How to secure your workforce after a layoff
By Crystal Hyde
Earlier this year, Shopify announced a significant reduction in its headcount, and news articles raised the alarms on a decline in the tech sector with some anticipating a “blood bath” of layoffs. It’s unsettling for employees to fear they are on the cusp of redundancy, but what about those who aren’t?
Diligent management and HR teams spend hundreds of hours carefully planning compassionate, tactful existing strategies to meet the current needs of the business while respectfully offboarding employees.
The process of layoffs is never easy. As a communicator in manufacturing in 2007/08, the difficulty of communicating these changes is not lost on me. I had a community member personally mail me a pamphlet to find God when a company spokesperson announced another round of layoffs. While at BlackBerry, I was the spokesperson locally and in the company downturn was flagged each day of the building with the most “exits” and tasked with alerting security and quickly diverted important meetings to other facilities.
I understand the difficulty, the pain and the turbulence that comes with layoffs and the empathy, hurt and sincere concern for the families affected by these difficult business decisions. Still, I also know that what is often overlooked is the survivors of the deep cuts businesses make.
The remaining employees are deemed veterans and crucial to the company, yet if they are made aware of the cuts, their direct impact can be overlooked.
3 simple steps for employers
When you are left behind, there are many questions, few answers, fewer employees and more work. How do you keep your top talent secure, motivated and engaged? Here are three simple steps to reassure your remaining workforce:
First, make it clear the cuts are done when they are. Employers typically layoff in waves, and employees know that, so when it’s done, be clear about communicating the end of the cuts and then bring all of your employees together in the form of a townhall or whatever fits your culture and share very clearly that the cuts are over and show you have a strategy for going forward.
Second, having a strategy for going forward. This will show the process extends beyond the cuts and, more importantly, simple things like diverting work, phones, mailing addresses have been handled, clients reassigned, customers notified, or whatever the direction is for the daily tasks has been considered in some capacity, even if the response is to work with their manager on the best solution. Employees want to feel like they have also considered what their future without their colleagues will look like. This shows the value for the work those released did and recognition of the need to address it.
Lastly, be human about the reality of the situation. It sucks. Colleagues have lost friends, collaborators and daily touchpoints that were integrated into their work experience. Plus, they will all want to know if they are expected to do more with less and, more importantly, if the company cares about that burden. Acknowledging pain points does not mean you have to solve all of them, but demonstrating the business is aware of the new reality it has created for remaining employees is a key to healing and rebuilding trust with the employer.
I had a vice-president announce layoffs to my team, and in all sincerity, she said, “we have cut to the bone only out of necessity, and it hurts. You will have to pick up where they left off, and we will all need to roll up our sleeves to meet our goals. I am sorry, and I am so grateful for all of you.”
She didn’t change anything about our reality, we had a massive pile of work, but her acknowledgement changed our attitude about it.
Yes, layoffs are painful, and my heart goes out to all families affected by the stress and strain of a job loss. As a business with an obligation to keep moving forward and create a smoother transition in a difficult time, I urge you to plan beyond the cut and focus on those you kept to ensure you stabilize your workforce and retain your talent.
Crystal Hyde is a professional certified coach in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of Propel Leadership Coaching, which specializes in communications consulting and leadership coaching.
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