Firing employees have always been a difficult process. A situation that most employers would want to avoid usually ends up becoming the last resort option. It is usually exercised when the gap between the employee’s idea of the organization and the company's expectation from the employee becomes quite significant, or for an organization undergoing change. Although letting go is a natural process within the business life cycle, it is not a very welcomed decision within the company. Understanding the impact that such a decision has on the employee, the conversation actually becomes one of the most challenging decisions that an employer has to take. The impact of letting go of an individual is rarely limited to the people directly involved in the process but also ends up affecting everyone else on your team. Not only does it change work assignments, but it also makes people wonder about the employer's judgment as a manager and their own job security. This puts more onus on the manager. It forces the managers and HR professionals to pay an active attention at how they manage the metrics for employee assessment.
Taking such factors into account puts a lot of pressure on managers to actually execute the termination process in a way that is dignified and humane enough to end the tenure on a positive note, keeping the goodwill of the company intact, without completely destroying the employee’s morale. The first step towards this direction is to build a standardized and unbiased system within the organization that looks at performance in a holistic manner and uses people analytics to make employee related decisions. Given the emotional undercurrents that the process creates, it becomes imperative that intellect and data, rather than anxiety and awkwardness, be the aspects that a manager depends on. Rather than choosing an easy way out managers need to structure out the entire process. The aim should be to make it a constructive process for all the stakeholders involved.
It is important to ensure that the decision is the end result of a careful, thoughtful, fair, and transparent process that started long before the actual firing. A dismissal on the grounds of poor performance should be done after conducting various performance related discussions. If firing is the result of an organizational restructure the process should still include components of assistance, conversations and the provision of a reasonably "fair warning".
And this is where the HR professionals can contribute towards building a culture within the organization that helps both managers and employees go through the firing process smoothly. The role of HR professional becomes two forked. Working with managers, it's essential that HR assists them by double checking their plans to fire an employee. They can do this by providing a more holistic picture of the employees extenuating circumstances, to help managers take a better, data-driven decision. This will also allow for the removal of any biases that the manager might have against the employee. The role HR professional play is critical in ensuring that the decision of firing the employee is the only option left with the manager. It is in the interest of HR to pay close heed to the firing process and work closely with managers and employees as such events, albeit the size of the firing, have a compounding effect on both the employer brand of the company and its attrition levels. Using various people analytics and assessment parameters, HR can help manager take rational decisions.
HR also has a responsibility when it comes to making the firing process less traumatic for the employee. It is by building an effective working culture that helps employees within the organization not look like a firing to be an end in itself. Take HubSpot, a software company, for example. When one of their employees gets fired, they call it a "graduation", the New York Times reported. This culture can also have a component where bosses are naturally motivated to help employees that have been fired to look for jobs. Organizations need to put support processes in the most authentic way to help someone who’s exiting the company. Examples include alumni networking groups for former employees (whether they were let go or left on their own), leaving the door open for feedback and support, offering references, providing career coaching, and even opening up their own network to help someone find a position for which they’re better suited. By working closely with both the managers and the employees, HR can ensure a smooth transition period for all stakeholders.