LETTING people go as part of downsizing and retrenchment can be a stressful part of a manager’s job. Giving someone their notice for reasons of recession or otherwise is difficult, and it may be hard to keep personal involvement aside while going through the professional steps to making someone redundant.

However, managers can go the extra mile to see if they can assist and inspire those who are being retrenched. By using the dismissal meeting as a chance to coach and explore the next steps, managers can assist these former employees in seeking employment elsewhere.

Going the extra mile

This extra-mile service could go a long way in changing the employee’s feelings about the layoffs, give them a more positive outlook and reduce some bad feelings they may have towards the company.

Managers will also benefit by feeling better about the redundancy as they coach employees to seek a new career path. This might seem like an impossible and daunting task but one process to use is a detailed look at industry skills transfer.

Just because someone has spent 15 years in the company does not mean that they have to seek new jobs in the same industry. Human resource managers can turn the retrenchment process into a more positive experience and challenge former employees to consider embarking on a new career in a completely different industry.

Consider the options

A key measure is to look at the employee’s behavioural preferences. For example, the civil engineer will possess a love of science and have a tendency to logically examine facts and situations.

These traits are also present in accountancy where analytical and precise behaviours are needed, combined with the enjoyment of calculating and mathematics. Here we can see a clear correlation, which indicates an opportunity for a potential successful industry transfer. However, the civil engineer would have to sacrifice his love of building and constructing things and fall in love with numbers.

So if two careers as different as civil engineering and accountancy can be bridged, does this not support the idea that a successful transition across a wide range of industries is possible?

The manager can engage the employee to consider which behavioural preferences they have and how these can be applied to a different career.

Career alternatives

Let us consider a few other industry-specific jobs. The skills of the financial manager who decides to become a community social worker might appear to be totally unrelated. But if you look carefully, you can spot the similar essential performance behaviours both jobs require.

A financial manager needs to demonstrate that he is analytical, organised and wants challenges. So too does the community social worker. The financial manager then needs to build on his warmth, empathy and influencing skills. These are traits that he should possess already but which need greater attention and development if he wants to move into a people-focused world.

Another example could be a marketing research professional considering a move to the teaching profession. Again, looking at the traits the marketing professional already possesses, these should include analytical, numerical and interpersonal skills.

The interpersonal skills will enable him to work effectively with other people, in this case, students. The numerical skills will be useful for teaching mathematics or science subjects.

The individual can be coached to develop his planning skills, an essential trait necessary for successful teaching. After some teacher training, the former marketing research professional could be ideally primed to become a fully qualified and valuable teacher.

Take the lead

People can successfully make the transition to another industry with their transferrable skills. Managers can capitalise on this positive fact by taking the lead and asking employees to consider what they might be looking for in a new career and if it will meet their needs.

Challenge them to do some research on the qualifications needed and seek assistance from friends, family and professional business contacts. Managers can inspire fresh starts for former employees and help to reduce the unpleasant feelings both parties may experience in a difficult retrenchment process.