Why are companies looking for laid-off employees

Separation management

Announcing a resignation is usually not an easy step. Those who offer the affected employee solutions will make it easier for both sides.

The corset of short-time work, reduced working hours and reduced salaries is still in place. However, it has almost disappeared that 250,000 more people have been unemployed since June last year. Right from the start, the crisis has been associated with a sharp increase in bankruptcies and with downsizing.

Too many employees on board

Around a third of the companies have already given up their employees. And there will be even more, because the companies have too many employees on board in relation to the reduced turnover, some have to realign themselves and some want to go into an upswing with an improved cost structure.

Are the companies well prepared for this and do they now regard the separation of employees as an integral part of their personnel and organizational development? "Unfortunately not," says consultant Dr. Laurenz Andrzejewski from Usingen im Taunus, who accompanies companies in change and separation processes. There is still "great helplessness" when it comes to separation.

Bloody noses during breakups

If only because many companies traded "bloody noses" in the last big wave of layoffs. In many cases, even their own executives disagreed with the procedure at the time, and the dismissed people went to the Kadi in the end. Also because of the way you deal with them, says Andrzejewski.

How many are suing against termination by the company is a matter of dispute. From the trade union side there is talk of 15 percent, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) speaks of 27 percent. Both numbers are not current. But apart from the number of lawsuits, companies can do a lot wrong with layoffs. The workers in Germany are convinced of the norms of justice. If the company violates this in the event of operational separations, this has consequences for the employer image and, last but not least, for the commitment of the remaining employees.

Outplacement eases the shock

According to a study by the universities of Jena (sociology) and Hanover (economics faculty) on "work and justice" sponsored by the Hans Böckler Foundation, dismissals are seen as unjust if the employer has not previously done everything to avert them. It is also considered unfair if the management itself does not have to accept any losses or is even rewarded with bonuses at the end of the year. And if redundancies are flanked financially by severance payments and by outplacement measures, they are considered fairer than "hard" separations.

"This creates very favorable framework conditions," says Dr. Tiemo Kracht, managing director of Kienbaum Executive Consultants GmbH. Almost a quarter of the companies that are currently parting with their employees are offering them a termination agreement with severance pay and support with professional reorientation (new placement). According to a study by Kienbaum, nine percent of companies also commission a transfer company in the event of separation, which supports employees in the transition to another job through coaching and further training measures, among other things.

Set incentives

Unfortunately, such services are often still offered in an unprofessional, but above all "half-hearted" manner, says Andrzejewski. "As part of the bargaining pool." It is important to consciously and convincingly set the incentives in the termination offers in such a way that the employees do not primarily want money when they leave the company, but rather look at their professional future. The success of transfer companies can also depend on this, and their often overly general reputation is not the best.

"If, however, the short-time allowance is increased to ninety or one hundred percent in a transfer social plan, the incentive to take a comparatively poorer paid job is of course small," says Susanne Marx, consultant at the Society for innovative Employment Promotion mbH (G.I.B.) in Bottrop. "Sprinter premiums", on the other hand, increased the incentive to quickly return to a new job.

Dealing with employees

Separations are also about dealing with employees. The boardrooms of many companies have reacted to this since the last tangible crisis and specifically trained themselves further in conducting difficult conversations and in conflict management.

The study by Kienbaum has shown that 75 percent of the time, personal conversations are sought when communicating about downsizing. For Andrzejewski, however, separations are anything but predominantly professional. Often even without a hint of decency. "The superiors work through lists with the names of their employees and communicate the message of termination to them on the car phone, in the corridor, by email or on a Friday afternoon without consulting HR management," says the separation advisor.

Proceed professionally

Andrzejewski sets the bar high for professionalism in separation management. Afterwards, the HR managers should run through every separation interview with the responsible manager. "The executives must have spoken the message of the termination and the respective reason at least once aloud before they meet the employee," says Andrzejewski.

Many superiors are afraid of their own reputation and of the reactions of those affected. According to a survey by Kienbaum, however, 85 percent of managers do not want any further external support to accompany the discussions. 63 percent are supported by their own HR department, and 20 percent attend training courses.

Clear distribution of tasks

All experts agree that the actual separation interview must take place with a clear division of tasks between the line manager and the HR manager. "The supervisor has to convey the message of separation, the employee of the HR department takes on the role of the supervisor and is responsible for detailed questions," says Andrzejewski.

For Tiemo Kracht, too, supervisors and HR managers have to work "as a duo". With regard to the detailed questions, the Kienbaum partner has very specific ideas about the tasks of the HR manager. Kracht: "He must have worked out possible contractual constellations for the termination of the employment relationship in advance and give the appropriate input in the separation interview." In the event of separations, employees even consider the HR department to be the "last resort responsible for humanity and fairness," says Andrzejewski.

(Rainer Spies, 2009 / Image: Picturenet Corp, Fotolia.com)