This article has been contributed by Sridhar Laxman, Executive Coach, Lucid Minds Coaching.
Layoffs, terminations, downsizing, and reorganization is a challenging and complex processes.
Companies hire employees when the business demand is high, cash flows are healthy, and the external environment is favorable for a quick and sustained expansion.
However, uncertainty is a given in life, just like everything else. Even the most accurate projections and company plans are often contested and abandoned during difficult times.
Most times, macro environments influence organizations to explore their ability or inability to retain employees. However, with the decision comes the responsibility to effectively communicate and manage the process of layoffs.
Communication becomes crucial during layoffs. Layoffs impact multiple stakeholders differently, Not only do the employees who are asked to leave get affected but the remaining employees across geographies also face anxiety, stress, and confusion.
From the moment the decision is made until the last identified employee hears it, communication plays a crucial and active role in the entire process.
Below are 8 ways that will help businesses handle communication amid layoffs compassionately and efficiently.
Develop a crisis communication plan even before the need arises. We live in a dynamic world with constant disruptions. The longevity of any organization is constantly challenged today because of the unprecedented times we live in.
Ensure the crisis communication plan addresses and supports the needs of all stakeholders, not just the impacted employees. The crisis communication plan needs to address all stakeholders including employees, customers, vendors, and investors.
Be Guided by Values
Adhere to values while decision-making. This will bring clarity to what's essential and reduce noise and distractions. Taking a value-driven approach to building the actual piece of communication can ensure real needs of stakeholders are met and addressed objectively.
Be compassionate in your written and verbal communication. Layoffs are not just about reducing roles; they impact the livelihoods, health, and well-being of employees and their families. Respect and dignity are compromised, which leaves the opportunity for fear, anxiety, and a feeling of helplessness to take over.
Therefore, communication must be thought through and designed to be genuinely compassionate and empathetic. Every effort should be made to lessen the impact of the unfortunate development.
The plan needs to support the livelihood of those impacted. No matter how courteous your message is, it must also offer assistance to people who are affected.
In addition to compensation, companies should also provide other forms of psychological support.
For instance, businesses could provide employees with the various types of support outlined below to help them cope with the situation.
- Access to a Counsellor or a Coach at no cost.
- Access to relevant courses, skills, and career advancement material.
- Contact details of reputed head hunters, and recruitment firms.
- Links to open opportunities within group companies, and allied industries.
- Free access to ebooks and audiobooks for a few months.
- Links to consulting and vendor services required by the firm.
- Letters of acknowledgment, and recommendations for future employers.
Be Clear and Patient
Layoffs are complicated; there's no denying the harshness of the experience; companies could soften the impact by presenting the information in a clear, transparent, and patient manner instead of harsh or vague.
Impacted employees will have numerous questions, concerns, and clarifications; they will have worries and anxieties. Communicating clearly and ensuring questions get answered will reduce the pressure felt by impacted employees.
During layoffs, legal counsel will have an approach of keeping the organization's best interests in mind. It's neither unfair nor wrong; it is what it is. However, communication designed mindfully can balance the need for risk mitigation with much-needed compassion and empathy.
In an age of fake stories and deliberate misinformation, unethical competition can run smear campaigns to discredit the organization.
Preemptive, proactive communication of facts and accurate information can prevent confusion and reduce the extent of the damage caused by misinformed campaigns.
Despite all of the above, layoffs still cause pain and suffering. This is a business decision that is made in the absence of other alternatives.
Layoffs not only impact employees but also other stakeholders of the company such as the customers, vendors, and investors.
In a layoff scenario, customers are more likely to be concerned about the service quality and contract fulfillment whereas, the vendors would need clarity on whom to interact with to continue serving the company.
In contrast, company investors are more likely to be anxious about the impact layoffs would have on their investments and returns. Similarly, potential company investors would tread cautiously and may withhold their investment decision.
However, communication is essential to maintaining corporate confidence in all of the above instances. With concise and clear communication, a business may influence how the many impacted stakeholders perceive, consider, and respond to the decision.
Organizations should therefore spend more time planning their communication to support individuals affected in a kind and compassionate way.
How do companies communicate layoffs?
Generally, most companies follow email as the main communication channel for conveying layoffs.
How layoffs will be communicated with the individual as well as within the company?
The best way to communicate about layoffs with individuals as well as with the company is to organize a meeting at the individual level followed by a unit-level meeting.
How do you manage a team in layoffs?
During or after layoffs, managing a team is a bit of a challenge, well communication and motivating them is the key. Identify gaps between teams and avoid over-work.