How To Boost Employee Morale Before, During and After Smartsizing

Dealing with layoffs and the resulting fallout after a company downsizes can be one of the most difficult tasks to face for any manager or human resource professional. It’s no secret that layoffs can take a major hit on company morale, not just for the workers who are being laid off, but for those who remain. Finding ways of keeping morale high in a workplace that has just downsized can be tricky, but it’s vital. Taking steps to reassure your remaining workers that they are valued and their jobs are secure can go a long way toward cementing company loyalty and making your business a place where employees want to work.

Behind the Wave of Smartsizing

The headline on the Business Insider article is stark: “A Wave of Layoffs Is Sweeping the U.S.” The article goes on to detail dozens of businesses that have downsized since the beginning of 2022, including many that made headlines: Netflix, Gap, Carvana, Ford Motor Company, Peloton and Wayfair among them. These layoffs follow two years of corporate and labor downsizing during COVID-19 when nearly 15% of U.S. adults reported that they were laid off because of the pandemic. While many of those were rehired — or found other jobs when businesses reopened — other businesses shed workers they’d hired to deal with a temporary boost in work during the shutdowns. To compound things even further, the Federal Reserve’s plan to fight inflation has many experts fearing that even more layoffs are coming

The truth is, though, that layoffs are an unfortunate fact of life in the modern workplace. Even without the extraordinary pressures of the last few years, businesses often choose to reduce their workforce for strategic reasons — to cut costs in the face of bankruptcy, because they’ve adopted new technology that requires fewer workers, or because a project has ended. When layoffs happen, the fallout can negatively affect everyone involved — and your business suffers. Taking an open, transparent approach to the situation is one of the most effective ways of managing employee morale before, during and after the workforce reduction. These tips can help you plan how to boost employee morale during these difficult times.

Before Layoffs — Make a Plan and Communicate It

There are a few throughlines in managing employee morale during layoffs — careful planning, open communication, transparency and respect for your employees. This starts from the moment your company decides to restructure. 

Have a Plan and a Process

Creating a layoff process — preferably before you ever have to use it — is helpful for many reasons, not the least of which is making sure that your company is in regulatory compliance. More importantly, when there’s a process, it informs everyone in the chain of command, from the front office to line managers, of their role and responsibilities. 

Communicate Openly, Effectively and Respectfully

Carefully consider how you’ll announce the layoffs — who will tell employees, how they’ll deliver the news and what they’ll say. In general, the news should come from a direct supervisor and should be delivered in person. The announcement should include the reasons for the downsizing, the steps the company has taken and what employees can expect to happen over the next several days. The person delivering it should express compassion and understanding, and be prepared to answer questions and manage employee reactions. The manager should also explain any assistance and benefits the company will provide for the workers whose jobs will be eliminated, and make a promise to keep the lines of communication open throughout the transition to a smaller workforce. Above all else, be honest and authentic in all of your communications. Your employees deserve your honesty.

Speak With Individual Employees Privately

Schedule private interviews with employees to discuss particulars about their situations. Give them time and space to express their emotions, and listen compassionately. Have any paperwork and informational handouts prepared in advance, and go through them together. Provide them with any information they need to access accrued benefits, as well as any processes or paperwork they need to transfer insurance policies, employee giving accounts and other benefits to themselves. 

During Layoffs — Be Transparent and Compassionate

The days and weeks immediately after an announced downsizing can be among the most difficult to manage. You can make it easier when you follow a few simple guidelines.

Get It Done Quickly

If possible, inform all employees that are part of the downsizing immediately. The longer it takes for everyone to know their status, the more time your employees will spend stressing and worrying if their job is on the line. 

Communicate New Directions Clearly and Promptly

Your remaining employees — known colloquially as survivors — know that things are going to be changing. Be open and honest about the plan going forward, and listen to any feedback they offer. The better they understand their evolving role — and the company’s evolving plan — the more comfortable it will be for everyone.

Be Available

As employees settle into their new workplace environment, make yourself available as much as possible. Don’t just wait for them to come to you. Go out of your way to check in with people. Reassure them, solicit their feedback on changes and step in to take up the slack as people adjust.

After Layoffs — Reassure, Reconfigure and Stabilize

As the workplace stabilizes, recognize that employees may still be dealing with the aftereffects. Downsizing survivors often have complicated feelings, ranging from continuing anxiety to survivor’s guilt. The steps you take now are not just a short-term strategy — think of them as a blueprint for employee engagement going forward.

Reconfigure and Regroup

Continue to be available to answer questions and help employees sort through their new responsibilities and roles. Listen to concerns openly and with compassion, and be willing to take feedback and criticism without taking it personally. 

Rebuild Trust and Goodwill

This is the time to turn back to everything you know about building a healthy workplace culture and put it into practice. Keep in mind that this is a key “moment that matters,” and the actions you take now will resonate with employees for as long as they stay with you. For example:

  • You can offset the reality of giving employees more responsibility by shifting to more flexible schedules that take their lives into account
  • Give employees more voice in decisions that affect them most
  • Review your current benefits package with your employees and find ways to make it more meaningful to them

The Bottom Line

Restructuring and downsizing are never fun, but this can be an opportunity to make other positive changes in your company. Setting up a meaningful employee giving program is one of those positive changes. Groundswell can help you get a corporate giving program up and running faster than any other. Our platform makes the entire giving process more efficient by establishing a personal giving fund for each employee  while reducing the amount of tracking and work for your HR department. Best of all, it’s designed to respect and support all of your employees’ diverse perspectives and shows them that you’re truly committed to building a respectful, inclusive, diverse workplace for everyone.