More companies are monitoring social media sites and employer review sites after a layoff than three years ago, according to the recent Severance and Workforce Transition Study. While this is a positive trend, the results don’t tell the whole story. For one thing, not everyone takes the time or initiative to comment on these sites, and for another, most comments by laid-off employees tend to be negative and don’t reflect the majority opinion. While exit interviews do give employers feedback from voluntarily exiting employees, most companies don’t commonly conduct exit interviews during large layoffs. Quantifying alumni sentiment during and after restructuring and reduction in force events helps organizations get the data they need to smooth out the transition for employees, and emerge with a positive public image.

Big data finally comes to HR

When it comes to data and analytics, HR has been the poor stepchild of most organizations. While marketing and sales departments have been using data to prove ROI on their efforts for some time, the HR departments are just now finding ways to become strategic decision makers based on the data they gather from HRMS/HRIS tools. According to an article in Business Insider, “With the right technology, this [big data] can empower HR professionals to make predictions about their company’s future, and have the data to back them up.”

Although the majority of HR directors (80%) surveyed in 2016 had never used big data, a third of them had expressed an interest in big data as a decision making tool or as a means of knowing their employees better. Since that time, collecting and analyzing data has become more commonplace with HR professionals of all levels looking to increase their influence within their organizations through the use of quantifiable evidence of program effectiveness.

The growing use and popularity of data in the HR function has HR professionals looking for answers to more questions. Familiar with the Net Promoter Score used by sales and marketing teams to measure the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others, HR professionals began wondering if they could somehow gauge the sentiment of alumni employees, and the likelihood these employees would speak positively about the company – and recommend the organization as an employer of choice.

Getting the pulse of employee sentiment

Companies focused on creating and maintaining a positive employer brand and establishing a reputation as an employer of choice have been conducting employee sentiment surveys for some time. Often in the form of a pulse survey, companies ask their employees to answer a simple question, “How likely are you to recommend XYZ company?” To keep current and understand how employee sentiment is changing, these organizations take their employee’s pulse on a weekly or quarterly basis.

In addition, brand conscious organizations are carefully monitoring Glassdoor reviews and some have entire teams of people dedicated to monitoring and responding to social media and employer review sites. Unfortunately, by the time a review appears on Glassdoor or a comment is made on Twitter, the damage is done. But what if HR departments could get a pulse on employees impacted by a layoff before they express their frustrations and anger on public sites?

Having alumni employee sentiment information at your fingertips allows HR departments to:

  • Make improvements to employee notification processes
  • Identify managers who need additional training
  • Measure the ROI of outplacement services
  • Protect the employer brand

In a recent whitepaper, The Connection Between HR Analytics & Employer Brand, RiseSmart reported that nearly 70 percent of unemployed job seekers said that they would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, and that 84 percent of employees would consider leaving their current job to work for an employer with an excellent reputation – even if the salary increase was below 10 percent. Given these statistics, employers can no longer conduct involuntary turnover events and simply, ‘hope for the best’.

Net Promoter Score comes to HR

The most effective way to avoid negative employee sentiment during a RIF is to employ the services of a contemporary outplacement provider. An effective outplacement program will give your management team and HR department the tools and training they need to plan and successfully execute notifications, and to prepare employees for ongoing success. Employees who are given outplacement services as part of their severance package land new roles 60 percent faster than the national average, and harbor less negative feelings about their former employer.

Getting timely, specific feedback on exactly how separating employees view the employer and their experience with a RIF arms HR departments with the information they need to protect the employer brand and remain in good standing with their communities. Through applications, such as RiseSmart’s Insight, HR departments can get the analytics they need to preserve their brand reputation, prove ROI on their outplacement investment, and calculate their Alumni Sentiment Rating.

An Alumni Sentiment Rating is much like a Net Promoter Score in that it identifies which transitioning employees are likely to be detractors, passives, or promoters of your brand. Asking just a few questions of the employees experiencing involuntary layoffs with your organization will give you the raw feedback not otherwise available, and will provide a good sense of the impact of the RIF on your brand.

Of course, the key to getting useful, authentic feedback is to keep the responses completely anonymous and to collect the data through a third party. Employees aren’t likely to express their true sentiment if they think they could experience recrimination for their responses.

Third party alumni sentiment surveys provide insight into:

  • The likelihood a separating employee will recommend you as an employer to friends, family, and peers
  • How separating employees feel the RIF was handled
  • The individual employee experience
  • The types of things employees are saying through individual comments
  • Where to make improvements in the future

While some employees will still feel the sting of the separation – and may feel betrayed by a company they have served faithfully for many years – many are grateful for the opportunity to express their feelings and reflect a positive attitude, especially when outplacement is offered. No matter their reaction, when offered a chance to respond to a survey, and given an outlet to express their feelings, transitioning employees may be less likely to look for more public ways to give employers a piece of their minds.

In customer relations, the Net Promoter Score is considered one of the best indicators of brand sentiment. In HR departments, the Alumni Sentiment Rating is the only way to gather reliable, quantitative data to predict the likelihood that the employer brand has been impacted by a RIF. Once gathered, companies can take the necessary steps to get ahead of negative sentiment, if necessary, and plan for better outcomes in the future.

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