Human Resource Executives from sixteen different companies met to discuss best-practices for supporting the ‘stayers’ – those still employed after mass layoffs. The group discussed strategies for rebuilding a culture of trust and positivity after reductions. The discussion included some preliminary topics:

  • Although most organizations experienced at least some reductions in the past 18-24 months, others grew during this timeframe
  • Many organizations, regardless of past layoffs, are currently hiring
  • Growth in some areas of businesses and contraction in other areas is common

In addition to workforce reductions, other cost saving strategies have been implemented, and usually were completed prior to the decision to cut staff. These included:

  • Reduction of medical benefits
  • Increased employee cost-share for benefits
  • Reduction or elimination of company match contributions to retirement plans
  • Reduction or elimination of bonuses and merit pay increases

The encouraging news is that many organizations consider themselves stronger today because they were able to remove those employees that didn’t fit the future culture of the company, reduce layers, streamline processes, and galvanize their vision. The major themes for best-practices, ideas, and lessons learned included:

  • Ensure transparency in all business communications
  • Explain the situation the organization is facing, how management reached their decisions, and link it to the mission and vision of the company
  • Maintain a balanced and consistent message
  • Use workforce reduction and organizational change to evolve the workforce and ensure those left fit the new business model
  • Involve senior leaders in the communication and ensure they are visible and approachable during the tough times
  • Survey the stayers to understand their current views, emotions, and how their work is affected
  • Prioritize work, streamline processes, revise roles, and reset performance objectives
  • Provide a compelling reason for the remaining employees to stay (vision for the future)

In addition, some specific and effective actions included:

  • Use this time to streamline work processes and become a nimbler organization and ensure that all work directly supports the organizational mission and vision
  • Share new projects, platforms, program updates, and initiatives with remaining employees and ask them for their ideas to build for the future
    • This will not only engage and focus them on productive efforts like helping the company return to better financial health, but has surfaced practical and innovative business ideas
  • Anticipate future changes to the business and let employees know in advance that X will occur if Y happens
    • Let them know before things go wrong and allow them to see the situation that the organization is facing
  • Show how the organization is creating a stronger long-term company through the downsizing process