An honest, sensitive, and supportive approach to staff layoffs stops cuts damaging your remaining workers’ output and morale.
COVID-19 is forcing businesses to slash their workforces, but surviving a cull can leave your remaining workers feeling guilty, fearful and demoralised. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Susan Peppercorn says managers are vitally positioned to shape the reaction of retained staff to protect productivity and safeguard morale.
IMPACTS OF CORPORATE LAYOFFS
A Leadership IQ study on the impact of corporate layoffs found that nearly three-quarters of surviving workers reported a decline in productivity, while two-thirds saw a decline in the quality of their company’s product or service.
Layoffs can evoke feelings of grief, guilt, anger and anxiety; as employees process the loss of co-workers, the workplace can become a trigger for pain.
HOW TO SUPPORT REMAINING STAFF
The same Leadership IQ report found that when staff felt management was open and approachable, and engaged with their workforce even as they cut employee numbers, they were 72% less likely to report a productivity decline, and 65% less likely to report quality reduction.
Listening to your employees and recognising their feelings is essential to weathering the post-layoff slump:
- Communicate consistently and honestly. Remaining employees must understand why downsizing has occurred and what other options were considered. Train your managers to confidently deliver empathetic and consistent messaging around layoffs. Maintain an honest dialogue with employees through open forums and Q&A sessions. Extend team meetings for staff to discuss and process their emotions about colleagues’ layoffs. The more information your staff have, the more focused, motivated and productive they will be.
- Connect work to purpose. Layoffs can make workers feel that their jobs are meaningless, particularly in the shadow of a global pandemic. Refocus your staff on the positive impacts of their work and share stories of how your company is making a difference to the lives of real people. Remind employees that their work benefits their loved ones. Staff work harder when they feel their work has a clear and valuable purpose.
- Support former staff. Stop your remaining workforce losing motivation by treating your former employees with dignity. Offer practical and emotional support to former workers. Review CVs, make networking introductions and provide references. Encourage retained staff to reach out to their former colleagues and inform remaining workers of any redundancy pay or career-transitions services their former colleagues have been offered. If your company aims to re-hire furloughed staff in the future, make that clear. Employees who feel valued by their company are likely to work harder and experience less guilt at having survived the cuts.
Failing to support your staff following a layoff will damage your company. Make sure you recognise your employees’ feelings and needs, and show your staff you care by honestly discussing their concerns, supporting their former colleagues and highlighting the positive differences their work makes in the world.