Redundancy and investing in the future: squaring the circle?

The international tourism and hospitality industry is undergoing a seismic pandemic shock affecting all parts of the industry across all continents and in all countries. No one is immune from the impact on business from the largest international corporations to the sole traders.

Rethinking the business to survive is the first priority and inevitably casualties will result.

Staff headcount will fall, in some cases very dramatically, and for those losing jobs the loss is not just of the job and the income but also the confidence and self-esteem that could have a lasting affect on their lives. Redundancies are known to impact not just on those being made redundant,  but also those left in the workforce and on the very culture of the business. How the process and outcomes are handled and managed also impacts on the customer base and public sentiment towards that business.

Individuals being made redundant are likely to feel anxiety, rejection, stress as well as feeling stigmatised with the loss of self worth, self belief and self-esteem. Those staff remaining may feel grateful, but also mistrustful, concerned over increased workloads and very wary of future employer blandishments and assurances as to their job security.

The business needs to redeploy and reorganise as well as handle the administrative, emotional and cultural impact of the complexities in transitioning the redundant staff. The reputational impact will depend on how the whole issue is perceived to be handled. Staff, customers and public sentiment will be determined by how the business works its way through the process and whether it is damaged as a result.

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Communication and transparency is absolutely crucial in managing the process, not always great strengths in some businesses. Organisational culture is the key determinant and demonstrations of care and compassion are essential in maintaining what are inevitably strained relationships.

It is counter-intuitive but when making redundancies businesses also need to consider their own and the industry’s longer-term post- covid needs. Survival first, while recognising that there will be a future tomorrow. Many of those being made redundant are loyal, long-term highly skilled hospitality professionals. Those skills and experiences will be required to help the industry recover and grow, but not just at the moment. This conflict between the business needs now and the growth needs for tomorrow should not be overlooked in the haste to survive.

The emotional relationship that redundant staff have with the business and the wider industry is going to be very important, not just for their own well-being but for the long-term staff and public perception of the industry. The industry will require highly skilled professionals in the future, the question is how can the industry retain an attachment to those skilled individuals and encourage them to return to the industry as the situation improves. Many organisations are developing support  and transition packages for redundant staff, and all such initiatives are to be commended. One relatively inexpensive addition that could be made available to every redundant employee would be a subsidy or payment for a relevant professional development training course. Such courses could be time or cost limited and would be more than just a redundancy benefit, they would be an investment for both the individual and the industry.

The advantages to the individual are obvious with the wider industry benefits being a practical, well considered investment and a demonstration of a belief in the future of the industry and it staff.  Demonstrating that belief through a relatively modest investment would retain goodwill and emotional attachment of the staff. It would also show wider society and governments that as an industry it believes in its own core values and recognises the essential contribution that the industry makes to wider society and long term economic well being.

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