Veteran crisis management expert Ronn Torossian has this advice for the country’s CEOs who need to address the tough conversation of layoffs
1. Create an internal dialogue
As the head of a company, it’s important to be transparent and forthcoming with your employees to the extent that it is possible. Let them know if and how the company is being affected and communicate this in a timely manner, especially given that the situation is changing by the day, and in some cases hour by hour. Employees who have experienced a round of layoffs will often agree that finding out via a “leak” or third-party about impending cuts exacerbates the situation.
Minimise the number of people involved in the layoff process and set a clear plan. Then own the communications. This is your best chance to avoid the internal panic that will further disrupt workflow and long-term permanent reputational damage.
This is an unprecedented time for all of us, but depending on the age makeup of your workforce, you may have a contingent of employees that have never experienced instant economic turmoil of any kind. By keeping staff engaged and part of the conversation, they will better understand the realities of what the business is going through and won’t be blindsided if the difficult steps of layoffs or other reductions must be taken.
2. Make difficult decisions based on facts
Take a step back and take the temperature of your business based on facts and figures. Make decisions based on the information and make them quickly. If you have open positions, now is the time to implement a hiring freeze. Identify an internal employee or multiple, that can be trained to complete additional jobs or tasks to fill this open position and ensure that they receive support in prioritising their workload for the most efficient outcome.
3. Offer what you can
If you’ve closed down your office this changes the need for hourly workers such as janitorial staff or office assistants, but if your company is still making sales, you may want to keep them on board at reduced wages or hours so you can scale back up quickly to meet demand.
If it’s not sustainable to pay their wages for the entirety of office closures, or even from the start, let them know that once the office re-opens, the position will be there for them to pick back up. While it’s not immediate security, hopefully, it provides a bit of comfort. Some companies opt to give employees the opportunity to temporarily move into other roles that are still needed.
4. Support your own
Layoffs might become inevitable, no one can predict how big of an effect this pandemic will have on companies. If you must lay off some, or all your employees, support them through the process. When terminating a portion of your workforce, assume what is said to those individuals will become known to the remaining employees and could impact the company morale.
Be honest with them as to why this decision was made but let them know the value they brought to the company and your appreciation. If you are able, offer them support in resume building, letters of recommendation, or tap into your network for any positions you may be able to help them land.
Ronn Torossian is a crisis management expert who has more than 20 years of experience working with national and international brands that go through disruptive and unexpected events that threaten to harm the organisation or its stakeholders.