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When Layoffs Happen, Take Care of Employees Too

“The hiring outlook for the Winnipeg area for the next few months doesn’t look great….only five per cent of the employers surveyed said they plan to hire more workers during the first quarter of 2015. The vast majority — 88 per cent — said they plan to maintain current staffing levels, while seven per cent said they anticipate cutbacks.” – December 9, 2014 – Winnipeg Free Press

As the calendar year comes to an end, what are your plans for the upcoming year? How are things looking so far? If you are one of the companies that will be looking to hire or you’re an individual who will commence a new job in the New Year, congratulations!

If you’re part of the 7% that are anticipating cutbacks – how are you getting ready for this?

We have often talked about Career Transition Services and how they are beneficial for the individual to ensure those let go are taken care of and supported. Equally important are they for the company’s brand. However, are companies spending enough time and effort on those left behind? Layoffs and cutbacks create stress and not only for those directly impacted. Without the proper support, employees can be left with a feeling of uncertainty as to their own future within the organization. If left to their own conclusions, rumours may start, and employees may then assume the worst and begin their search for employment outside the company.

So what can Leaders do for their people to ensure those left behind are just as productive and morale remains high? What strategies must Leaders consider along with the decision to downsize? Here are five key strategies to being with:

  1. Connect with a firm that offers support in this area – Firms are often engaged if the employees being let go are being offered transition services. However, if the plan was not to offer these services, engaging a firm to assist with supporting the rest of the organization is a very good insurance policy. An outside firm can assist with developing the messaging, ensure that the emotional impact is appropriate while ensuring the purpose and support is understood.
  2. As quickly as possible, hold a Town Hall meeting – The message should be timely, honest and very clear in its intent. Employees need to know what is expected of them and understand what they can expect from the organization. The reasons as to why the downsizing has occurred need to be presented. A focus on what will be accomplished within the first few months in this new environment is important so that employees can see the progress and positive aspect to the change. The presentation needs to be an opportunity for the employees to also voice their concerns and questions so that leaders can see very clearly how the decision is impacting the emotional state of their teams.
  3. Remove all uncertainty and feelings of lost hope by getting employees involved – Using focus groups or small functional groups, invite the employees to create ideas on the best change strategies or work around plans to address the existing workload with the remaining employees. Morale needs to remain positive and if employees can see that their ideas are being considered and even better, acted upon, you may create even stronger group who will assist leaders in this new arena of what the future will hold. Developing an understanding of the company’s challenges will encourage everyone to realize that the downsizing was not done for personal reasons, but to address the true concerns of the organization and that the importance of effective performance and achieving company objectives has never been more real or deemed more necessary.
  4. Communication, communicate, communicate! – You want to keep the remaining employees engaged and talking about this brand new world. You want have a sense of where their level of uncertainty is at and be able to address any dip in morale immediately. Use various forms of communication – both formal and informal, to ensure that you reach all the various groups, generations, and that the message is received more than once in the best format the employees prefer. This is not a time to hold back for fear of over communicating. Employees need reassurance that the initial message is now backed up with action and is becoming a reality with continual progress reports on the new direction. Address any rumors that start so that they do not lead people down a wrong path. Productivity and morale again needs to remain high and by addressing each rumour, concern and question, directly, leaders are shown to care. Leaders need to be continually aware that this is a process of communicating to reassure people, not simply a one-time Town Hall message that must be delivered.
  5. Celebrate success and have some fun! - The people left behind are there for a reason. They need to feel valued, important and necessary. Consider how best you can show your appreciation at the company wide level, group and individual level. Leaders need to deliver the positive messages and people need to feel good about what they are accomplishing every step of the way. Include team building sessions and involve the social committee to ensure the activities and events considered resonate with the employees. Even with mid managers and senior level managers, at times of change, there is stress in every position. Sometimes we assume that the senior and mid-level manager, should simply be executing the activities, and are therefore immune to the impact of the change, because they are a part of it. Consider that all employees need to be valued and appreciated – including those who are being asked to carry out the messages. 


Downsizing, Letting People Go, Lay Offs, Positions are Being Absorbed - no matter how they are presented, when there are job losses, the organization as a whole is impacted. The reality is that organizations often have to make these necessary changes for the productive success of the company. Leaders can either make these decisions or execute upon them well or poorly.

It is at times like this when true leadership ability is most evident, most challenged, and most needed. A leader will be judged on how the layoffs are conducted and how are asked to leave are treated by the company. How you keep employee morale up and productivity effective amongst those left behind is also being judged. Ensure you have every angle covered and ensure your approach to downsizing is a complete one.

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