5 Next Steps When Letting Employees Go

Letting go of an employee is a tough pill to swallow. It’s never easy, it can damage relationships and it can put real stress on an organization or team.

Although the reaction to a dismissal is unpredictable, try not to cut ties with displaced workers immediately. Instead, take some calculated steps to ensure a smooth transition.

While these steps may not work for every organization, use them as a guide to pink slip best practices:

Ensure there are no legal ramifications: Before firing an employee, make sure no legal ramifications will occur based on the termination. Accusations of discrimination or arbitrary dismissal can damage the organization, even if claims aren’t true.

Quick tip: Have concrete and legal reasons for the termination. If there are any hesitations, consult with the organization’s legal department or employment attorney.

Conduct exit interviews: Exit interviews are a good way to speak to a displaced employee one-on-one. While exit interviews are traditionally used to find out what people think about the company, leaders can also state a case about the layoff and provide workers with next steps like severance packages or transfer options.

Additionally, talent leaders should try to maintain a relationship. Displaced workers can be incredibly bitter; a leader’s job is to make sure they don’t defame the organization.

Quick tip: Be direct and be clear about the decision. While an employee may try to fight back, talent leaders should have a solid argument for the dismissal like underperformance or organizational mergers.

Offer outplacement services: Outplacement is a contracted service that’s supplied by companies specializing in assisting individuals’ job search following a job loss. These services are a step up from traditional severance packages since they typically offer job search management tools and a hub to search, store and organize job-search communications. Outplacement services help displaced workers move toward new opportunities using tools that can edge out the competition.

Quick tip: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to outplacement. Instead, pick a program with services that workers will actually use, as 40 percent of displaced workers don’t actually take advantage of outplacement services.

Provide recommendations: If talent leaders or managers have a good relationship with an employee but had to let the employee go anyway, giving him or her a good recommendation can provide a huge benefit — referrals are noted as the top source of hiring moving forward. Referrals can also be helpful if the employee finds an open position in a different department or location.

Quick tip: When talent leaders or managers provide a recommendation, make sure to communicate past results and emphasize why the employee’s skills would be great fit for a new position.

Evaluate results: Results are always a good indicator of what’s working and what needs to change. For example, are displaced workers using outplacement services, or would they prefer cash instead? What about exit interviews — are leaders communicating the organization’s stance, or are employees still confused about the termination?

Quick tip: Track everything, from how many are using outplacement services to how many are landing jobs as a result.

Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management firm. She can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.