Your step-by-step guide to managing layoffs in a compassionate and effective manner.
outplacement: how to help your people through transitions.
This blog post is the second of a two-part series on managing your employer brand during layoffs. This part covers what to do if and when negative coverage does arise. Part one covers how to avoid generating negative press and social media coverage initially.
When economic headwinds affect your business, layoffs may be inevitable. While you can plan for communication during layoffs, managing your digital employer brand and negative external feedback can be challenging. In the age of social media, making a misstep during the layoff process can leave a lasting mark on your brand, for both employees and consumers alike.
No matter how well your company manages the layoff, communications and support for displaced workers, you can expect that people will post about this major life change. In fact, it can be a powerful tool for them to land their next role. But, what steps should your company take if those posts are negative? How can you best tackle negative feedback on social media and maintain your company's digital employer brand?
how to handle negative social media feedback
You can use company social media handles to manage stakeholder reactions and expectations during layoffs. Properly executed communication plans improve the company's public perception during a major reduction in force and should always consider social media. Managers can rely on public relations professionals to craft concise, clear and sensitive messages to be shared with your organization’s external audiences.
But what should you do when others share negative feedback online as well? Here are three tips:
1. Don't take it personally.
After a mass reduction in force, you may receive negative feedback from the general public and disgruntled former employees. While you should absolutely review all comments, encourage your team and others within the wider business not to take them personally. People experience many emotions following news of a layoff and some comments may be vitriolic and hurtful, but taking those comments personally can create an emotional response for you and cloud your judgment when it comes to what actions to take next.
2. Use good judgment in whether to respond.
If a former employee talks negatively on social media and it draws public scrutiny and criticism, you may feel the temptation to respond to the social media posts. Don’t — at least not publicly. In the U.S., a recent ruling enshrined the right of former employees to be free of consequences regarding their severance package if they publicly criticize their former employer. Responding in a public forum is likely to inflame the situation. A better approach is for a member of the HR team to reach out to the person making the comment via a private message and offer to listen to their criticism and see if an amicable resolution is possible. In some cases, simply being heard may help the commenter move on from the situation. Similarly, the feedback an outgoing employee provides may help you improve areas of your layoff process that are causing negative reactions — minimizing future criticism.
3. Take ownership of the reactions.
No matter how carefully you planned your communications, some messages just aren’t received as intended. There have been several cases of CEOs posting open letters addressing significant volumes of negative comment regarding their layoffs. While these letters graciously acknowledge that some elements of the layoff process could have been better, they also offer an opportunity to show that the decision-making process exhausted all alternatives before moving to layoffs. In addition, such a response can be used to highlight to the public the support the company has put in place. When leaders show humility and demonstrate that the negative voices have been heard, that is often enough to quell the negative reaction and help people move on.
how to avoid social media negativity during layoffs
Can a layoff or mass reduction in force move forward without negative social media? While negative news is hard to control, you can protect your brand image. With social media being a frontline for digital brand image, managers should plan a layoff strategy that reflects compassion and empathy to those affected. Your organization can rely on social media managers to navigate the layoff messaging online. Some helpful tips include:
1. Determine the ideal content to post.
Since workforce reductions affect marketing, your social media manager and PR team can help determine the content to share. It may be crucial to pause some content categories and identify keywords for social listening. For instance, announcing new hires immediately after layoffs or posting employee advocacy content like anniversary posts would be inappropriate.
2. Listen to your audience.
During layoffs, rely on social listening to monitor negative social comments and estimate the likelihood of an anticipated backlash. For instance, your company should monitor the social media handles of executives and industry publications in addition to your company handles.
3. Address concerns.
After a layoff, the public and consumers — not just employees and displaced workers — may express concerns and have questions. Answer questions honestly and assure the public that the company will move forward. Addressing any concerns from surviving employees builds confidence in your leadership ability.
protect digital employer brand with thoughtful planning
You cannot always control what is shared on social media, but conducting empathetic and transparent layoff processes can help prevent negative external feedback. And preparing a strong and comprehensive communication strategy before the layoffs occur can help you swiftly manage negative press should it occur. When the news circulates about a planned layoff, you can protect your digital employer brand by being responsive, empathetic and authentic.