As the economic downturn continues to bite, an increasing number of companies have been making mass layoffs. But it’s not just the giant technology firms such as Netflix, Amazon, Meta and Twitter that have been culling staff. Smaller businesses have been doing so too.
Obviously, the main focus is on the people whose jobs are directly affected and providing them with the support they need at the time. But it also has a knock-on effect on those who are still working at the company that start to fear for their job security too.
Mass layoffs can be a traumatic experience. It can make those affected feel that they did something wrong or didn’t do enough, and that can make them doubt themselves and knock their confidence, which is in no-one’s best interests.
Even those that aren’t laid off may be worrying about the same issues. That’s why it’s vital for employers to ensure that they feel valued and supported in their work.
The first step employers need to take is to help these individuals understand that mass layoffs, when they happen, do so for a reason – because they are essential for the very survival of the business. Often, it’s because of the impact of a downturn or seismic global event such as the Covid-19 pandemic and firms are forced to make cutbacks or restructure the organisation accordingly.
The company also needs to try and turn a negative into a positive by explaining to the remaining team that, in reality, most people who are made redundant go on to find a new job or have a career change. And it’s further supported by the HR department offering to write references for those that have been let go.
At the same time, the firm must focus on giving its support to those left behind, who may be experiencing insecurity or even survivor’s guilt. That means reassuring them their jobs are safe for the moment and rebuilding trust among the staff base.
The best policy when making redundancies is to be honest and open with everyone concerned. That means being upfront with them about the decision that has been made and why, and how they will be affected, including details of any role changes.
That will improve the situation for all involved – from the people who are making the decision and those that have to inform the affected employees to those on the receiving end and others that are staying at the organisation. But it has to be dealt with sensitively and expressed clearly and accurately at all times.
This has the added benefit of building long-term trust and loyalty among employees, who will respond more favourably if they are in the know rather than being kept in the dark and relying on second-hand hearsay. Telling people the truth shows that you respect them and enables those that have been laid off to leave on the best possible terms, while those that remain can understand why it has happened.
It’s also important that the details of any help with the transition being offered to the people who have been made redundant is shared with those that are staying behind. That may include, for example, information about any severance packages that have been paid or career advice or assistance offered to them, as well as clarifying if a staff member has been furloughed or let go.
That demonstrates to the remaining staff that the company is treating those that have been laid off with respect and kindness, which they will likely respond well to. They may well hear a former colleague’s version of events, but they are more likely to trust the information if it comes straight from the horse’s mouth.
It’s difficult for employees who have seen their colleagues being laid off to believe that their roles won’t be next. That’s why companies need to engage with them to see what they want to do moving forward.
That may be giving them time and space to process their emotions and consider their next steps. Or it may entail providing them with new opportunities or roles within a restructure.
Making redundancies can be a disruption for everyone concerned. Therefore, it’s key to make it clear to staff the purpose of their work and the difference it makes to the company.
By making them feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to be engaged and want to do a good job. More broadly, this perpetuates a healthier company culture that encourages retention and career development and progression.
Jenna Bayuk is the founder of Kinship Kollective and has more than 15 years’ experience in the development and coaching of individuals in business spanning marketing, events, talent acquisition, and operations.