As part of my coaching practice, I work with individuals who have lost their jobs due to restructuring, work slow-down, or performance or a combination of any of those three things. Companies are very diligent when it comes to ensuring that their legal obligations are met. Typically, corporate counsel or outside legal advice is sought as severance packages are constructed and finalized. As well, there is planning around how the termination is going to happen. As we all know, when restructuring a workforce, tough decisions have to be made as to who is staying and who is going. Years of service, skill set, and performance are typically all considered. HR professionals are well-trained in the mechanics of delivering a termination but may fail to consider the long-term effects. In the last year, I’ve provided career coaching to older single women in their early 60’s who might be classified as semi-skilled labour. These clients could see the finish line ahead of them and were looking forward to retiring in 2-3 years. This is where a company and their human resources department need to apply some heart when making decisions as to who stays and who goes.
Jos loss for employees close to retirement can be particularly devastating especially when they have worked for one employer for a considerable timeframe. The process of finding a new job can be frustrating and can result in major blows to self-esteem. Confronting an unexpected career change late in life is scary and often places future financial security and retirement at risk. This can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. As a career coach, I look at these clients and I wonder how the decision was made that they would be the ones to lose their jobs. Did the employer realize or consider that their limited skill set and their age would be a significant barrier to them finding employment that would take them to pensionable age? Did the employer consider that the emotional toll on the individual as a result of their stage in life could impact on health and potentially healthy retirement years? In my experience, there are attributes that are more difficult to overcome in the labour market; specifically age and level of skill set. Employers need to consider employability of the employees they discharge and if it is absolutely necessary to terminate an employee towards the end of their career, to make sure they have the supports in place beyond the minimum to get them back on their feet and allow them to retire with grace and some financial security. Although human resources is about the business, there are situations where heart has to outweigh hard business decisions.