If your company is going through a round of layoffs, or if you’ve lived through one, you know that a company’s troubles don’t end when the exiting employees leave the premises. Layoffs can change the entire culture in the workplace, and not for the better. Survivors can be anxious that they’re next, feel increased levels of stress, carry around guilt that others lost their jobs, lose confidence in the organization, and worry about or even resent the increased workload that oftentimes burdens the remaining employees. In short, morale takes a nosedive. That’s why it’s vital to manage layoffs carefully before, during, and after they occur. It’s up to HR to take the lead on that.
Here are some ways to get through layoffs with the least damage to overall morale:
Communicate Openly and Honestly. When a round of layoffs is imminent, employees can smell it. Rumors start flying. If the top brass is secretive or silent, it’s only going to make matters worse. Be upfront and honest about the company’s financial health, be as transparent as possible, and encourage an open-door policy for employee questions and concerns.
Treat Departing Employees with Dignity. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle layoffs, and a flurry of pink slips with no followup is the wrong way. Not only does it do a disservice to employees who are leaving, but it sends the wrong message to those who are staying. It’s also a sure way to get bad reviews on sites like Glassdoor, which are becoming more and more important to job seekers. Instead, treat offboarding with as much care as you treat onboarding, and offer outplacement services to your transitioning employees. It’ll strengthen your brand reputation and build trust with remaining employees.
Involve Employees in Restructuring Plans. Instead of simply reassigning tasks, have departments come together to brainstorm ways to streamline operations and processes to get the job done with fewer people.
Make Sure Survivors Know They’re Valued and Vital to the Company. They’re still standing for a reason. Go out of your way to communicate that to them. Coming up with creative ideas to help reduce heightened stress levels, like bringing someone in to do chair massages, can help as well.
Do What You Can to Calm Employees’ Fears. It’s common for survivors to wonder about whether the company is going to survive, or if another round of layoffs is looming on the horizon. Left unchecked, those fears and lack of confidence in the organization can lead people to start looking elsewhere.
While layoffs are never pleasant experiences for anyone, keeping your focus on the departing employees and survivors will minimize the damage and allow your company to get back to business.