The Layoffs are Coming | RiseSmart Blog

In this fourth and final installment, Lockie Andrews, innovation and “growth hacking” consultant, outlines the primary forces that drive millennial engagement, and the surprising connection between millennial-friendly cultures and innovation.

Last month I hosted a RiseSmart Webinar and presented 5 Core Principles that Drive Millennial Engagement.

On the webinar, I presented my theory that the growing number of layoffs in Silicon Valley will become the new normal. Innovation demands a high level of experimentation and a corresponding high failure rate. Companies and employees should therefore get used to layoffs and down-sizing, and the ramifications that come along with it.

The organization of the future will require a more flexible and adaptable workforce that can be shifted and redeployed with ease. During the Q&A session, I was asked to elaborate on my theory.

Question:

“You mentioned layoffs…I know that Millenials have probably been through a lot of layoffs by now, but it’s still not a pleasant experience. If we have to go through a layoff, how do we help them keep a generally positive view of their time with the company?” Audience Member

Response: 

No one likes to be fired.  Especially in this age of “everyone gets a trophy”.  Coping with failure and rejection is not an easy feat.

Thankfully, a wave of enlightenment and humaneness is spreading through human resource departments.  And we have Millennials to thank for ushering in this breath of fresh air. 

One of the great things about this new empathetic approach is that it helps both the impacted employees, as well as the employer’s brand.

To address the question of layoffs, I’ll start by detailing approaches that have proven destructive to employer brands, and end on a positive note with brand-enhancing practices.

In a layoff, don’t do this…

  • Drag the Layoff Process Out: There is best practice on how to conduct a layoff with compassion and dignity. Many of the suggested practices draw upon common sense (e.g. once a decision to terminate has been finalized, quickly move to execute the plan so rumors and paranoia don’t spread).

  • Conduct Multiple Layoffs: Some companies lean on layoffs too much. Frequent reductions in workforce are detrimental to employee morale. Surviving employees live in fear and mistrust of management, and productivity plummets. Instead try to cut operating costs or delay investment to avoid employee terminations, if possible.

  • Fail to Communicate: Naturally, the HR professionals should follow pre-approved scripts when communicating with terminated employees. But most companies neglect to quickly communicate the ramifications of the layoff plan to the entire organization- big mistake! Remember that the remaining employees will have questions and many will develop “survivor’s guilt”.  The terminated employees have built relationships with their co-workers, so be mindful of that when communicating to the organization at large.

In a layoff, please do this…

  • Offer severance: If your cash flow allows, do consider providing fair severance packages based on tenure. Employees have lives outside of work and a disruption in income can put a strain on even the most prepared families.
  • Redeploy employees: An employer’s brand can be enhanced if the company tries to redeploy impacted employees. Offering new opportunities to high performing employees is a wonderful way to build loyalty and show empathy towards the entire workforce. In addition, if future positions open up, consider re-hiring laid-off employees.
  • Provide outplacement services: If you can’t immediately find positions internally, consider leveraging outplacement services to help terminated employees prepare for the job search. Strongly consider this benefit for exiting employees that have been with your firm for a long time.
  • Be human: Giving people bad news is an art. The HR professionals conducting the terminations may also experience remorse. Invest in adequate training to ensure HR has the tools to handle the stressful situation with respect and compassion.  Such gestures will help the organization recover quickly, reduce the chance of litigation by exiting employees, and keep remaining employees engaged.

Promote goodwill and engage Millennials

So there it is.  My best advice on how to adopt humane layoff practices that fit with modern attitudes.  If more companies get on board with these approaches, it will not only help Millennials, but will promote greater goodwill with all generations!

We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas. Please leave your comments below or reach out to me directly (Blog, Twitter, Linkedin).

Lockie Andrews is the CEO of Catalyst Consulting (www.catalystconsult.com), a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and fundraising.  Lockie is a speaker, author of an upcoming book on Innovation, and a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

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