When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Compassionate: Conducting Human-Centered Layoffs
By: Meredith Masse
We recently hosted a webinar with a panel of HR leaders who know a thing or two about layoffs. All but one has been on the receiving end during a reduction; all have conducted downsizings from the other side of the desk as HR pros. In a lively conversation they shared their best-practice dos and don’ts.
A few of the big, hairy questions we tackled:
When planning a reduction in force, who is essential to have on your planning team?
- Every panelist agreed that a strong HR team ready to roll up sleeves to get the tough and emotional work of conducting layoffs was critical. They will be key in preparing and supporting managers on the day-of in giving the individual notifications.
- An employment attorney, either internal counsel or external, is also vital. She or he will be instrumental in ensuring no legal detail is overlooked.
- Each panelist was adamant about having a superior outplacement partner to support them, their teams, the impacted employees and the “survivors” through the emotional process.
During notifications, what’s “best practice?” Individual conversations? A group?
- At the end of the day each HR leader noted absolutely being available for individual, one-on-one conversations with each person being let go will help in making the interaction as human centered as possible.
- Notifying a group at the same time, they agreed, is best when it’s an entire team or department.
- When impacted employees are remote, they suggested that leaders should make the effort to meet them in person whenever possible. Fly to them, meet in the remote office to show them the company cares. When this is not possible – for example when it would be awkward to fly somewhere to meet with someone who works from home versus a remote office – Zoom or phone will suffice.
- They each cautioned against notifying anyone via text – yes, we’ve heard the stories – or email.
- All panelists championed the practice of offering flexible, compassionate outplacement programs to help ease the sting separated employees inevitably feel. When possible, most recommend not tying outplacement services to signing the severance agreement so that employees can get the help they need to start thinking about their futures as soon as possible.
What needs to happen immediately following all notification conversations?
- First and foremost, gather surviving employees, either in teams, departments or in a town hall scenario, and equip leaders with sincere messaging about the business reasons for the layoffs. You have to decide what kind of groupings are appropriate based on your company’s situation, but never forget that this immediate communication is foundational to maintaining trust with the employees the company is relying on to bring business to a “new normal.”
- Support managers and employees in knowing what to expect in terms of emotional responses to people losing work colleagues and friends. We discussed the positive impact some organizational renewal sessions will have that focus on what people will undoubtedly experience emotionally, and strategies for supporting them through the transition.
All panelists agreed that the more human-centered and compassionate the company representatives in charge of notifications can be, the better for everyone involved. Departing employees will feel as if they’ve been treated with dignity and compassion and surviving employees will maintain trust in the organization seeing their former friends and colleagues being treated with the utmost respect.
For the full recorded webinar to hear all the tips and strategies our panelists shared, click: When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Compassionate recorded webinar.
Planning for an upcoming or future reduction in force?
Before you finalize your plans, let us share how our CoManaged™ Outplacement Program can help minimize legal risks, stay within your budget and compassionately support separating employees. Ask, too, about our organizational renewal workshops for survivors. Call us at (303) 865-4400 or email Info@InnovateICC.com.