At the end of 2019 Australian employment rates were as high as they had been in some time. The government was getting ready to announce its first budget surplus in over ten years. People had high hopes for the new decade.

Then COVID hit. Many industries were impacted immediately, while many more have found themselves increasingly affected as the months have gone on. Which leaves many of us facing a tough situation: Downsizing organisations and saying permanent goodbyes to employees.

In such an overwhelming and unprecedented situation, how do you go about carrying out a restructure? Logistically it can be hard to exit employees en masse. But it is also challenging from a human point of view – how can you lift these valued members of your team up at the same time you have to let them go? What will be the impact on the remaining employees?

COVID has made everything more challenging – including outplacement

This hasn’t been a merciful situation. While industries like travel and aviation, retail and hospitality have been incredibly hard hit, more traditionally secure industries like finance, media and education are also experiencing mass redundancies.

Businesses have already laid off more than 700,000 workers who aren’t eligible for JobKeeper. And as JobKeeper goes into its second, more reduced, phase, that number will continue to climb.

It’s a situation this generation of employees and leaders have never known, meaning very few are prepared for how to deal with it. Not only has it created a situation in which organisations are required to let go of staff, but the environment in which it’s happening presents even more challenges:

Multiple redundancies

Mass redundancies do occur, but the amount of organisations experiencing the economic pain of the pandemic at the one time is highly unusual. Strategically and effectively handling this won’t be easy and defaulting to what you’ve usually done in similar situations won’t cut it.

Unemployment is high

There is always the hope and well wishes that those who are leaving will be able to find a new role quickly. But with unemployment growing to over 7% and heading up (and an average of 18 job seekers for every role advertised), the chances of staff finding