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We’ll come to you.

The reality is this question is being asked a lot these days. Some companies are superb or really "show their stuff" when it comes to communicating internally to employees during these challenging times. Others may not be doing such a great job. Trust me, I’ve heard some horror stories. I actually heard a story this past week that one company told everyone who was invited to a conference call that if they were on the line they were fired. That’s wild! I’ve blogged before about my combined role as an HR, Communications and Brand professional the benefits of my company’s integrated operating model that combines HR, Brand, Communications and Corporate Responsibility under one function. I’d like to share with you our communications approach to delivering the tough message about workforce reductions.


More than ever, my team has heard me talk about "lifetime employment relationships." Our employees are often times our customers and may become future customers, so their overall employee experience is important. Of course, fairness, dignity and respect are especially important when communicating job eliminations.


We began our necessary cost reductions communications strategy with periodic communications to employees about the state of our company and the overall economic environment. We believe in transparency and have been straight-forward with our employees regarding expectations about managing expenses since the beginning of the economic downturn. We aim for adult-like transparency in sharing both bad and good news. The Internal Communications and HR partnership was critical. Here’s a snapshot of what we did: 

  • Created a manager toolkit packed with helpful tips on how to communicate to employees in a manner to keep them motivated and focused on the business, as we expected employees would naturally be distracted and feel confused by the economic upheaval.
  • Distributed an all-manager communication from the CEO that offered a preview of an all-employee communication from him about necessary expense and staff reductions. The communication stressed the importance for managers to meet with their teams, giving them a short, four-day window to not only notify impacted employees, but talk with their teams about changes. Our CEO also encouraged managers to give employees, those impacted and those staying with the company, time to process the news. We wanted the notification to be short to reduce tension, but long enough so that each person impacted could have an individual discussion.
  • Kept the media at bay because we wanted our people to hear first from us, not their morning newspaper.
  • Distributed an all-employee communication from the CEO about expense and staff reductions.
  • Created talking points for managers to help them address questions from employees.
  • Created talking points for our Customer Service area so they could address questions from our customers about the workforce reductions.
  • Encouraged managers to schedule face-to-face meetings with impacted employees, even those with virtual reporting relationships.
  • Hosted manager and employee Webinars (we have many locations across the U. S.) to explain the severance program and communicate the availability of outplacement services.
  • Informed impacted employees that representatives from our outplacement service were available on-site to answer questions about the program and engage them to think about approaching the job market in such challenging times.


Keeping in mind my philosophy about lifetime employment, I believe we carefully managed through this difficult time. We hope many of the people impacted will work for us again some time in the future, and we hope they remain loyal customers and brand ambassadors for our company.


I wish I could say that we executed this plan to perfection, but unfortunately there are always flaws, and we can certainly find room for improvement. I’m interested in hearing about your story, sharing best practices and lessons learned.