With the UK economy worsening and not likely to recover until 2025, many organisations will be reviewing their financial positions and looking to make tough decisions regarding what is typically their largest expenditure – their employees. We’ve seen some high-profile examples of how some organisations have dealt with cost cutting, such as billionaire Elon Musk who dismissed half of Twitter’s workforce and then proceeded to mock them through the platform, while at the same time expecting the remaining workforce to work harder and longer – hardly a compassionate approach.
Employees are often frustrated with not being appreciated or valued for the work they do. A recent survey of US workers identified that 59 per cent of them do not feel appreciated by management. Despite giving so much of themselves to their work, to find themselves without a job can be immensely stressful, and it’s important that organisations deal with this in a compassionate and caring way.
Just like every household throughout the UK cutting back on their expenditure, it’s necessary for organisations to do the same if they are to survive. For those employees who lose their jobs, they might ask why organisations, with all their insights, didn’t plan ahead, minimising any need for job losses. During these times of extreme stress, it’s important that the leaders of the business acknowledge any mistakes that were made in the direction of travel, which led to the drastic actions now required. A great example is the email sent by Patrick Collison to all staff when Stripe had to reduce their workforce by approximately 14 per cent, where he highlighted the errors made in being too optimistic about future growth, and over hiring for a world that has now changed. Leaders taking responsibility for actions that led to employees losing their livelihoods and acknowledging the pain this has caused can allow those impacted to take some comfort in knowing this had nothing to do with them, or their performance.
But what else can organisations do to ensure terminating employee contracts is done with dignity and respect?
One question that can often arise is how the organisation ended up in this position. This can consume employees unable to understand what went wrong. Sharing the company position, mistakes made and the actions now needed, while still stressful, may go someway to helping employees better deal with the situation. People then want to know what happens next. Having a clear and transparent communication plan, informing employees of how often they will be updated, what they will be updated with, and the timelines expected, will allow them to plan ahead and feel a sense of certainty in a now uncertain world. This will also help minimise speculation, which tends to be an exaggeration of the truth, adding greater anxiety for employees.
Providing a platform for employees to express their views, no matter how emotional, will allow them to know their voices matter. Leaders don’t often have the opportunity to hear the impact of job losses on employees, but providing a forum where leaders are present, can listen and provide answers to any questions may provide some solace to employees, while also demonstrating how important they are to the organisation.
How businesses deal with employee layoffs not only impacts those losing their jobs, but also the wider organisation. The respect and care shown to those having to leave the company will go on to impact those who remain, with whom many will have developed life-long friendships. Employers can often overlook the pain of losing friends at work, and the impact this has on the morale of everyone else. By providing remaining employees the opportunity to share how they feel acknowledges the impact any job losses will have on the rest of the organisation.
The language used by leaders will be critical in helping the transition, where the focus should be on kindness, care and compassion, rather than KPIs and business performance, during what will be a very emotional time for those affected.
Employees who are about to lose their jobs will be filled with dread about how they will cope, especially with soaring household bills. While organisations work to secure their long-term future, they can show compassion by providing more than minimum reimbursements to their employees where possible, giving them a much-needed buffer while they find employment elsewhere. Where this isn’t possible because of the financial position of the organisation, they may consider maintaining some of the company benefits for a limited time post-employment, such as health insurance, for example, reducing the abrupt nature of the termination, showing care and appreciation, through this discretionary action. Additional support such as financial planning to help manage household budgets may also alleviate some of the pressure many will experience.
Job losses can leave employees questioning their value, impacting on their self-esteem and confidence. Providing coaching and career support, from the moment employees are informed about the job losses, can help them feel less isolated during these stressful times, knowing they have access to experts who can help them plan ahead. This is also an opportunity to help employees better understand their own values and passions, allowing them to find their ideal next role, giving them an opportunity to get excited about their future.
While businesses are focused on employee experiences, they should also consider the experiences of those who lose their jobs. A true reflection of how well an organisation lives up to its values is how it treats all of its staff. Job losses will have an impact on the wellbeing of those leaving, as well as those remaining, and it’s important the company supports and cares for all its employees in a compassionate way.
Amrit Sandhar is CEO and founder of The Engagement Coach