redundancy is an opportunity for positive change

"I come across people all the time who wish they sought advice on about redundancy law, payments, and their employment rights. Those who reacted to redundancy positively planned their way forward, Having defined, established and developed new careers ". Mike Kelley


Redundancy is just one of the ways that people leave organizations. Too many highly talented people leave by this route for anyone to consider that it is only the weak that are made redundant is simply is not the case

Redundancy is an opportunity for positive change. Time could be spent on self-discovery and refocusing your career direction and your needs. 

The Redundancy Situation

It’s a question that, following redundancy, many job applicants stumble around hopelessly with as they attempt to convince the interviewer that they wanted to leave when in fact they know that redundancy is more complicated than that.

It’s true that many people in this situation are ready to leave at the time that redundancy hits them but the discomfort derives from knowing that given the choice they would probably not be sitting in that room at that time. Even if true, many candidates still believe that redundancy equals failure in the eyes of many interviewers.

Sadly, this is almost always a long way from the truth. Redundancy does not visit the untalented. Indeed, it is often the more able who find themselves in this position, many times by design.

In fact, redundancy is just one way by which people leave an employer. The world of work is changing rapidly and the human resource requirement is changing equally fast. The capabilities required by an organization last year may differ significantly this year. There’s no need to be ashamed if your employer can no longer use the skills you offer. The answer is to move on to an organization where you can add value and to keep your skills up to date so that you are never caught with skills that are no longer required at all.

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Changing the Nature of Work

The job for life has gone. I have helped people who have left high street banks and even the civil service following re-structuring. Many have been with their employers for upwards of twenty-five years and now find themselves entering the job market for the first time since leaving school. When they joined, these employees would have been fairly safe in the knowledge that if they’d wanted to spend their entire working life with the organization, they could have done so.

Whatever the causes - technology, the demands of shareholders, global industrialization – it is clear that organizational change happens now more quickly than ever. Change happens because organizations need to remain competitive and efficient and it therefore tends to be driven by operational need (cost reduction) or from a marketing imperative (increased revenue). If it is operational efficiency that is driving the change it may well be that whole layers of management or functional areas are removed, perhaps to be outsourced.

This inevitably leads to greater pressure on those that remain who often find themselves with an increased workload. Furthermore, morale is quite often on a downward slope during the period leading to redundancy announcements; performance is often poor and bonuses are reduced.

The first wave of redundancy may be voluntary. Who would volunteer for redundancy? It’s usually the more talented and confident people. Those who are not happy at work and believe they can find a better job outside. Many people in this category were going to leave anyway. Here’s a chance to leave with a pay-off as well! Did you consider, while worrying about how you were to explain redundancy, that you might be amongst a group who consider themselves to be more capable than most?

Not everyone can volunteer for redundancy. However, it’s rarely the case that individuals are singled out on the basis that they are performing poorly. For those that are made compulsorily redundant, it is important to remember that it’s nothing personal and it’s not about performance. If a whole department shuts down in order to cut costs, there is no consideration of the talent that will be lost. It’s possible that some people will be re-deployed elsewhere, but not finding an alternative role does not equate to being unwanted. It all comes down to whether or not your capabilities are required by the re-designed organization.

it’s the cost that is under scrutiny, not your talent. You may be the best PR manager the organization has ever employed. You may have helped raise the profile of the organization so that rarely does a week go by when your company is not mentioned on TV or in the national press. However, that won’t guarantee that you keep your job if the decision has been made to outsource all PR activity to an agency.

The “flattening” of organizations also increases the desirability of redundancy. Knowing that where there might previously have been two or three people competing for the next job up the ladder, with flattened structures there may now be ten or more people reporting into a single line manager. All of a sudden the chances of promotion are greatly reduced and the desire to leave increases. Are you still uncomfortable about the idea of being made redundant?

So what are the new work arrangements? Employers are no longer willing to invest so much in the development of their staff and there are few opportunities for promotion. In order to keep yourself challenged with new opportunities to learn and grow you may need to think about changing jobs every two or three years. Thus you will be building a portfolio of capabilities that you will offer subsequent employers.

The portfolio career puts the responsibility upon you to ensure that you make the right career choices. In effect, you are now a contractor. It may still be the case that you are employed on a permanent contract but the relationship is just as it would be if you were there for a short term project or interim position; you’ve been employed for the skills you have for as long as those skills are required.

What do you want from the next employer in terms of career development, lifestyle accommodation, experiences and training? It’s up to you to identify what your requirements are and either look for a job that offers them it or ask for them. You need to be able to look back over those two or three years and feel you have developed in some way. If you can you’ll have something up to date and valuable to offer the next employer.

Another interesting feature of the modern workplace is that vast numbers of people follow careers with a lateral or matrix path (a mixture of sideways and upward moves) rather than climbing a ladder. With fewer opportunities for promotion this is not surprising. It’s not uncommon to see people move from a job where they managed a team to one where there is either a smaller team or none at all. In other cases, people move to jobs where they can do new things in order to widen their skills set. This may even be a downward step in terms of seniority.

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