How Do You Handle Layoffs Humanely?

employee layoffs

Although your employees may be surprised, handling a layoff humanely will eliminate shock.

Entrepreneurs are job creators. The contribution of small businesses to the job creation percentage varies widely, depending on the classification of “small business” being used. However, occasionally, you must layoff personnel and become defacto job eliminators to ensure that your company survives. You may have pursued a sales or marketing strategy or a product development strategy that did not work as envisioned, despite many attempts and iterations. Perhaps sales are declining or perhaps the company pursued a particular strategy gung ho that didn’t work out. Whatever the reason, most companies that have any longevity will face the issue of having to lay off one or more employees. In light of all the fear and uncertainty in the job marketplace, taking steps to prepare employees to seek out and successfully locate another job is one of the most humane and thoughtful things you can do as an owner or executive manager.

In speaking with people, I can see that many have no idea of their capabilities and have minimal confidence as to their ability to find a job. With that attitude, they are doomed from the start. Therefore, the most important service your company can provide when laying off employees is to provide them, where ever possible, with job search support from a service that focuses not just on job retraining or interviewing skills but also on shoring up your former employees’ confidence. I suggest the following (not in any particular order):

  • Identify and contract with a job search service provider that has a strong track record in helping individuals find jobs. If you are paying for the service, you want one that delivers! To help your employees further, pay the fees directly or provide heavily subsidizing of the fees.
  • Via contracted company, help employees identify their strengths, i.e., what makes them good at what they do.
  • Through this same company, help employees write/learn to write resumes and cover letters that communicate these strengths.

    employee morale and layoffs quote

    To preserve morale, do the opposite!

  • Teach employees that networking doesn’t mean you have a strong rolodex. Anyone they know could be a potential job lead. Your former employees need to clarify specifically what type of job and/or company they are interested in and spread that word to everyone they know via emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings.
  • Understand that, even in the digital age, nothing surpasses the  personal touch. Do not encourage your former employees to rely on electronic job boards (i.e., Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed,…) to find a job. Depending on the number of employees you laid off, identify the 5-10 companies that they’d like to work for individually or as a group and help them pursue those companies directly.  Although your company is laying off , other small businesses may be hiring one or more individuals. Small businesses do not typically use job boards or recruiters; typically, they use word of mouth and referrals. According to “What Color is My Parachute”, even in a recession, 90% of the people who use two “push” methods (where people seek out and directly pursue positions with companies they are interested in) have jobs within 4 months when they engage in a concerted effort, while less than 50% of those who use a “pull” method (where people only apply for jobs already posted on job boards, etc.) find a job within that same period.

As an owner or executive management team member, technically, it is not your job to find your laid off employee another job. However, if you saw the movie “Up in the Air, you are aware that helping your employees navigate the transition and find a job soon softens the blow (as much as that is possible). In addition, when they were your personnel, your role was to empower your employees to help them work productively and efficiently towards achieving company goals (primarily) and personal goals (secondarily).  By providing your former employees with services that help them post-layoff, you continue to play a similar role even in this unfortunate situation.