How To Motivate Employees During Layoffs And Downsizing
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[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 24, 2020 7:00:00 AM / by Michelle Nystrom

Michelle Nystrom

Keeping The Remaining Team Motivated During Tough Times

How to Motivate Employees during Layoffs and Downsizing.pngCorporate layoffs are a common feature in a volatile global economy that fluctuates at the slightest indication of political or economic instability. Most companies will put effort into helping the downsized employees cope with being out of work. In the process, they often forget about the employees who survived the layoff. The usual presumption is that the remaining employees are relieved that they have 'survived' the layoff. However, according to Charlie O. Trevor, an associate professor at the Madison School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, the remaining workers also need attention. Failure to deal with their concerns could erode the motivation of the remaining human capital. To prevent such problems, you should employ the following tips that will help boost the morale of the surviving employees and enhance their productivity.

Make Sure The Remaining Team Knows Where They Stand

The remaining staff may have insecurities, but they may be too afraid to express their feelings for fear of being next to be let go. Whether they express it or not, you should take the initiative to put their minds at ease.

 

Increased Transparency To Relieve Anxiety And Insecurity

Downsizing can upset information exchange and social networks in companies. This disruption can escalate the negative feelings that the 'survivors' may already have. To minimize anxiety and insecurity, you should enhance transparency in your dealings with them. You should promote greater interaction between your managers and their subordinates, encourage active listening, obtain the contribution of employees in decision-making and establish open-door policies. Increase your visibility and honesty. Clearly explain what you expect from the workers. You should notify them face to face about the layoffs as soon as possible and assure them that you do not intend to carry out anymore downsizing. Encourage the remaining employees to articulate their sentiments and ask them to express their concerns or questions.

Many will feel overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities and some will be demoralized and fearful of losing their jobs too after seeing their colleagues becoming jobless. The best performers may even start trying to find new jobs due to feelings of job insecurity. You could calm such anxieties by increasing transparency. Communication is vital in ensuring the remaining employees trust your assurances. Silence will only increase paralyzing anxiety after trauma. Encourage them to speak their mind freely and empathize with them to hasten recovery.

Let the 'survivors' know that you are available to discuss questions and uncertainties. Ensure that you gear your comments toward methods of overcoming obstacles that will encourage productivity.

 

Be Sincere And Empathetic

Nothing plays worse in times like this then managers or owners who come across as insincere or unsympathetic. Remember that these employees have dedicated a lot of time to your company and they may have lost co-workers that they valued or were close to. They are feeling unsure, insecure, scared and a variety of other emotions. Try to put yourself in their place before responding to them. The fake concern will not play well. If you aren’t able to show the sincerity and empathy that are needed, get someone else to do it.

Expect And Proactively Respond To Bad Reviews

Reviews can be frustrating for businesses in general but when they come from former employees it can be even more difficult to address. In this situation, the best thing to do is to respond as positively as you can, express empathy for the employee and do your best to diffuse the situation without disclosing any personal or confidential information.

Let Them Know How Valued They Are

Layoffs normally give rise to insecurities about the competence of your human capital. The remaining employees will begin to question whether they will be next in line to suffer a layoff or whether they are of true value to you. Immediately after you downsize your labor force, you should reassure your workers of their importance in the business. If possible, try out cross-training, whereby you could send a worker to another section of the company for one day. The individual and his peers will take this as an acknowledgment and endorsement of the employee's varied skills that they could utilize elsewhere. The employees will feel valued and they will be happy to maximize their potential.

It is crucial to speak with all the employees individually to inform them how much you value their contributions toward a productive business. Be as gracious as you can by expressing your sincere gratitude to those whom you let go and the remaining ones for their understanding of your actions. Give special thanks to the remaining employees for their readiness to put more energy into seeing the company safely through the transition.

 

Be Transparent About The Organization's Position

Let the remaining employees know the reason why you made the decision to downsize. Some managers may hesitate to reveal that the company is undergoing financial challenges, as it could cause jitters amongst various stakeholders, including creditors and suppliers. On the contrary, this is the time to show them that you are willing to take strong measures to ensure financial stability. Open your books for scrutiny and explain why the business would have been untenable with all those workers on the payroll. The creditors and suppliers will appreciate your honesty, and they will be willing to transact business with you despite the financial difficulties. Nevertheless, they will likely trust you if you have a plan that you intend to use to get out of the problem. They can then make a deal to help you carry it out with minimal difficulty. This trust will have a ripple effect on your remaining staff, who will understand the predicament you are in and your genuine attempts to stay in business. (Note: many companies will not like this idea)

 

Give Facts Across All Levels

Explain the company's precarious position that forces you to make the difficult decision to lay off some workers. Susan Heathfield, the author of "Downsizing Survivors: Motivating the Employees Who Remain after Layoffs, Value, Self-Esteem, and Career Development during Layoffs," advises that you should provide tangible evidence that informed your decision. Provide facts and statistics to convince the 'survivors' that every one of those laid off was appropriately compensated to help them be comfortable. Provide quarterly or yearly results and data and weigh them against the company's goals. You could also assure them that you are willing to rehire them should more positions become available. The remaining employees will feel less insecure, knowing that those you chose for the layoffs were not victims of a witch-hunting exercise by the management. In the process, you will manage to show that the 'survivors' are the most valuable employees whom you could not let go, and thus you will boost their morale.

 

Let The Team Know Why The Downsize Was Necessary

Your leadership skills will be under severe test after you carry out a layoff. You must steer your company successfully through this shakeup and still maintain the confidence of your employees to be an effective leader. This will be important in your endeavors to retain a productive workforce. It is important to explain that downsizing was the only option to ensure that the company stays afloat. Tough economic times do compel people to make drastic changes in their lifestyle. Similarly, companies are not immune to financial problems that force managers to downsize. Besides financial difficulties, other factors may compel you to offload some workers. For instance, you may decide to eliminate a specific underperforming division that is only bringing losses, and subsequently, you may lay off the workers in it. Another common reason for downsizing is a merger. In a merger, you may have to downsize your labor force to accommodate employees from the partner company. It could also be one of the conditions given for the merger to take place.

 

Consider Holding Mindfulness Training

As strange as it may sound to many employers, mindfulness sessions and training have been shown to have substantial positive impacts on the workplace. Layoffs and downsizing are a reality and companies that are affected take a huge hit to morale. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase employee morale.

 

Purposeful Redistribution Of New Work And Responsibilities

Downsizing normally leaves you with smaller human capital to perform the same amount of work. Don’t let some pick up the newly increased load to bear and others maintain the status quo. You should revamp job descriptions to ensure fair distribution of the extra responsibilities left by the laid-off employees. Give clear directions on who will pick up specific jobs and communicate new performance expectations and quotas so that you eliminate any confusion.

 

Set New Goals For The New Version Of The Organization

Now that you have completed the downsizing process, you should provide a renewed purpose that shifts your employees' attention from uncertainty and panic. You need to put forward clear, feasible short-term goals. This involves giving your vision of the direction you want the organization to take and your plan for achieving your objectives. You should set goals whose results can come out early, such as within a month rather than a year. If the outcome is positive, it will motivate you and your team to aim for more. At this time of crisis, you should demonstrate strong leadership. Your workers will be able to relax with the feeling that no more layoffs are imminent if you have a clear plan. Your remaining employees will be willing to give buy-ins when you are persuasive and passionate in expressing your vision.

Keep Them Informed Of The Company’s Progress

As in most situations, communication is key. When employees feel like they are up-to-date on the company’s progress and position and feel like the leadership of the company is being transparent with them, it helps to keep their motivation levels up. It also puts their minds at ease about the security of their position and can help prevent you from experiencing additional turnover.

Hold Activities To Boost Morale

Depending on your company culture, getting your staff together to blow off steam, relax and enjoy time together can be a great stress reliever and morale booster for you. When planning team activities make sure that it is something your team will really enjoy and look forward to as opposed to something they will roll their eyes at and try to find a way out of. Morale building and team building activities are only effective if your employees actually enjoy them.

 

Spend Additional Time Building Trust And Dialogue

Don’t go cold on the remaining staff; invest more time into one on ones. Show them that they are still here and that is how it is going to stay. Some managers may fear a backlash from the remaining workers and may avoid talking about the layoffs. This is retrogressive, and may only serve to fan conspiracy theories. During the transition, you and your supervisory staff must be extra visible to your remaining employees. According to experts on management from Syracuse University, detached managers and closed doors can lead to distrust and the fear of another impending layoff. You should counteract these erosive emotions by increasing visibility and interaction with subordinates at all levels. Eventually, the trust that will emerge will transform into loyalty. A loyal workforce is likely to be more productive and committed than one that is constantly suspicious and afraid of another layoff.

Model Confidence And Calmness

The overall tone of the office and your team will always start with you. Leadership starts at the top. If you are panicked, your staff will be panicked. If you are calm and confident, your team will feel that too. You get to determine the tone of the bad news being delivered and set the stage for how it will be approached. If you are empathetic but positive about the future, your team will see, feel and reflect that too.

 

Layoffs Are Hard Enough Without Having The Survivors Lose Morale

If you find your company in this position, make sure you prepare ahead of time for how it will impact morale and how you will handle it. If you are prepared for the worst and have a plan in place for keeping your employees motivated your staff and morale will feel less of an impact. As with any large change, you want to prepare accordingly.

 

This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.

 

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Topics: Managing Employees, Company Culture, Management