And there are going to be plenty more 'difficult decisions', especially in the public sector. The CIPD has predicted that some 725,000 taxpayer-funded jobs could be cut over the next four years and perhaps as many again in the private sector.
All this is likely to lead to a boom in the outplacement business. Put simply, outplacement is the means by which companies in the throes of 'rightsizing' help the newly laid off get back into the job market as quickly and untraumatically as possible. Specialist outplacement firms can provide a range of services (tailored to the client's pocket), including help with CVs and job applications, psychological support and counselling, even retraining and executive education.
As usual, the HR department is left with the gritty end of the lollipop, as the task of actually going through the statutory consultation period with those affected falls to in-house HR managers. Hence the bleak 'grim reaper' or 'angel of death' sobriquets.
But isn't it a bit of a luxury to pay to help people who aren't going to be at the firm for much longer? Well, maybe. But reputation is all in recruitment as in much else, and a poll from consultancy Mason Finch found 89% of HR directors thought outplacement improved their organisation's image, with 81% also believing it improved the company's ability to retain other staff. Not such a hard decision, for once.