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Downsize With Dignity

Few business decisions are more challenging than the need to lay off employees. As important as a staff cut may be to the financial viability of the fleet, it is difficult to overlook the emotional im...

Few business decisions are more challenging than the need to lay off employees. As important as a staff cut may be to the financial viability of the fleet, it is difficult to overlook the emotional impact that comes with the announcement.

Employees who lose their jobs can be humiliated and frightened about their economic wellbeing. The process can be just as difficult for managers who make the decisions and announce the news.

Any decision to lay off staff should coincide with an organization’s overall business plan -including the steps that will be followed for an economic recovery. Skilled employees will be vital to the eventual recovery of the business, after all, and existing customers could go elsewhere if service levels are sacrificed.

There are legal issues to consider as well. The layoff process itself is governed by several laws that dictate the amount of notice that needs to be provided before an employee is dismissed, or any compensation that may be required. The specific rules also vary from one province to the next, so it will be important to consult with a labour lawyer or contact the appropriate Provincial Labour Board for specific guidance.

Once a decision is made to lay off any employees, managers will need to consider the logistics of the announcement. Will employees be allowed to say goodbye to their co-workers and pick up their belongings? Or will the fleet pack up the belongings and deliver them at a future time?

The meeting with affected employees will require some special planning of its own. Managers who are delivering the news will need to prepare themselves for every potential question, and may even want to practice in front of a mirror until the announcement does not sound like it is forced. The message will have to be direct and delivered with confidence.

“Keep staff informed as much as possible prior to the layoffs,” adds Helen Luketic, a human resources knowledge and research associate with the BC Human Resources Management Association. Even privately held companies would be well served to share economic information that offers context for the decision.

And when the decision is made, those who are facing a layoff will need to be treated with respect.

Managers should deliver this news in the form of a private face-to- face meeting, offering details about why the layoff is occurring, the effective date, and information such as when they will be able to collect personal belongings, Luketic says.

The company’s HR staff should be involved to ensure that the procedures are followed.

“It’s easy for the manager to get sidetracked by the employee,” she explains, adding that the meeting will still need to offer vital information on topics such as the details of a severance package, outplacement services or any available counselling.

It is the type of information that also needs to be in writing, since employees will be struggling to retain much of the information when they are dealing with the initial shock of the news.

“Where a lot of damage is done is how they make the workers feel,” says Sian Hughes, national manager of Driver’s Overload Inc., a recruitment and HR provider affiliated with Drake International. “There are a lot of individuals who may have been with an organization for a long time. They really don’t know where to go or what to do. They may not have been interviewed for the last 25 years. They may not have a resume or know how to look for work.”

Support groups can also help these employees to raise questions that emerge in the days that follow. The sudden loss of a regular paycheque can lead to needs for budget counselling or other support through an Employee Assistance Program. Affected employees will also need to know how to deal with a loss of any benefits, such as the healthcare support that can be particularly important to an aging worker.

“Understand how the workers are feeling…we’ve got to remember we are dealing with peoples’ livelihood,” Hughes adds.

News about the process will undoubtedly spread across the CB, through truck stops, and at any workplace where the laid off employee secures a future job. That can have a dramatic impact on future retention efforts.

And the same employees who are laid off in the midst of an economic downturn may be valuable job candidates when the freight returns.

The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated not-for-profit organization that helps attract, train and retain workers for Canada’s trucking industry. For more information, visit

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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