Selecting for RedundancyWednesday, April 11th, 2012
One of the worst jobs a manager has to do is declare redundancies, but the worst of all is having to choose the people to dismiss. How do you face those people if subsequently you meet them in the supermarket queue? Well, there is no way to make the job less unpleasant, but at least if you do all that you can to be fair, then you should not reproach yourself. Indeed you may find that the people made redundant respect your fairness and honesty.
Time was when the accepted means of selection was LIFO – last in, first out – in the belief that the longer the service of an employee, the greater his or her value to the organisation. But employers began to voice their concerns that this was not necessarily so. Younger people with shorter service might have more up-to-date skills and anyway, longer experience did not necessarily produce greater skill. Fortunately this view was recognised and accepted by the courts who agreed with employers generally that, if business deteriorated, the organisation needed to retain the people who were best equipped to enable it to survive. Thus needs-of-the-business became the accepted method of selecting people for redundancy.
The selection process should occur some time after consultation with employees or their representatives has started. Indeed one of the key purposes of consultation is to agree the process of selection. Nevertheless employees should be kept aware of the progress of the exercise throughout. Consultation should among other things determine precisely the pool of people within which redundancy will take place.
A small selection team should be appointed, and care should be taken that each member is generally respected. Membership of the team should be geared towards maximum objectivity. For example it should include the overall manager of the pool, who may well be the chief executive. Perhaps another manager whose area will not be affected. Usually an HR officer takes part in the whole exercise not only to help make the selection but also to ensure that objectivity is maintained. The team should begin by determining the criteria that are really important to the organisation at the present time, for example the skill of employees, their flexibility, their behaviour. Then each criterion should be given a weighting, for example 10, 7 and 3 points respectively for those examples. The team should discuss each criterion and what it means such that they all agree what they are looking for and, as far as possible, they should look for evidence to support their decisions. Behaviour or timekeeping for example should be rated against disciplinary and timekeeping records.
When that has been done, taking each criterion in turn, score each employee against the weighting, for example Ann scores 9, Bert scores 6 and Cathy scores 7 against the maximum 10 points for skill. The same is done with the next criterion and so on. At the end of the exercise the scores for each employee are totalled and the result then indicates the people who are of least value to the organisation at that time.
Three safeguards should be applied to the system. First, if at any time there is doubt about an employee such as his level of skill, evidence should be sought, say from records or by interviewing the immediate supervisor. Second, having produced overall scores, the team should take a good look at the result and, if there are any surprises or something does not look right, that particular result should be re-examined in case an error has been made. And third, when employees have been given their score, they should be afforded opportunity to have it reviewed with any evidence they choose to offer in support of their appeal.
Employees are unlikely to be pleased to be made redundant, but if you follow the process described in this article they will have no just cause to claim that their selection was unfair.