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Facing the layoff Wave and building channels for support

Navigating layoffs is crucial for businesses, with employees remaining a top asset. Investing in support systems and recognition boosts morale and retention amid job cuts. Open communication, empathy, and rebuilding trust are vital. Leaders should prioritize employee well-being, provide clarity, and emphasize a shared future vision to maintain loyalty and weather transitions effectively.

The labor market in the U.S. is strong, but that is not preventing job cuts—most notably at technology companies. Experts are forecasting more cost-cutting at corporations of all sizes this year, with a lot of that taking the form of headcount reductions. 

Recent announcements of layoffs from companies like Nike, Mattel, PayPal, Cisco, Levi Strauss, and UPS underscore that the reductions are not limited to tech companies. But the layoffs continue for tech giants as well. By the latest count, U.S. companies announced 82,307 job cuts this year in January alone, more than double the number reported in December.

However, businesses still consider employees their most valuable asset. As they say goodbye to some workers, they also need to consider the happiness of those who stay. Keeping valuable talent from jumping ship is as important as it has ever been.

Amid layoffs, organizations must prioritize support systems and employee recognition. Investing in valuing and appreciating employees’ contributions helps mitigate dissatisfaction and encourages retention. In a 2024 report on employee happiness trends, 98 percent of respondents indicated they would work harder and feel happier if they felt more appreciated at work. Organizations can foster a sense of loyalty and commitment among their workforce by demonstrating a commitment to their well-being and professional growth.

Employees are likely to feel disconnected and uncertain about the future when their employers are letting workers go. Establishing open-door policies, conducting regular check-in meetings, and implementing employee surveys are effective ways to facilitate communication. By actively listening to employees’ concerns and involving them in decision-making, organizations can build trust and maintain transparency, ultimately fostering a supportive and cohesive work environment.

Showing Appreciation

Organizations need to prioritize empathy and respect when navigating layoffs. Recognizing the emotional impact of layoffs and providing support resources, such as counseling services and financial assistance programs, can help alleviate employees’ stress and uncertainty. Additionally, validating employees’ feelings and maintaining open lines of communication can contribute to a culture of compassion and solidarity within the organization.

Recognizing and acknowledging employees’ contributions is essential for maintaining morale and retaining talent. Organizations can highlight individual achievements through personalized recognition programs, celebrate team successes publicly, and provide opportunities for professional development and growth. Organizations can cultivate a culture of loyalty and commitment among their employees by demonstrating a genuine appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

Rebuilding morale after layoffs requires a concerted effort from leadership to prioritize employee well-being and foster a sense of community and belonging. This can involve organizing team-building activities, hosting morale-boosting events, and creating opportunities for employees to connect and support one another. Additionally, transparent communication about the organization’s vision and goals, coupled with regular updates on the company’s progress, can help instill employee confidence and motivation during times of change.

The Playbook

There are steps organizations can take to remind employees that they are valued. Below are some thought starters:

Restore Trust. This is a priority after layoffs. Employees will likely feel worried and frustrated. Here are three tips for instilling trust: 

  1. Keep your fears to yourself. Sharing your feelings may seem like a good idea, but it can backfire. Your employees are looking for a confident, optimistic leader.
  2. Connect 1:1 and as a group. At times like these, listening too much to employees is virtually impossible. Create more than one format for listening to them. 
  3. Emphasize that there is a plan. Reminding workers that the company has a plan in place will alleviate fears and restore trust. 

Meet Frequently. Silence is not your friend. Hold meetings often to reduce anxiety and provide more information. Get these meetings on the books before the rumor mill starts up. 

Offer the Facts. Counter any rumors with the facts, including: 

  • Why the company let workers go
  • How many workers were affected
  • How the layoff decision was made
  • How the layoffs affect the company’s future

Welcome Questions from the Team. Encouraging and answering questions helps to ease anxiety. Be ready to field questions that range from the emotional to the pragmatic. 

Check in Often. Talk to your employees about their workloads and any new tasks they may have been assigned post-layoffs that they may need training on. 

Look to the Future. Layoffs are unpleasant for anyone, so the less time spent focusing on them, the better. Remind workers about the exciting developments they have to look forward to.

Listen to your Employees. Encourage your team to participate in setting new goals and corporate priorities. Meeting frequently and using surveys and live Q&A sessions will remind your most valuable workers that they are heard and valued. Remember: These employees might bring workable ideas to the table. 

Emphasize Employee Roles. After layoffs, responsibilities may shift, and some workers may wonder what their job entails going forward. This can create uncertainty, which you can dispel by addressing the issue of roles and giving employees the clarity they need.

Reducing an organization’s headcount is not fun for anyone. While it obviously affects the employees who are losing their jobs the most, the remaining employees still experience plenty of anxiety and uncertainty.

Company leaders must tread a fine line. On the one hand, they need to project confidence and certainty about the company’s future direction. However, they must also clearly explain why the reduction happened and what it accomplished. Most importantly, they must make it clear that the remaining workers will be an integral part of the organization in the years ahead.

Even as layoffs occur across the landscape, employees remain a business’s top asset, representing its current capabilities and future. Ensuring they know this—and being systematic about how you do it—will help you retain the most valuable for the long haul.

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