(For the first post in this series, see Part 1.)

One of the most difficult parts of carrying out a layoff is the actual notification. Whether you are delivering the message of an impending layoff to a group of managers or delivering the actual notification to individual employees, proper communication should be your number one concern. 

Everything from your employer brand to employee retention rides upon your team’s ability, willingness, and readiness to be transparent, answer questions, and be compassionate (without commiserating). To help you and your team prepare for the layoff notification, we recently held an HCI webcast with Leidos’ Sr. Workplace Relations Manager, Caitlin Stango, and RiseSmart’s Vice President of Practice Strategy Karen Stevens in which we discussed the importance of manager notification training and how to act like your own PR team.

We asked Caitlin and Karen to shed some more light on the subject in this installment of “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Why should manager notification training happen close to the event? Wouldn’t you want them to be prepared in advance?

KS: You definitely want managers to be prepared, and you certainly don’t want them to feel blindsided.  So, how you communicate the need for this training to the managers is just as important as the way you train your managers to communicate this message to the employees.  Conducting this training too far in advance can cause increased stress and unnecessary worry about how everything will play out.  However, this should probably be separated from the idea of wanting to be transparent through the stages outlined in the project plan.  It is possible that you may want to provide some information much further in advance than the training so that the managers are prepared when the training is scheduled.

How do you avoid the perception that management is just “toeing the company line” during a notification meeting?

CS: In some senses, we do want the managers to “toe the line” in terms of providing  detailed reasons for what will happening as a result of the downsizing and why those things are happening. That’s why it’s critically important to make sure that the “sound bites” that we share with our managers to share with their teams give accurate and specific reasons for the downsizing.

KS: Yes–I think the difference between just “toeing the line” and effectively communicating those sound bites lies in making sure managers have a thorough understanding of the business case for “why” this is happening, so that they don’t sound like they’ve simply memorized a few lines from the corporate executives.

What can you do to avoid negative reaction from the managers who must deliver the notification?  

KS: The first time a manager says this message out loud, it should not be in front of the person who is meant to hear it.  It’s critical that managers be given the opportunity to practice the message—whether that’s with each other, their manager, in front of a mirror, or any combination of these.  Additionally, it’s just as critical that managers be given a space where they can vent their feelings around having to deliver this message.  To be asked to have this conversation with someone is a tough situation, and most people are going to have some level of anger or resentment for having been given the responsibility to carry it out.  A forum where managers can air those feelings and talk through them with their peers will go a long way toward ensuring that they do not commiserate outside of that forum.

CS: Manager notification training is not only an appropriate venue for managers to air some of their concerns—it’s also critical checkpoint for the HR team. HR should be a part of this training so that they can proactively identify if there is a specific manager who may need some additional one-on-one coaching or who may not be the ideal candidate to deliver the layoff notification message.

Where can I go to learn more about manager notification training best practices?

KS: At RiseSmart, we believe that the best way to train your managers is through a formalized program. We understand that notification can be a particularly sensitive issue, so we’ve designed two programs—one to directly train managers and the other to train your HR team in a “train-the-trainer” environment—to make sure that your team is equipped to approach any notification situation with confidence. 

What questions do you have about communication during a layoff? Tweet @risesmart or send us an email at hello@risesmart.com!

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