Layoffs serve to prevent a struggling company from capsizing. But if not done properly, a layoff may damage the company more than it saves it.
Layoffs affect the company in terms of lost workforce and massive restructuring but that’s just the surface. Deep down, it traumatizes surviving employees even if they don’t want to admit it.
Whatever circumstances surrounding the need for a layoff, long prepared for or abrupt, small or massive, one thing it will have: survivors. They are the “lucky” employees left to deal with the aftermath of losing their teammates and plowing on ahead despite the uncertainties facing their employer.
For these reasons, it’s important to rebuild employee confidence. You don’t want the remaining people in your team to resign before you recover from the layoff.
Rebuilding Confidence after Losing So Many in Your Team
- Demonstrate the Value of the Survivors
Layoff survivors are often not sure why they “made it” while their peers didn’t. Sure, they have an inkling; a good performance, a not-so-expensive paycheck, and tenure come to mind. But these are nothing but speculations. Until you confirm them, layoff survivors will continue fearing for their future in the company.
Talk to each survivor and explain why they were chosen to remain on the team. Reassure them about their roles in the company and the continuing importance of that role.
Layoff survivors often feel like victims. They now do the jobs of multiple people instead of one, they need to learn new skills, and in some cases, take on more responsibility. They need to feel confident about themselves and their future, so they don’t cave in from the tremendous pressure of their new responsibilities. Be reassuring and supportive to help them focus on continuing with the company instead of focusing on a new job search.
- Pay Special Attention to Top Performers in Danger of Leaving
What’s the common reaction of top performers after a layoff? The obvious answer is they’ll take this as a chance to vie for higher office. But not all top performers will react that way – some won’t see the opportunity. Some top performers get scared, feel uncertain, and feel pressure – they’re human.
As the boss, you might be tempted to ignore them and just focus on the more susceptible employees. Don’t!
Top performers are capable of doing the job of two or more people, because that’s what they are. You don’t want to lose top talent like that, do you? These people are important if the company is to rise again.
- Address Changing Workloads
Yes, employees already know that their workload will increase after a layoff. But for how much and how long? That’s not certain, and you need to address those questions.
A manager’s instinctive reaction is usually to assign abandoned tasks to the employee whose job description is closest to the previous employee working on that assignment. If Bob was let go, his colleagues Joe and Mark might share his workload. But that approach isn’t always effective. Bob’s tasks might be more suitable to someone with more similar skills and training, not just anyone in his team.
Also, asking the employees for new solutions instead of just divvying up tasks automatically shows confidence in layoff survivors. This way, your team can collaborate and innovate at the same time.
Take these steps to soften the trauma to those, “left behind.” By keeping your best asset – your current workforce – taken care of, you’ll be able to focus on other areas of the business that need to be addressed.