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Careful Planning: The Key to Protecting Your Company’s Culture During a Downsizing or Termination

In a recent business school case study, the writer sited the careful and intentional effort made by NOKIA, to protect and enhance their corporate culture during a recent downsizing.  A NOKIA spokesperson stated, “These people have been helping build our business over the years…..they have been loyal. We want to make certain laid off employees know their “next steps” the day they exit the organization…..to make certain they have a soft landing to the outside world”.

What Did Nokia Do to Help Ensure This Objective?

One aspect of the strategy was to include a combination of internal HR and outside outplacement services to implement The Five Paths to the Next Step program.

1. Find a new job inside the company

2. Find a new job outside the company

3. Start a new business

4. Continuing education – learn something new

5. Create your own path – semi retirement; volunteerism

What Can Your Organization Learn from the NOKIA Experience?

Most organizations want to make certain laid off employees find a good, new job quickly and have a soft landing. You do not have to be experiencing a major reduction in force in order to provide these five paths to any individual being transitioned out of the organization. The obvious first step is to consider finding the person a new job inside the company.  But if that is not possible, making certain that you have a trusted and respected outplacement partner who may provide the assistance of an experienced Personal Career Coach to help manage the other four career paths, which will help to make certain impacted employees land in a positive place.

What You Should Expect from a Trusted Outplacement Partner?

Managing a termination event, large or small, can be a highly emotional event for both the organization and the impacted employee(s).  Your outplacement partner should be able to provide assistance, using “best practices” expertise with the following:

  • Pre-Termination Planning
    • A well thought out termination plan is the first step in managing a termination skillfully. There are over 40 critical points to consider prior to terminating an employee.
  • Crafting and Delivering the Message
    • This potentially highly emotional event can escalate out of control and be damaging to the employee, the manager, and the company if the message is not carefully planned and delivered well. This step requires careful collaboration between HR, Legal Counsel and the Career Consultants Outplacement Consultant in order to ensure the message is crafted and delivered in a legal, business like and compassionate way.
  • Addressing Reactions and Emotional Responses
    • Manager’s report that addressing reactions and emotional responses is probably the most difficult aspect of managing the termination meeting. However, the possibility of emotional responses such as shock, disbelief, anger, bargaining, threats and depression is predictable. Appropriate responses require careful consideration, including coaching and role playing, in order to manage those difficult situations skillfully.
  • Transitioning the Individual Out of the Office
    • The most common complaint, reported by individuals being transitioned out of the organization, is they felt they were treated poorly when they were told to leave the office. Do not underestimate the damage that can be done to a company’s culture and reputation if this step is not done well. The following situations could be problematic:
      • When to have people clean-out their office and leave the premise.
      • How to escort them out of the office without disruption.
      • When it is appropriate to allow them to say good byes to coworkers after the meeting.
    • Communicating with Coworkers About the Termination
      • In managing a termination skillfully, it is important to understand that coworkers will also be impacted by the termination and, for some, the emotions can be traumatic. Some survivors cope with the same emotions as their departing colleagues [shock, denial, etc.] Others may be angry because they have to absorb more work at no additional pay; or may fear that they will be impacted by future terminations; and some of the most talented in the group may be targeted by recruiters or begin to dust off their resume to see “what else is out there?”
    • Metrics that Measure the Effectiveness of the Career Transition Process
      • The adage “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it and if you do not manage it you can’t improve it” applies to planning and managing the termination skillfully, just as it applies to measuring an organization’s sales, profits or productivity. It is a critical to measure the effectiveness of the team who planned and managed the first five steps of the termination process outlined above. In addition, it is important to evaluate a career consultant’s services to ensure that your organization has benefited from managing the termination skillfully.

Careful planning of terminations protects your company’s culture during a downsizing or termination.  For additional information on this topic, please contact me at the email address listed below.

Written by: Betsy Hickman

Outplacement Practice Leader

Career Consultants OI Global Partners








New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.