You might think that employees who survive layoffs feel lucky or valued, but a study by outplacement provider RiseSmart finds that surviving team members have unique challenges that can hurt their productivity, and 43% of companies are not prepared for the impact.
“Most of the focus is on the employees who are leaving, and that’s understandable,” says Dan Davenport, president and general manager of RiseSmart. “Not enough attention is paid to the impact on the surviving employees by companies.”
Anxiety and a drop in morale are commonly felt, says Davenport. “Employees wonder what’s going to happen next,” he says. “They’re also worried about their former coworkers who are leaving the organization, wondering if they’ll land on their feet. This can lead to a loss of productivity.”
Companies need get in front of the potential impact by putting a plan in place, says Davenport. “You can’t eliminate the impact on productivity and morale when you have a layoff, but you can do a lot of things to minimize impact,” he says.
Have A Good Communication Plan
Start by sharing as much information about the layoff with the survivors as possible. Most managers aren’t adept at delivering this kind of information, so provide training when necessary, says Davenport. “They need to understand how to address the team,” he says. “Prepare them with messaging and notification training to make sure the process is a smooth one and doesn’t lead to legal liability.”
Be transparent about what is happening, how many people are affected, and how positions were selected, Davenport continues. “Reducing headcount is a business decision,” he says. “Explain how laid-off employees are being cared for, and be transparent about the future. Talk about what to expect when going through stages of transition and how work will be distributed, and discuss the possibility of future layoffs.”
Not delivering the right message or even ignoring it altogether can have a sizeable impact on business; 70% experience a negative impact on future talent acquisition efforts, and 81% report a negative impact on brand, according to the study.
Help Employees Develop Resiliency
Another tactic that can help surviving employees move forward is offering lessons in resiliency, suggests Davenport. Consider holding mindfulness training in the office, such as meditation or journaling classes. Learning how to “build in a pause” when reacting to situations will help employees learn how to process information and take out emotion before they react. Engaging in gratitude exercises, such as by journaling, can also increase positive emotions and reduce stress.
“It’s important to help employees keep their focus on the future,” says Davenport.
Hold Activities To Improve Morale
Finally, arrange events where employees can get together and share feelings, suggests Davenport. “Employees need to feel safe and comfortable in sharing,” he says. “It takes three months or longer for your surviving team to return to productivity. If you don’t do anything, it can take longer.”
Share your vision of the company’s future and connect each individual employee to the goals you have set, Davenport says. Offer career development, provide coaching, and encourage mentorship programs.
“Employers need to understand that employees who remain will experience the same stages of grief and loss as the employees who were let go,” says Davenport.