Team downsizing is now a regular occurrence in the business world, especially during trying times like these. In most cases, companies downsize because of financial needs. Decreasing the size of your workforce is an immediate method of dealing with the strain of economic issues or an inability to keep up with market trends. This is often seen as a depressing reality for a team for understandable reasons, but there are ways to fashion downsizing into a positive for an organization. It can lead to better performance and a more flexible future for your team. To get the most out of your employees after downsizing, here are some tips on how to realize that potential:
Be Transparent About the Realities of Downsizing and the Potential Impact on the Workforce
Telling the truth goes a long way with employees, especially after drastic changes to the workforce. Mass lay-offs tend to be predictable. Employees can tell if their place of business is in trouble. Ignoring their anxieties and pretending that everything is fine will only make leadership look less competent, especially after downsizing has taken place. Being upfront and honest about your company’s financial state is the only way to keep leadership figures in high esteem. Have a clear explanation as to why downsizing measures were taken, and make it clear that they were the last resort to mitigate money problems. Doing so will ease the pain of lost jobs, and deepen your connection with your team.
Treat Laid-off Employees With the Utmost Respect
The most important thing to remember during the downsizing process is that it represents a massive change in the lives of employees who are laid off and the ones that keep their jobs amidst the transition. These are not just numbers in a ledger, they are people whose lives are being forcibly changed. Their emotions and reactions to downsizing have to be validated and treated seriously. Workers whose jobs have been terminated must hear the news from an immediate supervisor in a private conversation. The reasoning behind their dismissal should be clear and impersonal as possible. Don’t make any individuals feel like they did anything specifically wrong, and that the business case for layoffs was just too strong to avoid. If appropriate, tell dismissed workers that the organization will write a strong letter of reference on their behalf to assist them finding work in the future. If you can, have a HR representative present to help people air out their feelings in a healthy manner.
Ensure That Procedures Used to Make Decisions Are Seen as Just and Fair
As mentioned before, the way employees are dismissed plays a big role in how they take the bad news. When the laid-off employees believe that the downsizing procedures were fair and unbiased, they will file fewer claims of wrongful termination. If employees don’t feel like they’ve been mistreated, they may retaliate in dangerous ways or poison the well for employees who didn’t lose their job. One way to show interest in the emotional welfare of the dismissed is by offering options on how each employee wants to receive their severance, their official departure date, and how they want to say goodbye and take their personal belongings out of the building.
Give Survivors a Reason to Stay Engaged and Optimistic
The effects of downsizing on the minds of those who remain employed must also be recognized. Many studies have shown that employees who keep their jobs after downsizing can experience “survivor syndrome”. This is when employees feel guilty and depressed, less trusting of an organization afterwards. These emotions can make lessen productivity for your team, and even push some to quit their jobs entirely. The managers directly involved in the firing process can also be exhausted and stressed out by the situation.
A proven way to combat this affliction is to provide high-involvement work practices to keep everyone enthused about your company. Some examples of this are to invoke more team-based production, gain-sharing, and a more flexible work design personalized for the smaller team that you now have. Survivors need to hear a message full of optimism for a future that will encourage employees to continue developing their skills, and that the organization is confident in their ability to succeed.
Understand That Downsizing is a Tool, Not a Cure for All Ills
Downsizing can be a useful tactic to improve a business’s financial state, but laying off a significant percentage of your workforce won’t fix everything on its own. All strategies will fail unless they are carried out effectively, and that the fallout is managed properly. Now that you have a smaller team, all aspects of your workflow may have to change to deal with the smaller group. How will each area of your company change post downsizing? What are the best and worst-case scenarios for the aftermath? It’s better to have these questions answered before going forward with layoffs, otherwise the results could be chaotic.
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