how to design a layoff communication plan

Layoffs are rattling, and their impact can be felt for months. A reduction in the workforce or a redundancy is not an everyday occurrence in a company, and most employers are underprepared to roll out a communication plan. When communicating layoffs, it’s not just about those departing employees. You also need to be mindful of the remaining employees. If you handle layoffs poorly, you will lose their trust. They will also be less productive since they feel insecure in their job.

During a reduction in workforce, companies are often in crisis mode, and it can be difficult to communicate effectively due to the urgency involved. When employees need information urgently, you may be tempted to scramble to pull together presentations instead of careful planning. Without a clear plan to communicate downsizing to employees, your audience will have more questions, and you will sow confusion instead of clarity. As a leader, you need to have a good layoff communication plan for exiting and surviving employees alike.

why a strong layoff communication plan is important

How you deal with layoffs will be remembered long after the layoffs happen. Your reputation is at risk, and any missteps can increase employee turnover. Besides, negative reviews can destroy the company image you have built over time. Your layoff communication plan should ensure the laid-off workers are treated with dignity during the layoff and offered the support they need to transition to other jobs. For instance, the communication strategy should include the outplacement services and severance packages offered to the employees.

A good communication strategy also helps build trust with the remaining employees. Throughout the staff reduction planning and implementation stages, you need to communicate openly with your workers. For instance, you can solicit input on ways to consolidate work and seek suggestions on voluntary reductions, such as individuals considering retirement anyway, that could save money.

communicating with exiting employees

Reduction in workforce should never come as a complete surprise to workers. In business, transparency breeds trust. Hence, you should constantly communicate with your employees about the state of your company. That way, your workers can understand the reasons for the layoffs and accept the outcome more easily. 

While communication is important, it should not translate into gossip or rumor. Instead, have a transparent process for communicating the state of the company, like quarterly status updates. Also, make sure to actively plan layoffs instead of acting without careful thought. Communicating layoffs suddenly leaves your employees unmotivated and upset. 

communicating with surviving employees

Many companies plan for layoffs and offer outplacement support to outgoing employees. However, managers need to plan for the aftermath of a reduction in workforce. The remaining employees usually suffer from survivor syndrome. Your employees may feel anxious and guilty for having a job as their colleagues are sent away. While layoffs directly impact departing employees, they also affect company culture. That's why you should reassure workers about their future in the company. Hold a meeting to discuss the next steps for the company. While emphasizing a forward trajectory, you should also be mindful of the workers' feelings. For instance, you can offer individual counseling or meeting with the remaining employees to help them deal with anxiety and stress. The benefits of expressing concern to remaining employees include a good brand image, high employee retention rates and better company culture.

steps for creating a communication plan

When communicating layoffs, follow the steps below:

  • Involve the right people.The first step is to identify the teams tasked with creating, reviewing and delivering the communications. This will typically include senior management, HR, legal and internal communications and social teams.
  • Develop your messaging. Instead of taking an informal approach that could lead to inconsistent messages, take time to plan. A good communication strategy ensures that steps aren't missed, and you avoid a rumor mill. For instance, your plan should have the key messages, tactics and timeline. Decide the layoff and post-layoff Communication messaging and choose the channels suitable for your company.
  • Prepare leaders and managers. Preparation is key to ensure leaders and managers accomplish their communication role. Train them on the key message and how to answer questions that may arise when notifying employees of the layoffs. Managers should also be aware of the severance packages and the support offered to employees.
  • Notify employees. The timing for notifying the impacted workers influences the effectiveness of your communication plan. For instance, the sequence depends on the impacted employees. You can either start with outgoing employees or all workers. When it is a mass layoff, it is often best to first communicate with the entire employee population. However, if it is a small group, you can notify them individually before moving to the rest of the staff.
  • Use the appropriate channel. It is always best to do notifications in person rather than by text or email. If a face-to-face with all affected is not possible, use live video chat instead. Ultimately, notification should never be via a one-way channel with no means to interact.
  • Ramp up communication with surviving employees. Most managers consider communication complete when everyone is notified, but there's still work to do. Layoffs are distracting, and the remaining employees will be worried about their jobs. That’s why you must restore their trust in the company by involving them in discussions. For instance, you’ll have to figure out how to get the work done, so you can involve employees in developing solutions and strategies to move the company forward. It is also important to prioritize the wellness of the remaining employees.

While communicating layoffs is challenging, it can be accomplished with limited consequences. If you conduct the layoffs with diligence and sensitivity, you are likely to recover faster and maintain a good company image among remaining employees and future job applicants, and even those who were let go.

02 February 2023

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