HR and Culture: Blunders vs. Best Practices

Learn about some recent HR and culture blunders that companies have made, and the best practices they could have implemented instead.

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How to Help Your Laid-Off Employees

This year was a notable year for the technology sector between layoffs, hiring freezes, and remote work. Many companies have had to make the difficult decision to reduce their workforce to cut costs or create new policies that may not be popular amongst employees.

Notable and significant tech moments like Twitter’s acquisition by Elon Musk, or Meta laying off 13% of its workforce come to mind.

Tech giants have a way of influencing the market and HR practices across various industries. Once they set the precedent, others tend to follow.

With this in mind, what type of impact have these tech giants had when it comes to HR best practices? And how are they doing compared to the HR best practices we often speak about? In this article, we review HR blunders we’ve seen in the media, and compare them to the HR best practices that are widely used.

HR blunder 1: Employees being terminated inappropriately 

There have been many public instances over the course of the last year where public figures have found themselves in hot water over how they’ve handled layoffs within their organization.

One example was the mass layoffs which occurred at Better.com. The CEO gathered 15% of the workforce over Zoom, and shared a swift and blunt message that they had all been laid off. In a later round of layoffs, some employees only realized they had been laid off because they noticed a severance payment pop up into their bank accounts!

HR best practice: Layoffs should be handled professionally, and with care

WHILE LAYOFFS ARE A COMMON TACTIC TO REDUCE COSTS, TERMINATING PEOPLE SHOULD BE DONE CAREFULLY AND COMPASSIONATELY.

While layoffs are a common tactic to reduce costs, terminating people should be done carefully and compassionately. It’s important to remember that these people are not just numbers; they are people with families to support. Moreover, losing your job can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. These people should be met with sensitivity.

So how should layoffs be handled? Workest has a guide here, with background on why the way layoffs are communicated are crucial.

HR blunder 2: Employees being laid off illegally 

When layoffs are done, care must be taken to ensure your employees rights are being respected. This can vary from country to country, state to state. For example, some laws indicate how many months of severance you need to give employees, and this can change based on the amount of employees you’re laying off at one time.

In Europe and the UK, Elon Musk faces legal troubles, where firing employees is far more complicated than in the United States. For example, Ireland obtained a court injunction against the firing of Sinead McSweeney, Twitter’s global vice president for public policy. She was terminated because she didn’t officially respond “yes” to Musk’s email asking employees to commit to an “extremely hardcore” workload or to leave.

HR best practice: Layoffs should follow the law of the country the employee operates in.

HR blunder 3: Policy changes without employee buy-in

When creating sweeping changes or policies that impact the lives of employees, having their buy-in will go a long way. This is part of change management and doing a thorough impact analysis.

There have been a lot of rumblings about companies (like Snapchat and Apple to name a few) who have let their employees work remote for 2 years over the pandemic, only to now reverse this policy. It’s with no surprise that some employees are not happy. In many scenarios, there seems to be a disconnect with how executives feel about remote work compared to their employees.

At Apple, employees pushed back on the return-to-office policy. They wrote an interal letter stating “​​Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored” and that many had already quit in response to the policy.

HR best practice: Change management needs to be handled thoughtfully, and aligned with company culture

Change management is never easy. That being said, we suggest these basic rules when introducing change. To implement culture change in the workplace, employers must identify the culture they want, assess what they have, and take action. Making sweeping changes without involving input from the team or transparency around decision making will leave a negative taste in your employees’ mouths.

MAKING SWEEPING CHANGES WITHOUT INVOLVING INPUT FROM THE TEAM OR TRANSPARENCY AROUND DECISION MAKING WILL LEAVE A NEGATIVE TASTE IN YOUR EMPLOYEES’ MOUTHS.

HR blunder 4: Employee burnout is not a consideration

Employee burnout is on the rise. People are looking towards their employers to consider things like work-life balance, mental health, and flexible schedules. To retain top employees, HR best practices recommend that employee’s well-being remain top of mind.

During the Musk’s Twitter takeover, he sent an email to everyone, describing what being part of the “New Twitter” would entail: “employees will need to be extremely hardcore” and that long hours at high intensity will be needed for success.” He instructed people who wanted to stay employed and work for this new “hardcore Twitter” to click ‘yes’ on a link provided in the email.

The result was employees sleeping in the office, and managers reportedly telling employees to work 12 hours, 7 days a week to meet Musk’s deadlines.

HR best practice: Leaders should ensure psychological safety is always maintained

When employees feel psychological safety, they are more engaged, more productive, and more innovative.

HR best practice: Worker burnout is widespread, and should be taken seriously

Burnout existed well before the pandemic, and has been increasing since early 2020. One significant way to combat burnout is to promote a healthier work-life balance. One way to combat burnout includes setting clear working hours and being transparent about expectations and putting employees in charge.

HR and culture: People should always come first

The tech world is changing and the lush people-first benefits employees once enjoyed seem to be changing. Over the year, we’ve seen companies firing people by locking them out of their computers, laying people off haphazardly, and eliminating remote work and mental health benefits to try and save costs and increase productivity.

Changes of any kind require care and consideration to keep employee morale intact. Employers who want to put their employees first should consider the long-term and short-term implications of their decisions and how they might impact their employees.

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