For some tasks, there is no wrong way of completing them. Sure, some methods may be easier, faster, smarter, cheaper. But for some jobs, many roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes. This concept, however, does not apply to mass layoffs.
At the end of 2021, Better.com’s chief executive, Vishal Garg, unexpectedly laid off approximately 900 employees via Zoom. To make matters worse, a clip of the call went viral on social media; opening up Garg and Better.com to the opinions of the public. Suffice to say, the feedback wasn’t positive.
According to this article published by Al Jazeera, Garg quickly issued a public apology. The news outlet quotes Garg as saying, “I realize the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry…I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect.”
Whether the impacted employees forgave Garg or not is less known, but one thing was for certain: the damage had been done.
In a previously published article, we had written about the potentially negative consequences of conducting mass layoffs, particularly how it could affect your organization’s reputation. Social media and resources such as Glassdoor, which publishes employee reviews, are allowing candidates to become more informed on how their professional life may be when working for certain companies.
As a human resources professional, the reasons behind why it is important to correctly conduct a mass layoff are obvious. The steps to ensuring you get it right may be a little less so.
Your top priorities for correctly conducting mass layoffs
Mass layoffs, as unfortunate as they are, are sometimes the only option for struggling businesses. While you may not be the individual delivering the bad news, you are likely going to become part of the messaging strategy (and help with the fallout). Here are where your priorities should be if a mass layoff is inevitable (in no particular order.)
- Empathy: Conducting mass layoffs are likely to be emotionally taxing for everyone involved; however, it is extremely important to remember that for some, this news will have a great impact. Regardless of why the mass layoff is happening, it cannot be forgotten that people’s lives are likely to be negatively impacted and that each of us is human. As such, your laid-off employees are going to experience a plethora of strong emotions (and may wish to share a plethora of strong words as well.) When you lead with empathy, it can help to mitigate some of these reactions while helping your former employees navigate through the situation.
- Messaging: When announcing a mass layoff, whether to a room full of employees or to individuals, you need to know what to say. You do not want to read word for word from a script, but there needs to be a plan in place and your words need to be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. Once the messaging is determined, it is important that your entire team be on the same page here.
- Delivery: How you say it is equally as important as what you said. In the case of Vishal Garg, one of the biggest pieces of critique was his stone-cold and emotionless delivery. Delivery goes hand in hand with empathy. Show it and mean it.
- Timing: Better.com chose to lay off its employees right before the holiday as it was preparing to go public. It doesn’t take a human resources expert to tell you that the timing around the situation did not help. While you cannot hold off something as impactful as a mass layoff indefinitely, proper planning can still ease some of the fallout.
- Transparency: When a mass layoff happens, people are likely to lose a bit of trust in the company. This reaction is most impactful for your organization when it comes from the employees who were not laid off. To mitigate a loss of trust among all parties, be transparent and honest about why the layoff is happening and what you anticipate the aftermath is going to be.
- Support: Part of why being laid off is so impactful towards employees is because it can impact every other aspect of their life. Providing support afterwords to the laid-off employees is crucial. Our most recommended course of action is to bring in an outplacement service for your former employees, which can include resume writing, job preparation, etc. You can read more about outplacement services here.
No company wants to conduct mass layoffs; however, it is sometimes unavoidable.
If you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to conduct mass layoffs, consider scheduling a consultation with our team for outplacement services here or subscribe to BrandResumes’ HR Corner for more informative articles.