Mantra for firms: Appreciate your employees, but don’t apologise for having to let them go

Updated: Sep 30, 2019 6:51 AM

Appreciate your employees, but do not apologise for having to let them go.

Among the pitfalls of delivering impact notifications is the tendency to be overly instructional to impacted employees and making promises you can’t keep.

By Joel Paul 

Layoffs are stressful. No matter how much you prepare, workforce transformations will always be a shock to organisational systems. The more an organisation is prepared to communicate, help employees find and transition to new jobs, and also provide support to remaining employees, the lesser a toll the restructure will take on individuals, company culture, and the employer brand.

It’s easy to point fingers when companies fall prey to tactical blunders, but it often happens with organisations that try to conduct layoffs without expert guidance from a qualified business partner. Among the pitfalls of delivering impact notifications is the tendency to be overly instructional to impacted employees and making promises you can’t keep.

Because “doing the right thing” by employees is often top of mind for small and medium business owners and managers, we’ve compiled a list to take care of your employees following an impact that won’t result in tactical errors.

Build a business case: During the time of letting go of employees, chances are you’ve done everything else to reduce spending and cut costs. Hence, it is important to create a business case through which you can communicate the purpose of the downsizing event at every phase of the process. This case should include sequential communication like notifications, general internal and external announcements, and notices to employees. It will help you explain why a layoff was necessary. When communication is transparent and consistent, employees are more likely to less criticise your actions.

Host manager notification training: Even if you’re only going to let go of a few employees, manager notification training can help those who will be delivering the message understand the importance of following best practices and legal guidelines. Receiving training prior to the event helps your management team prepare emotionally for the event and deliver the message with empathy.

Plan emotionally: It’s normal that you would have an emotional reaction to the event. Acknowledge these feelings and try talking it out with other managers or HR professionals. The more you can do to feel your own emotions prior to the event, the more empathetic you can act towards impacted and retained employees.
Assemble a transition team: Enlist the heads of different departments such as HR, finance, legal and others as well as the heads of departments impacted by the reduction together and set up a ‘team’ that is driven by a project manager. Outside the organisation, it is wise to connect with legal counsel and employment attorneys.

No apologies, only appreciation: When you communicate to employees the news they are going to be laid off, demonstrate empathy. Express appreciation for what your employees have contributed to the team during their tenure, but do not apologise for having to let them go. Take them through the business reasons for the impact and calmly reiterate the rationale for having to take this step.

While it is important for organisations to follow these steps to ensure the entire layoff process takes place smoothly, it also makes sense to partner with a third party outplacement service provider. These experts not only help employees who are let go in landing another job, but can also ensure they are 100% sure about the profile they are accepting prior to taking it up.

The author is general manager, India, RiseSmart, the outplacement and career transition services firm

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