Re-energizing the Workforce after a Layoff
The aftermath of a layoff is a critical moment for any organization—and, too often, a moment mishandled by human resource management. Employees are often left in a haze of confusion and distress. Good managers must recognize that low morale and job security issues always follow a layoff. They must address these concerns directly in order to re-energize their workforce and restore productivity.
Employee reaction to a layoff can ultimately depend upon how the layoff was handled. Did the laid-off employees receive a generous compensation package? Was compassion and appreciation shown to the former employees? Was job assistance or counseling offered? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then employees will recognize the goodwill demonstrated and are more likely to think highly of their organization.
After the initial layoff, it is important to maintain a positive outlook and not let negativity rule the day. An optimistic attitude sets the tone. The next step is to calm fears by clearly communicating. It is vital that employees understand why the layoffs were necessary, how they will prevent further downsizing and how the company plans to move forward on firmer fiscal ground. This communication should also clarify how each employee’s contribution is needed to increase productivity, which will bring in or save revenue. Open lines of communication prevent a runaway “rumor mill” and give remaining employees a sense of value and support.
After a layoff, employees often think: “Now, my workload will double or triple.” Sometimes they are told as much. This is the time to re-evaluate what tasks need to be performed. There may be some tasks that can be streamlined, eliminated or reassigned. Collective decision making can be valuable here. The employees can offer feedback to management on what tasks are considered ‘high priority.’ Sharing the decision making allows employees to become more involved, and they are more likely to be positive and accept the changes that occur.
This is an opportune time to develop lines of communication and re-establish trust. Organizational changes can be made more readily when employees have the opportunity to engage in an open dialogue. It’s important for managers to take time and listen. Frequent departmental meetings give employees the opportunity to participate in changes and embrace organizational goals. And employees appreciate it when their concerns are addressed and problems are solved.
Restoring employee productivity and morale can be a gradual process. After a layoff, remaining employees will require some time to adjust. Open lines of communication and an overall positive attitude are essential to a post-layoff recovery.