“Completely ill-timed”, “insensitive and cruel”, “not good enough”.
Those were just a few of the comments last week as angry employees of Topshop owner Arcadia swarmed social media to denounce the way in which they discovered they had lost their jobs. If reports of how those events unfolded are true, their ire is entirely justified.
At 7am on Monday morning, Asos announced that it had purchased Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT from the crumbling Arcadia empire, and by 7.45am the online retailer had issued a tweet welcoming its new brands to “the Asos family”.
But the deal didn’t include the 70 high street stores employing approximately 2,500 people across the UK. According to a PA Wire report, these staff members were not contacted by Arcadia’s administrators at Deloitte until 9am, leaving them to discover their fate through Twitter and media reports.
In the all-time rankings of communications blunders, this one will go down as an epic fail.
Large-scale redundancies have sadly become everyday news during the pandemic, and this will likely remain the case for some time in badly-affected sectors such as retail and hospitality. Retail Gazette recently reported that the UK sector is expected to suffer a further 200,000 job losses this year as restrictions continue to impact the industry.
Given the economic situation, layoffs are unavoidable. But that does not excuse employers from ensuring that redundancies are handled with care, including the basic tenet of informing staff before any news is shared with the outside world.
Executives are not bulletproof to poor mental health
Showing support and compassion is not only the decent thing to do, but will also go a long way towards protecting the image of the brand. It’s impossible to say how much future business Asos may lose as a result of its handling of the Arcadia acquisitions, but as one distraught employee declared last week, “through the tears I’ve just deleted my account with you”.
Some companies that have had to make job cuts in the last year – including Airbnb, Perkbox and Monzo – have launched “talent directories” to help redundant staff connect with those who are hiring elsewhere. Others have provided the services of recruitment experts to give advice on job hunting after redundancies have been implemented.
The need to cut jobs may be outside the control of most employers right now, but how the affected staff are treated is not. Astute business leaders recognise the difference.
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