The list goes on, covering more than 500+ firms that have been laying people off in droves over the last several months.
And as many of us know, a layoff – or reduction in force (RIF) – is a difficult and often unpleasant experience for everyone involved.
But what makes the experience even more painful is when RIFs are mishandled: when leaders refuse to take accountability, act with transparency, or even acknowledge the emotional toll they have on employees.
Just consider the less-than-empathetic manner in which Twitter laid off employees and closed offices through an unsigned Slack email that was super-light on details and bereft of any accountability.
Or PagerDuty, whose RIF caused blowback that ricocheted from Silicon Valley to New York thanks to overused buzz-words like ‘volatile‘ and ‘transformative,’ touting positive fiscal results and new employee promotions, and concluding with a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King.
But with the right approach, you can avoid these missteps and keep your team engaged and productive.
Here’s how: implement a two-way internal communications plan which can help you ensure employees receive clear and accurate information, while guaranteeing that the RIF process is handled with sensitivity and professionalism.
Why is this important?
A recent Glassdoor study found that employees who felt that their company handled layoffs well were more likely to recommend their company to others and to have a positive outlook on their future at the company, even if they themselves were laid off. And employees who felt that their company handled layoffs poorly were more likely to post negatively about the company and to discourage others from applying there.
Moreover, a study by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees who felt that they had been treated fairly during a layoff were more likely to remain engaged with their work and to perform well, even in the face of uncertainty.
The secret sauce of a two-way internal communications plan is that it features numerous touchpoints on how to reach and be reached by employees, where you not only deliver the necessary information, but maintain and demonstrate the company’s culture and values throughout the process.
Here are key considerations in implementing a two-way communications plan for your RIF:
- Determine the key messages: Announcing employee layoffs is a challenging task that requires careful planning and sensitivity. The first step is to identify the key messages that you want to convey. These might include the reasons for the layoffs, the number of employees affected, the timeline for the layoffs, the support and resources available to affected employees, and the impact on the company’s operations and future plans.
- Choose the right communication channels: Once you have identified the key messages, you can determine the most appropriate communication channels to use. These may include a combination of face-to-face meetings with affected employees, email announcements, a company-wide video message, or a dedicated web page with information about the layoffs and resources for affected employees.
- Develop the messaging: When developing your messaging, it’s important to be clear, honest, and empathetic. Avoid using vague or overly buzzy language, and focus on the impact of the layoffs on the affected employees and the company as a whole. Also, be prepared to answer questions about the layoff process, severance packages, and any other relevant details.
- Prepare for feedback: A two-way communications plan should also provide opportunities for employees to ask questions and provide feedback. This includes town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings with managers, or a dedicated feedback line or email address. Be prepared to listen to employee concerns and feedback, and to provide honest and transparent answers to their questions.
- Provide support and resources: Finally, it’s important to provide support and resources to affected employees. This includes career counseling, job search assistance, access to unemployment benefits, or severance packages. Be sure to provide clear information about these resources and how to access them and be available to answer any questions or concerns that employees may have.
Layoffs, whether large-scale or small, are one of the most difficult and painful actions a business can take.
And if not handled properly, it will have a lasting impact on the well-being of your employees and cause reputational damage – such as making it more difficult to hire employees in the future and contributing to higher costs down the road when your company may look to grow.
To mitigate against these unwanted outcomes, utilize a two-way internal communicationsplan to ensure that you are putting compassionate, authentic and accountable communication into action, while offering the appropriate support and resources to employees.
When it comes to layoffs, don’t be the company that confuses cleverness with acting like a heartless jerk.
Instead, act gracefully.
By treating employees with compassion and empathy during this difficult time, you can demonstrate your commitment to them and to maintaining a positive company culture. This will enable you to continue operating at a high level – even during such dramatic periods of transition.