Written by Jon Cohen, Head of People & Culture, BrioHR 

In all the turmoil and uncertainty of our current time, so many companies have been forced into making redundancies.

I often find myself on the front line with people coming to me for advice and assistance on job hunting. 

The conversation always swings to the nature of their redundancy. There are many positive stories about how much the company did to help the affected employees but there are just as many negative stories and a few almost unbelievable tales of unprofessional redundancy policies, procedures, and processes.

When I dig a bit deeper into the negative stories, there never seems to be ‘intent’ behind the unprofessional behaviours. It is down to lack of knowledge, resources, time, and expertise.

It is hard to justify moving the budget and resources that are helping your company survive and switch it to helping retrenched employees, I get it! But there are plenty of ways you can help your retrenched employees without spending a penny.


6 Simple ways to help your retrenched employees without spending money or resources:

1. Give employees access to basic financial planning resources

Many employees will not need this, part of their job is budgeting, planning, spending analysis, etc and they know how to manage their personal finances and budget their spending.

But for many employees the concept will be new. When I was fresh out of university I just spent, spent, spent. The only financial planning I had was a monthly warning from my bank saying my account had gone overdrawn…luckily all the important payments were scheduled for the beginning of the month.

Retrenched employees need to understand how to balance their savings with their monthly ingoings and outgoings. Sometimes, especially with younger people they need to be shown where they can make monthly savings to make their money last as long as possible.

There are often people within a company with the expertise who are happy to run workshops on how to manage finances, but even when this is not possible, you still don’t need to do much. Sometimes all you need to do is tell people how important it is and guide them to a few websites that give advice on how to manage personal finances.

2. Help employees to figure out what their next step should be

It’s easy to sound condescending when you tell someone who has lost their job to ‘be positive’ or ‘look on the bright side’ but you need to find away to redirect their focus and attitude. 

When you lose your job, you go from a structured environment where you have duties, targets, and a well defined purpose to nothing! It’s actually disorientating. I once worked for a very fast paced, extremely fast growth company – my phone never stopped buzzing with Whatsapp, Slack, and email notifications. When I left, the notifications suddenly stopped…sounds relaxing, but actually it felt like a massive hole in my life.

You need to help employees fill the hole left in their life with a purpose. Reorienting them to the future and stop them from looking in the past. 

Try using goals and targets around their job search, and reintroduce the structured work day focused on improving their CVs, applying for jobs and networking.

Do not underestimate the shock of going from a structured purpose driven day to an unstructured, no purpose day. You lose track of time, is it a weekday or weekend? A month can go by before the employee suddenly realises they’ve been sitting on their butt doing nothing instead of just doing something!

Give them a kick start!

3. Organise Job Search Workshops 

You would be surprised how many HR / recruiters are happy to run short CV workshops for free if you actually ask them.

There are four basic things new job seekers need to get right:

  1. Their CV
  2. Their Linkedin Profile
  3. How they use their CV and Linkedin Profile
  4. How they prepare for an interview

If you want to give your retrenched employees the best chance of quickly succeeding in their job search, you MUST come up with some way of helping them with these four points.

At the very least, you can provide links to websites that give instructions on these four points.

You may have the expertise within your team / company to run some workshops on job searching.

You may be lucky enough to have experts in these fields in your network who will run free workshops for your retrenched employees.

Or you could spend a little bit of money and hire a career coach.

4. Use the company’s network to refer employees 

One of the hardest parts of looking for a job is getting your foot in the door. You can have a great CV and it can get you nowhere. But a personal recommendation or introduction can open doors that would otherwise be locked.

It doesn’t take long to do a survey of your senior management team and understand where they have a strong network and split the retrenched workforce into groups by specialisation, skills, etc, and start using your senior management team to refer retrenched employees to their network. 

The senior management has a responsibility (I believe) to do these types of actions, but often all levels of employees will be happy to volunteer to help with introductions and networking.

Recruitment agencies are always hungry for candidates. Approach a few of the recruitment agencies and headhunters and introduce them to your retrenched employees.

*Be Careful to adhere to your local personal data protection laws when sharing CVs outside of your country. 

At the very least make sure that all your employees are able to get strong, positive reference checks if needed.


5. Don’t let the retrenchment affect the employee’s mental state

This is a tough one, even when the employee knows that the retrenchment has nothing to do with their performance, it is hard to not take it personally.

With all the pressures of modern life, losing a job, and a steady salary can be devastating to an employee’s mental state.

As an HR professional, you must look at every stage of the retrenchment process and look for ways to help employees to maintain their self-esteem and dignity.   

  • Ask the retrenched employee how they are, actually listen to what they are saying.
  • Always take the retrenched employee concerns seriously
  • Understand that this is likely to be a really important event in the employee’s life and treat it as such
  • Be respectful and courteous of the way in which the employee responds to news of being retrenched 
  • Be empathetic, but not sympathetic

Treating employees with respect and dignity, will ease the difficulty of the situation. 

Remember that when we are in a poor mental state, we tend to make bad decisions that can affect our future. Your job is to make sure the retrenched employees stay in a positive enough mental state to make good decisions in a tough time. 

6. Create a alumni support group so employees can help each other

Your company gives you a team, a community, and a culture. Within it you find friends, mentors, supporters, competitors, apprentices, people to give advice, and people who need advice. 

When you leave your company, you lose a lot of this. There is a gap, you get so used to having these social resources, and when you suddenly lose them it can be difficult to find the support that you need.

Many of us are lucky enough to have a strong circle of support outside of work, but not everyone is so lucky.

It’s so easy to create online communities, whether via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, the list of FREE platforms goes on and on.

Create an online group for retrenched employees to talk to and support each other. 

I suggested this to one HR contact, and they said ‘No way’. They would just use it to group together and sue the company. This was my response:

If you have retrenched them badly, they will set these chat groups/communities up themselves anyway

If you believe you have followed the law AND also done what is right for your employees then you have nothing to worry about.



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Written by Jon Cohen, Head of People & Culture, BrioHR. Follow Jon on LinkedIn for more HR tips!

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