If the Greek Debt Crisis causes a contagion like the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), then it won’t be too long before the Boards put pressure on the Executive Leadership Team to downsize once again.
Here are some of the best practice tips I advise employers when they are faced with the unpleasant task of retrenching or making their employees redundant. These tips will help to preserve a healthy employer brand and reputation which are critical to the ongoing sustainability of any employer.
1. Treat all exiting staff well on the way out.
My firm conducted research that showed that 88 percent of employees were more likely to talk poorly of their former employer 13 weeks after being laid off.
There is an old marketing adage, that people are more inclined to complain and moan, than praise. If you are peeved, you will post. Peeved former employees post to Glassdoor and others. You don’t want that.
2. Clearly explain the rationale for the redundancies – that the decision is not personal to the redundant individual, but instead it’s business issues.
According to the USA Department of Labor, the average person will switch careers (not just jobs but entire careers) 14 times in their work life and 15 – 20 times according to Forbes.
3. Give assurances to the surviving staff that the business is expected to improve by taking these difficult measures and that their jobs are safe.
Don’t make any promises that this is the end of layoffs. But it’s important you have a clear outline of the plan and genuinely communicate that all is being done to not have further layoffs. By showing how well you are treating employees who have left, it also assures your staff that if they are next, despite best efforts, at least they will not be treated poorly.
4. Assure the survivors that management has been requested to escalate cases of any increased workload that cannot be handled and capacity/process remedies will be considered where appropriate.
There are many times when the remaining staff are so laden down with work that their former colleagues used to do. There is a sense of overwhelm. This is further compounded by their fear that if they say anything, their job may be in jeopardy. By giving staff the permission and channels to communicate upwards, it allows them to vent, communicate, and the business to deliver. The opposite is presenteeism, bad mouthing, disengagement or worse still, harm to others or self harm.
5. Offer outplacement support to all departing employees.
According to CareerSupport365 research:
- 90 percent of departing employees do not receive any outplacement or career transition support upon being laid off.
- 89 percent of those laid off employees said they would have felt ‘much more positive’ towards their employer had their former employer provided them with outplacement or career transition support.
- 95 percent of people would have felt ‘far less inclined’ to post adverse comments about their own former employers.
6. Pre-empt any adverse impacts on staff, morale, and productivity.
In case there is adverse publicity, have a communication plan that rolls out to staff. Think of having regular 'brown bag' lunches, videos issued by the Executive, Department staff meetings and so on.
Ask staff that they can safely state how they are feeling, have their comments heard and acted upon by management and the Executive Leadership Team where possible.
7. Consider team building activities to form new and productive relationships.
New relationship need to be built, replacing old relationships that have ‘passed on’. Put together team activities so as to build trust, respect, new know-how and lines of communication.
8. Ensure that social media and traditional media channels are given enough information to reduce the impact of gossip, threats, from poaching recruiters and even taunts from former anonymous staff.
Make sure that your communications team is feeding relevant and platforms with your news and message. If you want the message to be what you want it to be, then you need to drive the content.
9. Appoint resources to monitor social media and sites like Glassdoor and respond openly, authentically, and immediately.
Wherever possible, in dignified and respectful ways, answer adverse comments- rather than let them fester and at worse case spread unanswered.
Sites like Glassdoor are becoming increasingly prominent. They do impact your employer brand and reputation. You need to drive the brand!
10. Constantly inform surviving staff and other stakeholders how the company’s performance is improving.
Whether it may be good and bad news, it’s all important. Let all the staff know how the company is performing so there are no surprises. The more transparent you are, the less surprised people will be and the more creative many will become in helping its performance improve, especially when they are positively engaged and feeling like they are all in this together.
These 10 tips will enrich the engagement of surviving staff and improve sustainability of your business and help to preserve a healthy employer brand and reputation which are critical during these uncertain times.
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