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December 14, 2017

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Management Strategies for Layoffs

Dear Joan:

I've been through two downsizings. In the first one, my boss knew six months in advance that one fifth of the staff would have to go. He told us all about it on day one. He then told us that he would rather we left for new jobs rather than him having to make a difficult choice about who to keep, since we all had essentially the same skills and seniority.

He let us have time off - with pay - to go to job interviews, phone and online access to job hunt, provided references for us (including talking to prospective employers both in person and on the phone for us), and helped us hunt for new work using his own contacts in the field.

We all helped each other job search and the staff numbers were what he needed after two months. Not only that, but those of us left behind felt no grief since we knew that those leaving were going on a good footing with no hard feelings. We knew that our boss and the company cared enough to be proactive in helping us, not reactive.

In the second downsizing, my boss hid her head in the sand and wanted to wait until the last minute to make the staff cuts. I found out about it well in advance through other contacts, but kept my mouth shut while I waited for her to let us know. I also found out that my position was being cut in the first wave, which was to be about three months later.

Since mine was an HR position and this was the first time she'd been in this situation, I finally took her aside and we discussed how we could make the cuts happen without too much collateral damage. Using the experience from the first time I'd been through this, we were able to make it a lot easier on staff. Not perfect, but a lot better. She put me in charge of that side of things, including letting staff know about the whole process, and that even gave me a few more weeks on the job before my position ended. Since then, that business has improved and has needed to hire people from the small community where it's located. They have a good reputation in the community and that helps.

Job cuts suck for everyone. And eventually more people will need to be hired when the business expands. Talented and trained people who are familiar with the company are much easier to on-board than new people, especially if they have a good opinion of the company.

Answer:

With the lay offs hitting many industries, this letter is particularly relevant. What an excellent example of what happens when you treat employees like partners.

Transparency pays off in many ways. A company’s reputation—especially in a small community—is a valuable asset. People talk and when they feel wronged they really talk.

Usually a company will plan a layoff in secret. Senior management worries that sharing too much information too soon will cause panic, defections and poor morale. And they’re right. But, unfortunately, not sharing information can have the same result because the grapevine will pick up the news and telegraph it anyway…causing even greater dips in morale and lost productivity.

The tricky part is when to share the details of the layoff and how much to share. The important part is how well the employees will be treated as they exit.

Things to keep in mind regarding layoffs:

  • Leading up to the layoff, disclose the reality the business faces. Acting like everything is fine and then suddenly announcing layoffs is going to create more anger and resentment. The news will be accepted more easily if they have been treated like adults who deserve to know the truth.

  • As a general rule letting staff know as soon as possible feels more respectful than keeping them guessing and telling them at the last minute. The sooner they can get busy making plans for their future the better.

  • When the announcement is made, include enough details on key concerns such as severance, health care coverage, vacation pay, and job hunting help. If you don’t, demand for answers will bring productivity to a standstill.

  • Advise managers to proactively communicate with all employees through one-on-one meetings, group Q&A sessions and attendance at company-wide meetings. Managers may want to hide from employees so mandate the opposite.

  • Have a how-to session for managers. Give them language to use when talking to and about departing employees. Give them guidance on how to be proactive about helping employees find new jobs, such as making direct referrals to other contacts, being a reference and giving recommendations.

  • Be sensitive to the “survivor factor.” Guilt and depression is common among employees who made the cut. Advise managers to have teambuilding meetings during which departed employees are acknowledged and new goals are set. A bit of “mourning” the old can create closure, clearing the way to reenergizing the group for the task ahead.

Good managers know that employee satisfaction is essential to healthy teamwork, initiative and productivity. Joan Lloyd’s booklet, 86 Creative Ideas for Having More Fun & Less Stress at Work, is packed with ideas for building employee satisfaction and work/life balance while reducing stress in your workplace. Guaranteed to give you fresh ideas any company can implement in categories such as: Fun with a Purpose, Building a Family Atmosphere & a Sense of Community, Having Fun at Work for the Sake of Fun, Rewarding Great Performance & Stress Busters! Also available by return email, in PDF format!

Internal Consulting Skills for HR Professionals is Joan Lloyd’s intensive, interactive full-day workshop for HR practitioners. Human resources professionals—both functional experts and generalists—have a new found opportunity to act as internal consultants who can help their organizations with organizational changes, performance coaching, conflict mediation and other value-added services. This workshop focuses on giving HR professionals the tools and strategies they need to help their organizations as well as advance their careers.

As a participant, you will have an opportunity to work on the problems and opportunities you face in your own organization, as well as to hear innovative ideas from other organizations. Few training opportunities provide this level of intimate, hands-on experience. Call us for information about having Joan Lloyd work with your HR Team (800) 348-1944. (Occasionally, we run this workshop as an open enrollment training offering. Subscribe to Joan Lloyd’s "Article of the Week," where we announce these sessions, as they are scheduled.)

Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership & presentation skills training, team assessment and teambuilding and retreat facilitation. Joan also provides consulting skills training for HR professionals. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.

Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (800) 348-1944, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com

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