The events of the past two months have many colleges and universities seriously considering a reduction in force (RIF) of either faculty, or staff, or both. If you are considering this option, I wanted to share these crucial points with you.
What Is a Reduction in Force?
A reduction in force occurs when an employer eliminates a position with no intention of replacing it and results in a permanent cut in headcount.
What’s Your Goal?
Reducing payroll expenses is the most common reason for a reduction in force. And another common purpose is to align personnel with available work better.
But how much is enough and how much is too much? That’s why specific, measurable goals are essential.
Do you need to reduce payroll costs by 10%? Do you need to eliminate a department that is no longer essential to the success of the institution?
Identifying What Positions Will Be Impacted
Your goal in a reduction in force is to strengthen the organization, which makes your selection criteria a crucial step. You might select positions to be impacted based on seniority, performance, job classification, or job knowledge and skills – but the result should be that your institution remains capable of consistently delivering a quality experience for your audiences.
Protect Against ‘Bumping and Retreating’
Bumping and retreating refers to the potential unforeseen consequences for those who remain employed after the reduction. The ripple effect can impact many when you eliminate one position that results in the disrupt of others in your institution. Ths effect can threaten morale and productivity as well as the retention of students, faculty, and staff.
Developing new position descriptions and taking necessary steps to ensure that those who remain understand their role in a very different setting are two critical factors to address.
You should seriously consider involving faculty and staff leadership in the process.
Reduction in Force Checklist
Protect Employee Rights
First of all, protecting your employees’ rights is a moral and ethical responsibility. Second, you want to make sure you follow the laws so that all parties are protected.
To ensure you protect your employees’ rights, you need expertise can help ensure you are compliant with these and any other relevant regulations:
- The WARN Act
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)
Communication Is Key
Some will no longer be employed, and they will have many questions. Others will be employed, and they will also have many questions. All of them will be facing uncertainty.
All of this means one thing – you need to develop and manage a constant stream of communication with your audiences. Some of that information you can deliver in personal communications, some you can provide to segments and the entire group.
You should help them understand why the RIF is necessary and how you intend to implement the RIF. What are the processes to be followed? What can they expect, and why?
Remember that you really can’t over-communicate, but you can under-communicate, and that can lead to rumors, misunderstandings, and other issues. And when faced with rumors, remember to respond with the information you have, even if it’s not ‘good news.’