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How to Use a Reduction in Force Plan Template

6 minute read

Using a reduction in force plan template simplifies the entire RIF process. It highlights the key steps needed for workforce reductions and standardizes all protocols for termination of employment across departments. This alleviates the stress of layoffs and mitigates the aftermath of employees leaving.

Nevertheless, organizations are often at sixes and sevens when developing a reduction in force plan template to manage RIF processes. Typically, this is because management teams can find information overwhelming and don’t know when, where, and how to begin.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Luckily, you don’t have to wrack your brain endlessly to produce the perfect RIF plan template. We’ve prepared some simple tips for using a reduction in force plan template quickly and efficiently from start to finish.

Decide When to Use a Reduction in Force

To eliminate any uncertainties about when workforce reductions should be made, you need to underline which circumstances justify layoffs. This will help current – and future – management teams understand your organization’s RIF process.

There are several reasons your organization might want to implement a layoff:

  • Cutting costs that may stem from debts, lack of profit, or drop in sales.
  • Staff reductions as a result of over-staffing, change in roles, or decision to outsource tasks.
  • Mergers and buyouts often trigger layoffs due to new company structures and direction.
  • Relocation is another reason for workforce reductions.

Clearly define these circumstances in your reduction in force plan template for cross-departmental transparency.

Reduction in Force Plan Template

Establish a Reduction in Force Timeline

The main purpose of a reduction in force plan template is to build a well-defined road map for workforce reductions. So the first thing you need to do is establish a clear reduction in force timeline. This prompts better organization and sets clear goals.

For instance, your reduction in force timeline can cover a period of six weeks and look something like this:

  • Week 1: Notify executives and prepare documentation.
  • Week 2: Notify the organization about pending layoffs.
  • Week 3: Deliver individual notifications to affected employees.
  • Weeks 4-6: Allow several weeks for employees to look for work and wrap up any loose ends at your organization. This is likely when your ex-staff members will be using services like outplacement and is after the layoff or RIF has occurred.

Having a clear reduction in force timeline will ensure you stay on track before, during the whole reduction event.

Take a look at our reduction in force guidelines that every HR professional should know for more information.

Develop an Employee Selection Strategy

Choosing which employees need to leave your organization and which you will retain is never an easy decision to make. But one way or another you need to reach a decision – and be able to justify your selection.

Here are a few RIF selection methods that will help you determine who will go:

  • Seniority-based selection
  • Employee status-based selection
  • Merit-based selection
  • Skills-based selection
  • Multiple criteria ranking

Share your selection criteria with management, accounting, and legal teams for better RIF coordination. You can learn more about this selection methods with our handy guide:

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Prepare Standardized Policies

By creating standard policies, you can help your organization stay on track during a RIF or layoff. Creating policies before you need them is key here because creating them ad-hoc just leads to more work and stress.

We highly suggest that you nail down what practices, standards, and policies go into your RIF plan as early as possible, allowing you to ensure that they are fair and balanced. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Standardized Benefits Policy

Provide exiting employees with a document that lists all the benefits they will receive upon their exit from the organization. This part of the reduction in force plan template can include outplacement services, severance packages, pension plans, and health insurance.

Negative Publicity Policy

Negative publicity resulting from workforce reductions can impact hiring, retention, turnover, and sales. Develop a standardized negative publicity policy to deal with negative publicity accordingly. If missing from your reduction in force plan template, negative publicity will be detrimental for your employer brand long term.

One of the best ways to protect your employer brand while holding a reduction event is to make sure you are doing everything in your power to help those impacted by the event. This is where outplacement and a strong severance agreement comes into play. If you do everything you can to help your employees through the process, you should be able to avoid negative publicity, though you should also keep in mind that it's always a gamble.

Avoid Discrimination in Your RIF Process

Cleanse any signs of discrimination in your reduction in force plan template by reviewing whether your strategy involves the disproportionate dismissal of a protected class of employees.

Reduction in Force Plan Template

Discrimination in the workplace can be direct, indirect, intentional, or unintentional. But whatever the reasons, discrimination in the workplace is never acceptable. It’s crucial you are mindful of the various types of discrimination in the workplace when selecting which employees to layoff:

  • Age: This type of discrimination occurs when employers use age to manage various business processes like hiring, promotion, benefits, and layoffs. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a law that protects employees from unfair treatment on the basis of age.
  • Gender: Also known as sexual discrimination, this type of discrimination in the workplace arises after unequal treatment based on gender.
  • Race: Employers cannot categorize employees and bring decisions about their role in an organization based on their race.
  • Religion: Religious discrimination the workplace is when employers treat an employee unfairly due to their religious, spiritual, and moral beliefs.

If your reduction in force plan template focuses heavily on one group of employees then you need to review it even if you didn't mean for it to. That's right: even if you unintentionally impacted one group more than the other, you should be concerned and go back to review your process.

Don’t forget to read up on ADEA, the WARN Act, COBRA, and other workforce regulations to avoid legal complications when choosing which employees to layoff. Being aware of the legal issues associated with reductions in force will help you enforce more reliable and fair RIFs.

Notify Affected Employees

There are two ways you need to notify employees about their impending layoff. The first is via a written notice and the second is through an in person notification meeting.

The purpose of a reduction in force letter is to formally announce a layoff to employees. It serves to provide key bits of information, like reasoning and employee rights. On the other hand, the purpose of a notification meeting is to address the layoff in detail and avoid disinformation.

The objectives for the reduction in force meeting differ for employers and employees, respectively.

For employers, the goal of the notification meeting is to:

  • Conduct a concise notification meeting in a compassionate and respectful manner.
  • Protect corporate and employer brands internally and externally.
  • Minimize negative impact on affected – and unaffected – employees.

For employees, the goal of the notification meeting is to:

  • Understand the RIF process and all it encompasses entirely.
  • Get answers to any questions and uncertainties they may have.
  • Retain dignity throughout the meeting and be treated with respect.

When conducting a notification meeting we recommend you use a layoff script to communicate layoffs to employees. This promises a standardized professional approach in terms of message, tone, and delivery. You see our layoff script tips here:

Download Our Layoff Script Here!

Reduction in Force Plan Template: Overview

Having a reduction in force plan template – and using it efficiently - will ensure that you conduct layoffs at a highly professional standard. Doing so will protect your corporate brand image, minimize negative impact on employees, and retain quality talent.

It's important to always take into account your corporation's culture, too. Find ways to make your RIF event fit into what your employees have come to expect. However, you need to always make sure you hit key points when dealing with any reduction, which is why planning ahead, becoming familiar with the laws that dictate how these moves play out, and understanding the best way to support your outbound employees is so important.

Also, as with any reduction event, make sure to work closely with your legal counsel to ensure you are following all local, state, and federal laws. We are not lawyers!