How to protect your employer brand during a layoff

Having to lay off workers is never easy. It’s one of the most dreaded functions of HR. And often, it doesn’t go well, which leads to angry people left without a job and other skeptical people left with more work to do. Much of that can be avoided with some planning and emphasis on treating those exiting with dignity and respect.

Several key factors should be considered when it comes to the off-boarding process and the desired outcome for outplacement services. Losing a job is a devastating experience, and this type of life-changing event evokes a spectrum of negative feelings. Because of this, transitioning employees should not be overlooked as employer brand ambassadors.

Here are some tips to help companies ease staff members through career transitions while retaining a positive employer brand.

1. Recognize the importance of promoting a positive employer brand.

All employees, past and present, help to perpetuate an organization’s employer brand because they act as an ambassador to the rest of the world. The image that companies project has a direct correlation with the level of talent they are able to attract. To successfully brand themselves as an employer of choice, companies need to show their employees that they value them… even when they are letting them go.

When downsized employees are offered a severance package and career transition services, it sends a clear message to each individual that they are valued as an employee even though his or her tenure with the company is coming to an end. Treating staff with dignity and respect during this significant period of transition helps to ensure that displaced employees will project a positive image about the company.

2. Reinforce the fact that downsizing is not linked to job performance.

During corporate downsizing, impacted individuals often times are not let go due to performance issues. If employees feel more valued by the company or understand that being downsized is not a reflection of their own performance, they are more likely to place a positive spin on the situation while not casting any negative overtones on the company that would damage employer brand. Building and communicating the business case for the downsizing or reorganization is a critical component of creating this understanding.

3. Recognize the potential for rehiring talent in the future.

Given the cyclical nature of the workforce, opportunities may arise in the future to rehire talent. From a talent acquisition perspective, the downsized employee could be the strongest candidate to fill a position at that time. From a cost perspective, the onboarding costs associated with rehiring would be comparatively less than hiring a new candidate altogether. If the employee has nothing but negative feelings about the company, the likelihood of the individual returning would be slim. When companies offer a more robust career transition program, it evokes more positive feelings and consistent employer brand messaging. And it increases the likelihood that employees will return simply because they felt valued.

4. Employee perception on downsizing shapes employer brand messaging on social media.

When employees were laid off in the past, they had a small platform to broadcast their frustrations and feelings about the company. With social media outlets such as Glassdoor that are specifically designed to gather current and past feedback on companies, employees can convey negative feedback about employers to an even greater audience. This means their opinions and reactions can resonate literally across the globe. When career transition programs are offered to help individuals adjust during times of change, the typical result is a more positive and consistent employer brand messaging on social media.

5. Integrate career transition services into a company’s HR strategy.

In order for outplacement or career transition strategies to generate the most positive messaging from its downsized workforce, the approach should be integrated into the company’s overall HR strategy. When an employee is being displaced, he or she will most often land his or her next job with one of the company’s competitors, customers or vendors. As transitioning employees network to land another job, it is inevitable the former employer’s name will come up. The individual will either react negatively or positively. If career transition services are integrated into the overall HR strategy, it helps to promote a more positive outlook.

It is critical to remember that downsized employees will continue to serve as employer brand ambassadors, which means the way a company treats and supports its employees during the exit process holds significant importance. If companies want to remain competitive in recruiting top talent, they need to be proactive about their employer brand. Integrating outplacement strategies into the overall HR strategy will generate the most positive messaging from downsized employees.

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