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    How to Maintain Employee Morale After Layoffs [6 Key Tips]

    6 mins

    In an already tumultuous time, workforce reductions, downsizing, and layoffs can wreak havoc on an otherwise productive team. Stress, fear, and feelings of guilt and anger – all natural responses – don’t go away when layoffs have concluded, either. 

    Unfortunately, many organizations – about 43% of companies according to a study by RiseSmart – are not adequately prepared for the loss of productivity, morale, and turnover that comes after a reduction in force. Without a plan in place to support remaining employees, negative feelings, tanked morale, and low productivity can carry on long after things at an organization have returned to normal.

    There are steps to take, though, to better care for your workforce after layoffs. Keep reading for six tips that will teach you how to boost your employees’ morale after layoffs.

    1. Honest Communication is Key

    Layoffs can leave remaining employees feeling uncertain about the stability and safety of their own positions and the future of the company itself. After downsizing, trust in the organization will likely be low, bringing down morale and increasing the risk of burnout or more turnover. Combat this by being transparent from the start.

    Communicate honestly, consistently, and often to management and employees, both. Be candid about why the layoffs happened, what leadership wants the future of the organization to look like, and in what ways, if any, terminated employees are being supported as they find new work.

    With honesty and simple, clear facts, you and your HR team can curb the fear and doubt that follow downsizing.

    2. Management Must Be Visible, Accessible, and Candid

    To better weather the storms that follow layoffs, leadership should be visible, accessible, upfront with workers, and trained on how to motivate remaining employees after layoffs. Approachable managers who regularly and honestly report on the state of the company can help to combat feelings of uncertainty and fear, potentially boosting employee morale after layoffs.

    A strong management team makes all the difference. According to a study by Leadership IQ, when management is visible, approachable, and candid about layoffs and post-layoff structure, workers report that they were 72% less likely to lose productivity. The same workers were also 65% less likely to report a decline in the quality of their company’s products or services if they considered their managers visible, approachable, and honest.

    3. Productivity May Sink, Be Compassionate

    Leadership IQ’s study found that 74% of employees who retained their jobs after corporate layoffs acknowledge that their own productivity has declined – why? In the wake of layoffs, your remaining workforce may be dealing with feelings of grief, including survivor’s guilt, anger, and uncertainty. They’ve lost friends and support, are taking on additional work, and may fear for their own positions, even with consistent reassurance.

    Remember that this will be a grieving period for many. Be patient and be compassionate – if management acts like it’s business as usual after layoffs or even if they seem too negatively impacted, it can damage employee trust and morale.

    It’s important to show and tell your workers that you understand that they may be upset and afraid. Keep lines of communication open. Pay attention to which parts of the organization were most impacted by the layoffs, and offer extra support to teams that were hit particularly hard.

    4. Collect Feedback

    After layoffs, knowing where your surviving employees stand is going to be vital to the health of the organization. An open-door policy is a good start, but it may not be enough, particularly at a time when employees’ trust in the organization may be wavering. You’ll need to actively collect feedback and respond to it in a timely manner.

    Conduct one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, and group discussions. Make space for venting and anger within reason. Listen, be respectful, and accept that, for a time, there may be some distrust. Listening compassionately and allowing employees to safely voice their concerns, in and of itself, will help to rebuild some of that lost trust, and even harsh criticism can be useful.

    Layoffs are painful, but the feedback you get will help you to identify ways you can mitigate that hurt. You’ll understand what concerns need the most attention now, and what processes can be changed for the future. Well-conducted one-on-one and group meetings can strengthen relationships between workers and leadership and help you to identify and gently combat any brewing rumors.

    5. Extend Support to Terminated Employees

    While severance packages are perhaps the most obvious form of support an organization can offer, there are a number of other ways to support employees let go in layoffs. Where appropriate, you may be able to offer networking opportunities and letters of reference to terminated employees.

    Extending support like this to former employees helps them, mitigates damage to professional relationships, and shows your remaining employees that layoffs have been conducted consciously and compassionately.

    6. Adjust Benefits and Compensation to Account for Shifting Job Responsibilities

    Surviving employees will be picking up additional tasks and responsibilities. Frustration, uncertainty, and even anger can be expected as job descriptions are rewritten, but if new workloads are especially heavy or if the reallocated tasks are ones that an employee dislikes or cannot do well, it can seriously impact engagement and productivity.

    Increasing compensation to account for additional work and adding benefits or shifting them to better accommodate your new demographics can potentially soften the impact of these changes.

    You don’t want to undo the cost reductions that layoffs accomplished, but expanding benefits doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to eat into those savings, either. A smaller workforce likely means that room has been freed up in your budget, and there are a number of affordable benefits, like schedule and PTO flexibility, remote work options, EAPs, and vendor discounts, that can be added on when budgets are tight.

    Wrapping Up

    Workforce reductions can throw your organization into chaos – chaos that can last long after layoffs end, but with careful planning, you can successfully navigate this tumultuous time. We hope our tips have taught you how best to boost employee morale after layoffs.

    Above all, our guide should have made one thing clear: candid, compassionate communication is the key to softening the blow downsizing deals to your company and its remaining workers.

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    Ben Koubek
    Regional Sales Manager at Bennie

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