How to Keep Workers Motivated When Layoffs Loom

While the economy has improved over the last several years, companies still need to shed jobs— just last month there were 40,000 announced layoffs, including many positions in the tech industry. In the case of a layoff, it is essential to manage and communicate during this volatile and emotional time if you want to keep the employees who remain motivated and productive.

Fortunately, forward-thinking companies that already have strong employee engagement and outplacement services in place are well-positioned to handle the anxiety and unease that may be triggered by layoffs. Here are a few ways to ensure that your company keeps humming and both your current and former employees remain brand ambassadors.

Talk about it

Companies that do a good job of building a culture of transparency are always, always communicating, so there is one simple way to tell if your efforts to build that culture have failed: if the layoff announcement is met with shock by your employees.

From the CEO down, businesses must place a premium on communicating the state of the business with employees and promoting a culture of inclusion. While every employee need not be privy to every single detail about the business, including employees at least in high-level communications can go a long way toward boosting engagement and easing the transition should a layoff occur. Regular communication, from company-wide town halls to one-on-ones with direct reports, offers organizations the opportunity to be clear about the company’s goals, strategies and even its challenges. If that sort of dialogue takes place continuously, employees feel trusted and are more likely to understand when difficult staffing decisions need to be made.

Take time to listen

There is never a more important time to communicate with employees than right after a layoff has been announced. Emotions may be raw and anxieties heightened when employees see colleagues and friends pack up their belongings and leave the office.

As soon as possible, consider holding a meeting of as many remaining employees who can attend, preferably hosted by the CEO. While a presentation about what is happening at the company will be helpful, be sure to let employees ask questions and express any concerns that may be generating unnecessary anxiety. Follow up any company-wide meeting with more intimate gatherings of managers and their direct reports. Not only is this a chance to allay worries, but this is also an opportunity to explain positive changes and opportunities that may result.

Provide a helping hand

Providing outplacement services to laid-off employees is the right thing to do on many levels. For employees who have lost their jobs, assistance in finding new positions—both within and outside of the company—will go a long way toward creating loyal alumni who will have good things to say about how they were treated during their time at your organization.

And remember that the employees who are not impacted will be watching how their former coworkers were treated during the layoff. If the workers you still depend on to innovate and perform see that impacted employees are treated with respect and receive genuinely helpful assistance, they will be more likely to remain motivated and loyal to the organization.

While it is never easy to let people go, how you do it—before, during and after—will have a big impact on company’s short and long-term future.

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