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Navigating The Storm: Supporting Employees Through Layoffs

It’s a new morning, Rohan, working with a big tech firm, logs in to start his workday. He opens the inbox where a subject line catches his attention. He goes through the mail and finds his hopes shattered by his dream company. Soon after, he tries to access his mailbox, only to find his account has been deactivated. Overwhelmed with shock, Rohan’s calm attitude crumbles as the weight of the situation takes a toll on his mental well-being. Confused, unable to clarify why this upheaval happened, his journey for the company ends there. Countless employees have taken to platforms like LinkedIn to share their experiences of receiving that message or email – one that provides little to no explanation, signaling the onset of layoffs. These stories serve as a stark reminder that no industry is immune to the uncertainties of today’s job market.

In 2022, 154,336 employees were laid off by 1000+ organizations. This trend continued into the following year, with 1,464 organizations announcing layoffs. These numbers not only highlight the scale but the impact it has on individuals and their livelihoods. Post layoffs, employees get caught in the whirlwind of mental strain, underscoring the need for compassion and support from organizations. It is crucial for organizations to recognize the human aspect of layoffs and provide a better experience for employees during these challenging times. However, this leads to a question, Can organizations transform the dialogue around layoffs from the earliest stages to mitigate negative ramifications?

How can organizations make pre and post Layoffs times less painful ?

1. Transition time :

The layoff process can often leave employees feeling potentially unwanted. However, it is crucial for employers to recognize that this period can be mentally draining, and they need time to transition and envision new beginnings. To ease the transition, organizations can provide proper notice or allocate specific days for employees to understand behind the scenes and explore their options for moving forward.

This time allows them to reflect, process, and strategically plan their next steps. Employers can provide clarity about transition formalities, via timelines (when the period will end or when they need to submit the system), documentation (compensation, recommendation letters, or future paperwork), available resources (upskilling & reskilling opportunities, and how to enroll), and support options (employee assistance programs or job fairs, etc.). While this approach may not address all-employee needs, it demonstrates that employers are willing to ease the process as they move forward.

2. Redeployment OR Secondment :

When navigating layoffs, employers can minimize employees’ pain by redeploying or seconding them. By assessing the workforce via Assessment and Development Centre, employers can identify alternative roles that align with employees’ skills and interests. Then they can transfer them to that position within the organization. This process of redeployment is an internal movement that can mitigate the emotional and financial impact of job loss.

Another approach involves temporarily assigning them to work for another organization without having to lay them off, usually for a specific project or a period of time, to gain new experiences and skills. Having clear agreements outlining the terms of the secondment, including job security, benefits, and a guaranteed return, can provide employees with a sense of stability. By prioritizing these strategies, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to employees’ well-being and help them grow their careers while also retaining them.

3. The Power Of Resilient Workforce :

According to a survey, 74% of employees expressed resilience as a crucial factor for their long-term commitment to the organization. This highlights the significance of nurturing resilience within the workforce even before encountering events like layoffs or other substantial changes. Through Resilience questionnaires they can assess and develop employees’ resilience levels and behavior patterns. It will not only provide insights into their ability to cope with stress and adapt to change but how they bounce back from setbacks.

In addition, for already laid-off employees to cope with stress and anxiety, they can provide free-of-cost mentoring sessions by skilled counselors to help individuals to cope with stress, anxiety, and grief and rebuild their confidence. However, by prioritizing resilience training from the outset, organizations can strengthen their workforce and equip employees with the skills to navigate future challenges. This strategy not only helps in fostering a resilient workforce but also minimizes the impact on former employees by empowering them to overcome the adverse effects.

4. Last Interview Matters :

The last interview in the context of layoffs is a critical and often overlooked aspect. Currently, when employees receive the news of their layoff, they are abruptly disconnected from the company, their access is revoked, and they face isolation without any means of contacting their former managers. This lack of communication leads to unanswered questions, unaddressed emotional needs, and a sense of disconnect.

To address this, employers can conduct a designated last round for laid-off employees to let them go without a second thought. It can facilitate one-on-one conversations with employee managers to offer proper support, guidance, and closure. HR can also avail this as an opportunity to connect with the employee for any future need while seeking feedback about the organization. Through this, employers can show accountability for their actions and a willingness to communicate openly.

5. Exiting and Existing :

While laying off, it is crucial for employers to approach departure with empathy and support. Engaging placement agencies to secure alternative employment is one way to assist them and acknowledge that the separation is due to economic reasons, not performance. By compensating those agencies for outplacement services and providing a help desk with resources, guidance on job opportunities, and resume preparation, it can further demonstrate employers’ care for impacted employees.

In addition to focusing on departing employees, it is essential to provide support for the existing workforce. Employers can assist existing employees in managing their well-being by implementing mental health programs, offering yoga and meditation sessions, and prioritizing their overall wellness. When it comes to separating employees, it is crucial to empathize with them and follow the ‘Golden Rule’ principle. They should consider how they would want to be treated if they were in a similar situation.

The Road to Recovery

In the past months, layoff news has become a normal scenario, affecting renowned companies and multi-national businesses alike. Still, it is impossible to fully alleviate the emotional toll on employees who experience layoffs. However, by honestly communicating in advance and having plans and processes in place that encompass the pre- and post-layoff stages, organizations can mitigate some of the emotional distress and support employees in their future endeavors.

It is not an obligatory task, but implementing such measures would assist laid-off individuals in reconciling with the fact that organizations go through both prosperous and challenging periods, and their job loss is not a reflection of their personal worth. What enhances employers’ credibility further is refraining from increasing salaries for certain individuals, and not rewarding a few shareholders and directors. Walking the Talk is the rule of the game, as employees, both current and prospective, judge employers based on their actions rather than mere words, only if one wishes to be an ‘Employer of Choice.’

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