Earlier this year, shortly after releasing a much-anticipated new service, one company was forced lay off roughly 700 people when growth expectations for the product failed to materialize. And when another company had to make layoffs during the pandemic, leadership chose to lay off nearly 3,500 workers over a video call.
In both cases, word spread quickly about the decisions and how they were carried out, with some commentary more critical than others. Layoffs do happen, and people can be amazingly open when it comes to understanding the logical “why?” behind downsizing. But brand sentiment doesn’t necessarily have go down during mass firings. In some cases, it can go up. The key to turning layoffs into an opportunity to showcase a company’s commitment to team members sometimes lies in the “how” of the experience.
The point isn’t that you shouldn’t lay anyone off as a business leader. That’s not reasonable, and things happen that are beyond your control. However, it pays to protect your brand reputation during the process. This means learning from others’ mishaps so that you stay nimble, relevant, and empathetic.
Regardless of whether you’re put in the uncomfortable position of having to lay off people soon, you should know how some tactics that might help you better navigate the responsibility.
Showing respect to talent while battling out hard moments can increase your perceived emotional intelligence, brand reputation, and even employer value proposition.
1. Opt for a caring attitude, not a callous one.
Travel and tourism were some of the first industries hit by the pandemic in 2020. As a result, one vacation rental company was forced to say goodbye to some of its workers. Instead of shirking from the responsibility, the co-founder and CEO sent out a heartfelt email filled with context for the situation. As a result, he turned into an example of how to treat employees facing difficult layoffs with dignity. The result? The company's brand has endured and seen post-COVID success.
2. Accept that you can’t hold back the tide.
A fatal flaw for many organizations is trying to work against general sentiment. It’s just not enough to show compassion if your company is structurally and culturally rigid. The world evolves quickly. If you’re not keeping up with your real-time brand reputation – or willing to learn so you can keep up – you’ll lose.
How does this relate to layoffs? You must pay attention to what’s happening around you and what your people need. Doing so can allow you to bolster your employer branding by changing your actions. Consumers have begun to find their voices in a big way and aren’t afraid to call out employers that aren’t keeping up with the times. Accordingly, be the organization that leads, not the one that watches while others dash past.
3. Seize the chance to galvanize people during lean and difficult times.
It’s safe to say that most firings happen during challenging times. Yet challenging times can be a huge gift. Rallying around your brand and team, surviving under pressure, and coming out the other side stronger tends to galvanize employees. Even if you have to let some of your workers go later, they’ll know that you tried your hardest to keep everyone working.
All business decisions require forethought. Some, like mass layoffs, require more planning than some organizations give. Before pulling any levers, make sure you’re operating from a point of empathy, caring, and respect backed by your company values and mission. Your culture may still be scuffed by the experience, but you’ll send a strong message that your brand puts understanding above profits.
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