GUEST COMMENT: Fighting the redundancy virus

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The credit crunch is like a large sneeze that's showered even the most robust members of the financial services community with a contagious virus, producing subsequent sneezes and sniffles. After the first big sneeze last summer, the contagion is still spreading: individuals are being laid off across the City and the retail sector is being impacted as well. Many could be infected. What can you do to protect yourself?

As medics will tell you, antibiotics don't work on viruses. However, you can take steps in the workplace to minimise the effects or even ward off redundancy.

Firstly, you need to conduct a thorough examination of your current firm to determine the likelihood and extent of potential headcount cuts. Ultimately, cutting costs in financial services means letting people go. Don't just accept the platitudes offered by senior management - sometimes they don't know the full effects of the current crisis.

Practically, you should:

· Follow the press and online news services closely - often rumours precede reality.

· Check out your firm's latest results - sometimes there will be indicators from the last 12 months trading to start alarm bells ringing.

· Find out how well your division/department/team is really doing? If you are in a support role check out the performance of the business that you are directly supporting.

Next, take a look at competitor organisations. This has two main benefits - first, you can see trends across your business sector that are likely to affect your firm; but also, you can identify those more successful firms that might be able to offer you a role if you are axed.

In particular, look at:

· Competitors' track records for redundancies in the last year.

· How they've been performing relative to the sector.

· Whether the management team is intact or the CEO has changed recently - understanding the dynamics of the senior management team will give a good indicator of the future.

Finally, formulate a contingency plan in case you do get the chop. The most difficult situation is uncertainty. If you plan for the worst eventuality you will be able to move forward again quickly if it happens.

Key issues to evaluate are:

· The likely size of your redundancy package and the amount of time it will buy you.

· Whether you are likely to have the option to get some outplacement support - it really can make a big difference.

· Where there are likely to be openings for someone with your skills and experience.

· Whether you have enough savings/resources to move out of the City and pursue a different role. Is this a great opportunity to do something completely different?

In the final analysis, it's highly unlikely that you will get much advance warning of impending redundancy. However, if you start making plans now your recovery from the virus will be a lot quicker.

Andrew Pullman is a former head of capital markets HR at a European bank. He now runs the City HR consultancy, People Risk Solutions Ltd.

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