I'd imagine this will be a good case study for long time to come as an example of two worlds colliding: the old and the digitally connected new. HMV went into administration two weeks ago and Deloitte have the task of salvaging what they can.
60 employees were brought together on 31 January to be told they were no longer needed. Included in the 60 were HMV's social media team. As the redundancies began, the HMV twitter feed began to send messages such as 'We're tweeting live from HR where we are all being fired! Exciting!". A series of tweets in a similar vein followed - within minutes the event had its own hash tag #hmvXFactorFiring " Then a tweet: "Just overheard Our Marketing Manager (who isn't being sacked) asking 'How do I shut down Twitter?'.
It is argued that HMV failed as its Board and management clearly didn't understand how the digital world was revolutionising the world of music, video and entertainment. This failure to understand how the world has changed continued with Deloitte right through to the redundancy announcement. Not only did they break every rule on how to make people redundant, they didn't take control of their main communication channel and clearly had no crisis management plan in place.
If HMV/Deloitte had covered off 4 golden rules on redundancy they would have realised that the most important is just telling it straight, as soon as possible and not in a mass meeting.
1. Don't tell people of their redundancy in a mass meeting.
2. Make a very clear statement of what was happening and why it was happening and exactly what the numbers are. People might not like it and they might be in shock about it, but at least nobody can say they misunderstood. Sometimes employers worry about raising the issue of possible redundancies before all the details have been finalised, but employees are not stupid, they know when something is happening and the rumours and not knowing is described by many as worse than actually knowing the bad news.
3. Put an infrastructure in place to deal with people's questions. Giving as much information as possible is crucial. Helping people understand their financial position and what help they can expect from the organisation can go a long way to keeping trust even in such a difficult situation. Ensure managers are fully briefed. HR can really help by supporting managers and employees running workshops on the practical issues and helping people find new roles.
4. When it comes to actually telling specific employees they were being made redundant, it's so much better to tell people face-to-face. Don't follow the example of the character that George Clooney plays in "Up in the Air". His way of explaining redundancies is to develop it as an opportunity. It might well be later down the line but when giving bad news don't sugar coat and try and pretend you are doing them a favour. You are not.
One last thing. Assume that people will talk about how they feel, understand that social media channels are how communication takes place and treat people fairly. Do this because it's the right thing to do not just because of your reputation. If people are treated with respect and are allowed to leave with a little dignity and hope, the message they give to others about their experience will not necessarily be a negative one.