Alternatives to a Nasty Layoff

December 11, 2023by Jennifer Murray0

Are you tired of the news about layoffs? Across multiple market segments, organizations have experienced an unstable business client this year. We read news about force reduction. We hear from individuals who lost their jobs. We consult with organizations that are wrestling with the best way to cut costs with the least amount of impact on their team members.

There are a wide range of approaches to the workforce optimization challenge. One of the most common tactics is to announce a staff reduction with details regarding the timeline. The announcement sends an alert and each person is informed of their employment status during a planned time period. I was a part of those exercises for several years. It was an annual Q4 event at one of my employers. Regardless of my most recent employee appraisal and year to date results, it was always unsettling. Throughout the day, messages were transmitted asking if I knew my status and advising that someone received bad news. One of those events took place within 30 days of my start date. I was especially concerned that year. Did the organization practice last in first out? Fortunately, I was spared that year, but it did not create a warm, fuzzy feeling about my decision to join the company.

Messaging contributes to the overall experience. Having a direct one on one conversation is preferred over a text or email. Do you recall when Better.com fired 900 people on a Zoom call? The negative publicity did not enhance the employer brand.

I have also worked with companies that reduce headcount in a series of events over a period of a few months. That approach created low morale and hampered productivity for an extended period of time.

Some organizations offer incentives to leave before the layoff is announced. For team members that are close to retirement, the incentive packages can make the decision to leave much easier. It becomes a mutually beneficial scenario. With voluntary departures, the organization can recalculate how many people will need to be terminated involuntarily.

Is a furlough an option? With an optimistic forecast, a furlough may be the solution that addresses the current economic constraints and leaves the door open to a near-term recall. Team members who are burned out, have a side gig, are juggling family care, or school may be interested in a reduced number of work hours, short break, or a job share.

When you have a clear vision for the future, you may be able to forecast future job requirements and offer cross-training or upskilling to your current team members. Some team members may jump at the opportunity to develop and grow. Building skills for future jobs is one way to add a layer of protection against surplus jobs. At a minimum, it enhances the individual’s marketability if a future force reduction takes place.

CNBC recently reported that large companies are skirting layoffs by mandating the return to office. Why RTO mandates are layoffs in disguise, according to workplace experts: ‘Companies are daring employees to quit.’ Regardless of the intention, it transfers the employment decision to the employee. Some organizations took the bold step with a RTO mandate and softened the policy later when they discovered the loss of talent was greater than anticipated.

Another way to manage budget constraints is to implement a hiring freeze. It is typically a temporary period that restricts new headcount, as well as backfilling positions. It can negatively impact the remaining team, given they must absorb the extra work. Ideally, it is a short-term scenario. Asking for team input, sharing the workload, adding an extra dose of gratitude, and bonuses can help to improve the situation.

To soften the impact of a layoff, hire an outplacement service. They typically offer a wide range of services. Hiring an outplacement organization can help to prepare displaced individuals to find jobs. They coach clients to craft resumes, prepare for interviews, help with networking, and job searching. Their primary goal is to assist the terminated individuals find a new position. Recently I spoke with John O’Connor at CareerPro, Inc. He shared that his clients are more likely to post positive reviews about their former employers on social media after he coaches them, helps them uncover their strengths, and land in a desirable environment. The individuals develop a greater appreciation for the investment their former employer made in their transition.

We spend a significant amount of time working on the employer brand. Exploring options, thoughtfully preparing a communication plan, and using an outplacement service reinforces the employer value proposition and may leave the door open for employees to return in the future.

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Headquarters
230 Hampton Woods Lane, Suite 101 Raleigh, NC 27607
Satellite Office
2929 Breezewood Ave. Suite 101, Fayetteville, NC. 28303
Where to find us
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