What do layoffs mean for those who are left behind?

By Lisa Cefali (photo by Bob Barr)

As we begin the new year, do you find yourselves in the optimistic state of a fresh start? If you are one of the companies that has begun hiring or an individual who has been hired – congratulations!
If you are part of the seven per cent that is 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 and 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 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 begin with.
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 not, 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, ensuring that the emotional impact is appropriate, and that the purpose and support is understood.
As quickly as possible, hold a town hall meeting. The message should be timely, honest, and very clear in its intent. 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 also needs to be an opportunity for the employees to voice their concerns and questions so that leaders can see very clearly how the decision is impacting their teams.
Get employees involved. Using focus groups or small functional groups, invite employees to create ideas on the best change strategies 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 an even more efficient employee base.
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 concerns of the organization.
Communication, communication, communication! Use various forms of communication – both formal and informal – to ensure that you reach all the various groups and generations in their preferred format.
This is not a time to hold back for fear of over-communicating. Employees need reassurance that the initial message is backed up with action.
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, group, and individual level.
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. 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 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, layoffs, positions 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 changes for the productive success of the company. Leaders can either 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 those asked to leave are treated by the company.
How you keep employee morale up and productivity amongst those left behind is also being judged. Ensure you have every angle covered and ensure your approach to downsizing is a complete one.
Lisa Cefali is the vice president of executive search with Legacy Bowes Group, where she uses her many years of business experience, and assessment of emotional intelligence, to uncover organizational insight and those attributes that provide the best fit for her clients with their strategic planning needs. Please feel free to contact her at lisa@legacybowes.com for your executive search, recruitment, coaching, and strategic planning needs.

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