was tasked with laying off most of his team members, which he grudgingly did. After a tough morning spent laying off a large number of his direct reports, he was called into his supervisor’s office only to be told that he, too, was being laid off . The next day, he learned that his supervisor had been laid off after he had met with him.. This dehumanizing process sought to get rid of all the people doing layoffs so that the remaining employees could blame everything on people who were already out of the company. By responsibly restructuring the company, the organization can avoid some of the natural dehumanizing that sometimes accompanies this process. Or so they think…
Sometimes, reorganizations and restructurings are a necessary evil for businesses to remain competitive. However, even when a company needs to make some layoffs, they don’t have to be done in a dehumanizing way. Companies can approach these difficult decisions with empathy and transparency, always keeping the big picture in mind.
For example, rather than simply treating employees as expendable resources, companies can strive to provide employees with adequate notice and support during the transition period. This may include providing departing employees with job resources and references and acknowledging that layoffs are a painful time. These steps can help employees feel valued and appreciated, even during the toughest times.
Additionally, companies can own their mistakes by admitting when they have made errors in judgment, and taking responsibility for the impact of their decisions on their workforce. When a company is forced to make cutbacks, they can acknowledge to their other employees that it is a sad time. This sensitive approach may not make everything all better, but it will show your entire organization that you actually do care about the people working for you.
By taking a human-centered approach to reorganizations and restructurings, companies can maintain the trust and loyalty of their employees.
No-Contact Maternity Leave
Company B had a policy that when an employee is out on leave, their email gets shut off and they are not allowed to have communication with other employees. A woman went out on maternity leave, and her manager advised the woman’s coworkers not to have any contact with her. This policy was born out of a fear of potential liability if someone mentioned something work-related to the woman that she wasn’t supposed to know, or if someone made a work-related promise to her that the company was unable to keep. However, the woman’s coworkers were hurt and upset by the instructions. They wanted to reach out to congratulate their coworker on her new baby and hear how things were going, but were unable to do so. And, on the other side, the woman was upset not to hear from her coworkers, and felt isolated from work and abandoned by her coworkers while on leave.
Handling Employees on Leave
Treating employees with respect and dignity during times of separation is critical to maintaining a positive and supporting workplace culture. Going silent and cutting off all communication between the employee on leave and their colleagues is a recipe for animosity. Your company should establish best practices to clearly outline how to communicate with employees on leave.
Cutting off communication is grounded in the fear that employees or supervisors may tell the on-leave employee things they shouldn’t know, or make promises they may not be able to keep. Setting boundaries on conversation topics by providing training and resources for employees is a way to keep the channels of communication open while adhering to company policy. An employee on leave often still wants to feel connected to their coworkers and place of work. Creating guidelines that allow for communication to be maintained will keep a culture of congeniality at the top of the on-leave employee’s mind, and help them remain enthusiastic about returning to work.
We can help make a difficult situation easier on everyone.
We know that these are all incredibly hard conversations to have with employees. If you don’t know where to start with creating communication guidelines or restructuring responsibly, Flynn Barrett Consulting can help. By treating employees with respect and dignity, we can help make difficult times easier. Give us a call today!