Sound retrenchment practices can make a real difference

Retrenchment is sometimes sadly unavoidable in today's uncertain economic climate as companies adjust to new demands and aim towards higher productivity (StarHub to cut 300 jobs as part of restructuring exercise; Oct 4).

From my experience in this area, when a layoff or termination is done well, the affected employee will feel that he has been treated with dignity and respect.

Equally important, he will leave with a more positive impression of his former employer, and will be more focused on the real task at hand - which is gaining new employment.

Employers must however be prepared to provide resources to help a retrenched employee with the transition. They should go beyond advisory assistance and make practical efforts to place affected employees in new jobs, inassociated companies, for example, or with the help of outplacement and employment agencies.

I am delighted that this is what StarHub has indicated that it will do.

Where relevant, employers should provide supporting documents such as referral letters, service records and past training certificates to facilitate the job search of affected employees.

It is important that choosing who gets laid off is based on objective criteria. There should not be any discriminatory practice based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibility, or disability.

It would also be good if affected employees are told of the decision as soon as possible. Delaying such information can create much anxiety over who is being retrenched.

Thought should also be given to those employees who are not laid off - they may have an increased workload after their colleagues leave - as well as the managers who have to conduct the retrenchment exercise.

A poorly executed retrenchment process can lead to loss of productivity, low morale and declining organisational performance.

Sattar Bawany (Professor)

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