Large-scale Retrenchments May Be On The Horizon, Here’s How To Improve Employee Morale After Layoffs



Following the global recession, another local recession may be headed our way. It could not come at the worst time for South Africa’s economic recovery after Covid and as we struggle with political uncertainty and a failed electrical grid.



In the event of a recession, employers may have to restructure and retrench to protect their fiscal sustainability and ensure that most of the workforce remains employed. And in the aftermath, employers will have the long journey of rebuilding confidence and trust amongst their remaining employees.

“Retrenchments – no matter the scale – are devastating for employees who lose their jobs, as well as their families and dependents. The stress on the remaining employees is also destructive and takes great skill and effort to manage,” said Michael Gullan, CEO of G&G Advocacy, an eLearning consultancy assisting corporates with high-impact eLearning solutions.

Employers must be prepared with a plan to renew trust and show all stakeholders the opportunities the difficult situation presents.

Gullan urges organisations to look for ways to improve workplace performance and keep their teams unified in times of corporate crisis. “A positive outlook and a growth mindset will make all the difference.”

Recalibration plan for organisations

Here’s a proven strategy for Management and HR teams to rekindle trust and a sense of security and rebuild your culture after retrenchments:

  • Reevaluate your organizational goals and communicate them to your employees.
  • Clarify new processes because of changes in your workforce.
  • Reflect on the skills of your current employees and identify new skills gaps.
  • Prioritize training and skills development to address skills gaps and process updates.
  • Assign subject specialists with in-depth organizational knowledge to work with your eLearning partners to share knowledge with the organisation.
  • Through strong internal communications, nurture a learning culture so your organisation is stronger in turbulent times.

Uncomfortable zones

Gullan says that any organisation that avoids leaving its comfort zone will be forced to do so in the face of retrenchments and restructuring.

“Getting out of a comfort zone can be extremely positive for organisations and employees. It often triggers the search for new opportunities and stretches employees’ capabilities beyond what they thought possible,” said Gullan.

New learning journeys, new opportunities

With the help of L&D partners and consultants, organisations can quickly tailor and deploy new courses that can become your advantage. And employees eager to learn and grow will be revitalized to continue their personal learning journeys and learn new skills to their and the organization’s benefit.

Clients who have partnered with us after retrenchments have been pleasantly surprised how much their employees get a boost of confidence and energy after a retrenchment event and how invested they are to learning and growing.

"This proves it's never too late to start your reskilling and upskilling journey to remain prepared for the future."

Recalibration plan for retrenched employees

If you have unfortunately been retrenched, stay positive and open to new opportunities within and beyond your capabilities. Review your skills, plug the gaps, and be ready for the future.                 

  • Do a personal stock take and assess the skills you’ve acquired over the years.
  • Categorise your skills into three categories. It helps you stay objective.
  • Hybrid skills (skills that combine both hard and soft skills, like customer service).
  • Transferable skills (skills that apply to any job, no matter the level or industry).
  • Job-specific skills (skills that apply only to certain positions).
  • Identify reskilling and upskilling courses you may need to close your skills gaps and brush up on skills.
  • Keep up with the trends by observing where your industry is heading and consider the complementary skills you need to enhance your effectiveness or add value to the work.
  • Lean on your existing network and talk to those inside and outside your industry. Make connections, learn more about potential opportunities, and what skills you may need.
  • Consider contracting, if only for the short term. Many organisations prefer working with consultants or contractors during tough economic times.
  • Act fast. Get your CV to as many prospective employers as possible while you upgrade your skills. Consider organisations with an active skills and development programme so you can develop new skills while at work.

“The lifespan of any skill is getting shorter,” said Gullan. “Most of us will work well into our 70s, yet the skills we have today will only be relevant for five years or less.”

The greatest currency any employee has is not your previous job or job title, but the skills you pick up along. And for organisations, change is the only constant. Which is why you should constantly refine your processes and close your skills gaps so you can survive an unforeseen retrenchment and thrive in the face of challenges.

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