Exit Strategies: Doing The Best For Your People

Letting go of employees is never an easy decision - but in unstable economic climates we see more organisations having to make these difficult decisions in order to keep their businesses afloat. Read our advice on how you can make the exit strategy process as human as possible and offer adequate support for your people during these tough periods.

Exit strategies

With continued uncertainty in the economy and job market it’s important for organisations to make contingency plans and consider the unpleasant ‘what ifs’. Nobody wants to make the crushing decision to let go employees but sometimes there are no other options.

Making Difficult Decisions

In our opinion, people losing their jobs needs to be the last possible resort for organisations. All other avenues should be exhausted before any kind of restructure involving job loss is considered.

Usually, when faced with cost-cutting a change in direction or prioritisation may be needed. At an organisational level it is firstly essential that the fundamental priorities of the organisation and the implications of those on the strategic direction of the business are clearly laid out. 

From here, a fair process needs to be developed which looks at the roles and skills needed in order to deliver the revised priorities. Individuals should be taken completely out of the equation, with job function being at the forefront of any decisions. In this process it’s important that the organisation is given the best chance of achieving the new strategy. 

There will always be some "non negotiables" in your organisation, these will need highlighting from the off. For example, as a people organisation we would want to make sure that any cost saving measures aren’t so drastic that we can’t give the people who are staying a good employee experience

It’s crucial that the people who remain in the organisation have access to the benefits that are important to them, the cultural elements that make working for your organisation unique and an environment where they can continue to grow and flourish (despite the economic adversity). On top of this, a fair, livable salary is vital for employee wellbeing, happiness and retention.

Be open and transparent about the company's financial situation. Tell your employees what steps were taken and the necessary measures being put in place. This will help to build trust with all employees (those leaving and staying) and whilst some people may not agree with the specific decisions being taken, they will hopefully be able to understand the difficulties being faced.

Managing The Situation

When it comes to the difficult process of parting ways with people, it goes without saying that there are fair and robust legal processes that must be followed first and foremost. These processes need to be handled as sensitively, thoughtfully and in as human a way as possible.

Ensure that those specifically affected (the 'pool' at risk of redundancy, for example) are spoken to individually first. Give them as much background information and business context as possible in order for them to (hopefully) understand the position the organisation is facing - in my opinion it would be much worse to hear a blanket announcement that redundancies are a possibility and then have an anxious wait to find out if you're one of the people directly impacted or ‘at risk’. This is to give those people the most basic level of respect.

On that point, I’m a firm believer that having a business leader deliver these messages is key in showing dignity and respect to everyone - not 'hiding' behind HR or line managers, for example. Leaders should demonstrate authenticity. Showing empathy, being genuine and conveying the value that individuals have contributed all help with authentic conversations. 

4 Ways You Can Support People Exiting Your Organisation

In order to support the people who are leaving, the obvious answer is money. But as lots of these decisions are made due to budget or cash flow restraints it's hard to provide financial 'buffers' for people. Instead, consider some of the following:

  1. Provide as much paid time off as possible for leavers to look for new work. This is the least an organisation can do. A HUGE bugbear of mine is making people take their accrued holidays during gardening leave! 

  2. Don’t make people work their notice period. It's bad enough that someone is losing their job, to then expect full commitment when they’re unlikely to be in the right frame of mind isn’t fair - people aren’t robots! Give leavers the option to be paid in lieu of notice or go on gardening leave.

  3. Consider any small gestures that might help with next steps. Let people keep laptops and such so they have the right equipment to write CVs, search for new jobs, apply for roles, etc. Offer help with CV writing and/or interview techniques. Provide an employment reference. Promote individuals amongst your network.

  4. Allow continued access to some benefits (if possible) for a period of time after leaving - particularly when the benefits are of a supportive nature, such as counselling, that can help people through periods of change.

A Personal Experience

The last 3 years have been a tough struggle for many individuals and organisations alike. The financial strain has resulted in many layoffs being made. Our Co-Founder Matt speaks to Walter Peterscheck in his Happiness & Humans Podcast, who speaks openly and frankly about his personal experiences of being let go twice in his career.

Walter now helps people being made redundant continue with their career and prosper. This episode, Soft Landing During Job Cuts, is a learning opportunity for those on both sides of the fence during these unsettling times.

Grey X Logo
Grey Link Icon

Recommended reading

About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


Yellow arrow
Favourable results platform image