The first part in this series brings attention to three key elements of the Termination Event, while the second part brings attention to the need to give thoughtful consideration to three preparatory elements. And, I’m taking the opportunity to again reiterate that as an HR Professional (or if you have responsibility for HR issues), it is increasingly critical for you to be the voice of reason—to be the organizations conscience—to ensure every aspect of the termination process is clearly and critically planned for.

As the economy continues to evolve, part and parcel to an HR Professionals portfolio is to be proactively keeping abreast of influencing factors in both the internal and external environments to your organization.  One way to achieve this is to be aware of and consider alternative options that your organization can exercise – particularly when the focus is to reduce operational expenses.  Rather than immediately jumping to layoffs and/or terminations as the solution, consider the possibility of these practices in response to budget pressures and/or market uncertainties.


This occurs when the organization makes a conscious decision to allow vacant positions to remain vacant.  The beauty of this approach is that it typically happens quite naturally.  When an individual resigns or retires ask yourself – do we need to replace this individual?  Can the work be performed differently?  For example, a role with an annual salary of $40K could yield monthly savings of $4166, when you factor in the mandatory and optional benefit costs.

Early Retirement Incentive

With mandatory retirement off the table, at least in Ontario, gone are the days that you can plan on individuals exiting the workforce after celebrating their 65th birthday.  However, this doesn’t prevent you from creating enticing programs for your wiser, more seasoned staff to embrace.  For instance, a plan that incorporates ways in which an employee can downshift from a senior management role to an individual contributor role could offer significant savings for the organization.  And give the employee new found personal time!

Hiring Freeze

While it might have made sense to add 3 new fundraisers in the design of your operational plan, circumstances of the day might warrant a new perspective.  When the landscape has shifted, your hiring plans may need to be halted in light of the new realities your organization is faced with.

Job Sharing

The opportunity for a working mother to share the load with perhaps another working mother might well be welcomed with open arms.  Certainly this option takes some careful planning, however, a shared job between two individuals can be a successful solution – for both parties.  I can recollect on a number of occasions in my time as a Director, HR, when this solution would have retained valued talent while still meeting the needs of the organization.

Reduced Work Week

From time to time, your organization may experience peaks and valleys of services required or product demanded.  And when you experience those peaks and valleys, reducing hours worked per week allows you to retain the experienced talent you have invested in while keeping the individual employed.  Additionally, and in certain instances, the employee may qualify for supplemental income through Employment Insurance. 


This option will be most attractive to organizations (federated or otherwise) with the capacity to relocate employees across varying geographical lines – whether it be lines that are provincial, national or international.  Your HRIS will be an invaluable resource to help you source, identify and offer up short term assignments to those employees who have an interest and can be available to relocate and, whose knowledge and experience can continue to support the mandate with an organizational member of the family!

The common thread through each part of this series has been a simple one.  Planning.  It’s key to ensuring the decision to terminate takes into account the needs of the affected individual, that your decision is grounded in rational organizational objectives and that you’ve given thoughtful consideration to other possible options. 

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Have you planned for a termination lately?

The first part in this series serves to bring attention to the very need to give concerted consideration to three key elements of the Termination Event: namely, who, why and when.  Additionally, and as HR Professionals, it is increasingly critical for you to be the voice of reason—in essence to be the organizations conscience—to ensure every aspect of the termination process is clearly and critically planned for.

Like many events, the Termination Event has a start and an end point, with a myriad of details and milestones through its cycle.  As such, here are three preparatory considerations to achieve termination success!

Start with the end in mind

While the very thought of terminating an employee can and often emotes feelings of fear, apprehension and avoidance, it is in the end, an impactful business decision, and as with all business decisions, objectives help to keep actions aligned. Ask yourself:  What will success look like?  What do we expect to accomplish? What will this decision enable? Objectives will vary from organization to organization, and will be relative to the observer nonetheless, for the HR Professional, it is suggested that success be viewed from a Risk Management perspective–risk to organizational resources and organizational reputation.

In my experience and more often than not, an employer’s primary objective is quite simply, to receive acceptance of the severance offer, within the defined timeline. This is Termination Utopia!  However, in my conversations with organizations during the planning stage, other key measures of success are often raised; specifically they are:

  • The employee exits the organization in a timely and non-disruptive manner, and
  • The organization is recognized for its termination practices

In all of this, consider the “survivors” – those staff who remain employed after the Termination Event.  How do you want them to perceive the organization?  What would you be proud to hear them say about the organization following the Event?

Guide the process

Keep in mind that as the HR Professional, you do not ‘own’ the decision to terminate an employee – unless the employee in question reports to you.  The Line Manager (aka Releasing Manager) ultimately makes the decision to hire and in the same vein, makes the decision to terminate an employee.  Your role is to provide expert guidance and counsel as it relates to organizational practices and regulatory requirements.

Procrastination, avoidance, and hesitation – all words that simply delay the inevitable.  If as an organization, you have come so far as to identify the need to terminate, and your objectives around the need to terminate are based on sound business requirements, then an event of this nature is deserving of advanced placement on the calendar.  When scheduling the date, be sure to stay clear of key employee milestone dates (refer to Part 1).  Consult the Releasing Manager for a date that is compatible with his/her schedule – after all, the Releasing Manager will need to be available to deliver the news to the employee

The Employment Standards site provides a wealth of information related to termination and severance compensation, however, it should be noted that this site provides you with a set of minimum acceptable standards, and there may be circumstances that you encounter where it may be warranted to compensate beyond the minimum as a result of common-law findings.  If you believe your circumstance is unusual, or could potentially be contentious, it may be in the best interests of the organization to receive a legal opinion.

Pay attention to the details

Once you know your objectives and an Event date is identified, your keen attention will be needed to ensure you cross every “t” and dot every “i”!

Here’s a checklist, although not an exhaustive one, of items you’ll need for Event day:

  • Termination Letter – it articulates the terms and conditions of the employee’s separation (i.e. final day, payments and timing of payments, extension of benefits, etc.)
  • Termination Meeting Script – it gives guidance to the Releasing Manager as to what they will verbalize to the employee during the termination event
  • Meeting Space – ideally, a private space where the termination event can occur; consider ensuring it is equipped with water, Kleenex and a telephone
  • Checklist of Organizational Property – it confirms the items that will need to be collected from/returned by the employee (i.e. security access, keys, corporate credit card, smartphone, etc.)
  • Communications/Key Messaging – dependent on the nature of the employee’s role, it may be necessary to have versions of internal and external messages ready for distribution, closely following the termination event
  • Transition Support Coach – to give dedicated personal and professional support on Event day and beyond as the employee transitions to new employment
  • Empty Boxes – in the event the employee elects to immediately retrieve and pack up their personal belongings; as a gesture of courtesy, offer to deliver the items to the employees home address
  • Taxi Chit – an employee may be too distraught to drive and/or board public transit; additionally, should they elect to take their personal belongings, prepared transportation will lighten the load


As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”!  Errors and/or omissions through the process can be costly – to both organizational resources and organizational reputation.

A thoughtful approach where the employee feels they have been treated with dignity and respect; where the employee has been compensated fairly and equitably and where surviving employees speak positively about the organization, in spite of the decision, are all signs of termination success.

The final part of this series will take a look at alternative options to termination. Have you planned for a termination lately?

Termination: The act of dismissing one from employment.

A topic that is rarely talked about, and when it is, it’s faintly whispered, behind closed doors in coded language like “we need to release Jane” or “reorganize John’s role.”

As economic realties continue to test the resilience of many organizations, the way work gets done is being redefined, often times compelling management to make some very tough decisions.  And, while there are alternatives to termination (a topic for another article), the decision to Terminate should not be taken lightly and as such, deserves its rightful place around the planning table.

In these instances, it is increasingly critical for HR to be the voice of reason—in essence the organizations conscience—to ensure every aspect of the termination process is clearly and critically planned for.

As initial steps and before you take action, consider the “who”, “why” and “when” of the Termination event.

Who you terminate

Sounds simple enough, but surprisingly, I have discovered that in more cases than not, the ‘releasing’ manager is minimally familiar with the employee they managed – and in many instances, managed over a substantive period of time.  Consider:

  • how the event is likely to impact the employee–how might he/she react to the news? You may need to consider on-site support in the form of a Transition Coach to provide immediate and follow-up support.
  • how the employee typically travels to work–will he/she be in a position to get home, safely?  If not, this may mean making arrangements for a taxi chit.
  • if the employee has a family/social network–will he/she have access to personal support following the event?  If a Transition Coach is not provided, the employee may wish to confide in a family member/friend and/or a close colleague to feel a sense of belonging as the event typically results in feelings of alienation.


Why you terminate

Be clear and consistent around your decision to terminate.  Ensure the reason you cite verbally, aligns with what you have prepared in writing, so that if the organization is making changes as a result of a new strategic direction, your verbal message and your written message need to be singing from the same song sheet.  If you believe your reason to terminate is ‘cause’ related, you will be well advised to seek legal counsel to ensure you are appropriately positioned to terminate on ‘cause’ related grounds.  And of course, your lawyer will prudently guide you with the right language to verbalize.

When you terminate

Time of year, day of week and hour of day have the potential to impact the employee’s ability to successfully recover from the termination experience.  Consider time of year as it relates to the employee; avoid significant milestone dates, like the employee’s birthday, the employment anniversary date and the Christmas season.  Consider the day of week; it is commonly more agreeable to terminate on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  Lastly, consider the hour of day when the incidence of peer interaction will be lowest immediately following the event.  The lunch hour for instance, gives the employee reasonable opportunity to exit the organization unnoticed.

Now, it’s important to note that ‘the plan’ is not always foolproof; these circumstances sometimes bring out the best and the worst of human behavior.  Nonetheless, I’m reminded of an old saying – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

The next part of this series will take a look at ways in which to prepare for the termination event.  Have you planned for a termination lately?

Each of us, through our association with the organizations we represent, have an inherent responsibility to be representative of the organizations values—to be ambassadors of what the organization stands for.

A Brand is the essence or promise that a product, service or company will deliver or be experienced by a consumer.  And in the non-profit world, this could be a service that responds to community needs, a shelter for the homeless or hope for a cure–often experienced by supporters and/or stakeholders.  The Brand, and its characteristics help us to identify and differentiate one service or promise of hope provider from another.

So how does this matter to HR?

The HR Brand should be aligned to the organizations Brand, so that, if an organization values diversity, for instance, the HR Brand should in turn be demonstrating diversity in its people practices.  Whether it’s achieved through a multi-generational or a multi-cultural workforce.

As HR Brand representatives, you likely have regular and frequent contact with prospective employees and volunteers, service providers, donors and of course, your internal customers – your current workforce of staff and/or volunteers.  And there will be the expectation that you hold true the organizations values.

What does your organization value?  Does your HR Brand represent these values?  How do these values appear to the prospective employee or volunteer?  And even more importantly, how are the organizations’ values experienced by your current staff and/or volunteers?

As you recruit and select; as you train and develop; as you downsize and outsource, consider this question – What experience do I want my supporters and/or stakeholders to remember?

Be your best Brand.  Everyday.