Indaba discussion helps HR professionals to ease the burden of retrenchments

CHROs discuss ways to help navigate retrenchments while supporting HR functions, leaders, and line managers.

At an Impact Session at this year’s HR Indaba Online, titled ‘Retrenchment recovery: managing yourself, your staff, and your retrenchees’, Bridgestone South Africa’s human resources director Julia Modise said the past year has not been an easy journey.

“We went through a process at Bridgestone where we had to close our heritage plant that was over 80 years old, and that on its own was taxing and difficult,” she said.

Bridgestone South Africa (BSAF) closed down its tyre manufacturing plant in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape as the plant could no longer produce the radial tyres the industry is rapidly moving towards.

“As HR professionals it was important for us to focus on the emotional wellbeing of those left behind,” she said, “to have some sort of intervention that could provide a platform for employees to raise their concerns, and some form of counselling.”

Cisco’s HR lead – Africa, Andisa Liba, commented that last year had been “thick with grief” from an economic perspective, and said that having to tell employees, while working in a remote setting, that they were implementing Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) had been difficult.

“A lot of these courageous conversations require a lot more empathy from us and re-engineering how we deliver bad news,” said Andisa, adding that as HR professionals they had to think and talk from an empathetic perspective to show compassion.

“It has not been easy, it had its challenges but it has allowed us to rethink how we do these things going forward and for me, I see that as an opportunity,” she said.

She emphasised the importance of keeping well and going to therapy in these trying times. “As HR professionals we want to make sure that we are well and healthy to support the entire business,” said Andisa. “We onboarded a global company called Randstad, which is made up of career coaches and clinical psychologists and before we underwent the retrenchments process, and I suggested that everyone in my team should have a consultation.”

Massmart’s vice president: people partner Kgomotso Molobye said that one of the things people underestimate about retrenchements is what teams go through in the process, especially prior to the retrenchment process and the HR department as a whole.

“HR is quite an emotive environment and trying to help people through certain processes and not just Section 189, implies that our people give a bit more of themselves to other colleagues by ensuring they can go through critical processes,” said Kgomotso.

She said retrenching companies can also help retrenchees by helping them to identify possible alternative employment opportunities and give them time off to go to interviews and talk to potential employers.