How to support your employees during layoffs

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Making people redundant through employee layoffs is an extremely difficult time. In most cases, they are unavoidable, a business decision, but the process can be made a little easier for all the parties involved. Often leaders and HR managers may try their best to avoid the layoff process because each person let go is talent lost for the organisation. However, in situations where it is necessary, such as during a period of economic instability, understanding how to support your employees and address their concerns can help overcome the anxiety and emotions that surround this difficult time. 

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8 tips to support your employees after a layoff

The journey of supporting your employees through a layoff, while tedious, can be made more smooth if done sensitively and with care. Helping your employees understand the reasons for the layoff and the measures being taken to ensure that everyone’s best interests are taken care of can help boost employee morale for those who continue to be at the organisation and create goodwill among the affected employees. How the company leaders handle the negative impact of a layoff for the remaining workers determines the future of the company. It goes without saying, where laws apply around the process of making people redundant, protocols must be adhered to in addition to this advice. Here are some ways through which HR managers and leaders can support their laid-off and remaining employees.

1. Be compassionate

Compassion and transparent communication through the layoff process is key to ensuring both the employee and employer can get through this difficult time smoothly. Set up individual meetings with the employees being laid off to address their questions and concerns. In case your teams are working remotely, schedule virtual video calls with each employee. Avoid sending out mass emails which may make your employees feel devalued. It can be difficult to know what to say to employees after a layoff. Express gratitude and help them understand the value they have added to the company during their tenure and reassure them that their performance has nothing to do with the layoff. Finally, give them time to gather their belongings, say goodbye to colleagues and process the news.

2. Share facts about the layoffs

Sharing facts about the layoffs gives your employees a clear picture of the situation and helps dispel any speculation about the future. Let the employees losing their jobs know that the layoff was not based on their performance and what attempts were made to prevent this event. 

As far as remaining employees are concerned, sharing the reasons for their former colleagues being let go is a difficult conversation, yet it is necessary to communicate the efforts being put in for their future at the company. Having an idea about the larger picture of the company’s future and the role they play in it can help employees feel like they are an essential part of the company’s success and reduce the stress and uncertainty of their future in the organisation.

3. Provide assistance to affected employees

Managers can keep paperwork ready with information on severance, upskilling opportunities and other benefits that will be provided to employees that have been laid off to help them understand the steps being taken by the company to support them through the transition. Providing reference letters can further aid them in finding new job opportunities. In addition, companies can also go a step further by providing outplacement services for former staff members to identify future career prospects and assistance with updating resumes and preparing for interviews. 

Finally, the loss of a job can cause grief and requires time to process and recover. Providing mental health support through this difficult time can help former employees cope with the shock after a layoff and move on from this stressful life event. 

4. Communicate clearly with remaining employees

Communicating a decision about layoffs is a delicate subject and it is important to understand what to say to employees. Honest and open communication is the first step towards ensuring that everyone is on the same page about the reasons for the layoffs. Being direct yet compassionate is an effective way to get your message across. Keep in mind that the remaining staff members need to know exactly what is going on and how they can proceed to function at the workplace without worrying about being let go themselves. 

Your managers are at the front lines having the layoff conversation with their employees and need to be supported to have a better understanding of how to communicate with individual team members through these tough times.

5. Ask and allow for questions

The remaining employees may be scared about their functioning after the layoff. Empathy and reassurance go a long way in helping them understand that it is not their fault they are in this position. Often poor communication from management together with losing close friends and colleagues with whom they interacted on a regular basis, can lead to a lack of perceived job security and a sense of uncertainty among remaining employees.

Providing a space for the employees to communicate openly and give feedback on how they are feeling helps them feel heard and valued. This is also a great way to identify what may be hindering their morale and causing anxiety or stress about moving forward from the layoff. 

Feedback allows management to learn how it can improve its communication, and what strategy to implement in subsequent layoffs.

a counsellor speaking to an employee

6. Help remaining staff cope with survivor guilt

Employees who make it through a layoff may often experience a sense of guilt around having survived the event. The uncertainty around the event may lead to a decline in productivity and employee morale due to recurring thoughts that they may lose their job at any given time. 

The management team and HR professionals play an important role in communicating reassuring messages and alleviating employee fears around the time of layoffs. It helps to address the guilt that surviving employees may be experiencing by communicating how their ex-colleagues were assisted during the transition. Engaging with the employees regularly and focusing on interventions that are within their control, such as upskilling and understanding how to work through their anxiety or insecurity at the workplace can help them move forward.

7. Effectively address changes in duties

With layoffs comes the inevitable shift in roles and responsibilities of the entire workforce. Rebuilding teams requires careful identification and assessment of the strengths of employees. It is important to not just fill in the gaps left by those laid off with the remaining employees. Clear communication of the revised roles is required for every team manager who will need to navigate through these changes and motivate the employees to focus and work towards the future goals set by the organisation. This exercise will help improve productivity and team dynamics. 

8. Check-in on employee morale individually

While it is important to focus on the impact of the layoffs on the functioning of the company, it is also necessary to consider the individual employee. Boosting morale at the individual level is highly effective as each employee contributes to the larger goals of the company. 

Managers and employees can schedule regular one-on-one conversations to understand the concerns and confusions employees may be facing, or any additional support they require for their revised role at the company. Retained employees may attempt to put in additional effort and take up higher individual workloads to avoid being laid off, which may lead to increased stress and reduced productivity. Meeting employees regularly for one-on-one interactions can be a great way to help them feel safe in the work environment and foster better relationships with the management team.

How can Wysa help?

Layoffs can be scary events that induce fear and insecurity among staff members and take a toll on their mental health. This is why it is crucial that HR managers make an effort to help employees protect their mental health

Wysa, an AI-powered mental health app, works with companies to help them deal with such periods of turmoil. This is a time when managers and members of the HR department experience high levels of stress due to the repeated difficult conversations they need to have. With Wysa, you will have access to emotional well-being professionals who offer psychological assistance during and after layoffs to help deal with the concerns that arise during this period. Its AI integrates with existing company resources such as EAPs and crisis lines and can guide users to them if they need a higher level of intervention.

Apart from being able to speak to an emotional well-being professional during sessions and asynchronous messaging between sessions, users also get unlimited access to a library of self-care exercises and tools. 

Wysa also has specific tool packs to develop a positive mindset, manage anxiety, cope with stress and put one’s mind at ease, as well as other resources to build a greater sense of self-awareness and the resilience needed to navigate through difficult times. These tools, together with access to Wysa’s unique 24/7 AI-driven conversational care chatbot, can help both remaining and laid-off employees cope with uncertainty, manage anxiety and work through their concerns regarding layoffs in a completely safe, private and non-judgemental way.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Photo by Alex Green 

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