During the last few months, many large technology companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Meta, and Twitter have carried out mass layoffs, with other smaller companies also culling large numbers of staff. In such tumultuous times, much support is rightly given to those who are laid off, but there’s also an impact on those who are left behind. So, what can you do to help those employees find their confidence and feel secure in their roles after a round of layoffs?
Understanding Company Layoffs
Being laid off is often traumatic, as it can make people doubt themselves or feel like they did something wrong or didn’t do enough, even when they’re among the survivors of the layoffs. From an HR perspective, company layoffs are challenging to manage, especially when it comes to finding ways to ensure the remaining employees feel supported.
It’s important for those affected by company layoffs to realize it’s a process of survival for businesses—that in times of economic downturn, companies need to make cutbacks and implement restructures that result in job losses. This can and often does affect the most talented and valued employees at times.
It’s also important to remind your team that most people who are laid off do find a new job and return to work or embark on a whole new career as a result of the employment break and the opportunity to consider future plans. All potential positives can be highlighted by the HR department and bolstered by offers to write references for workers who’ve been laid off.
Those left behind will likely have insecurities, too, or even survivor’s guilt. This is why it’s vital for HR managers to support all remaining staff, to reassure them their job is safe at the moment, and to rebuild their trust.
How to Help Employees Cope with the Fallout from Layoffs
Having to lay staff off is naturally difficult and upsetting for any HR member, but by being transparent, you can improve the whole experience for everyone involved—for those delivering the tough decisions, those on the receiving end, and those who are staying at the organization.
Transparency builds trust for those who remain with the organization, and people respond well to people they like and trust. It’s important to say how it is and to be clear about the reasons for the layoffs. While it may seem brutal at times, telling people the truth shows you respect them and allows the employees who have been laid off to leave in the most positive way possible and those left behind to understand and start to make sense of what just happened.
Share details of what help the company is offering to those who’ve been laid off with those staying behind. For example, let those remaining know about any severance packages or career assistance, and clarify whether anyone has been furloughed rather than laid off. By doing so, you demonstrate that the company is treating those who are being laid off with respect and kindness—something they’ll likely respond well to.
Employees who’ve seen mass layoffs might believe that doing a good job no longer equates to employment security, but managers and HR teams can help employees who, as a result, might be feeling job insecurity.
It may be cliché, but actions speak louder than words. Take accountability for what’s happening, and offer support when you can by asking individuals what they’d like to happen next. Maybe they’d like to take time off or potentially go for a promotion if one is available as a result of the company restructure.
Create a safe space for employees to process their emotions about the layoffs so you can address any concerns and ensure they feel listened to.
Losing colleagues can be distracting and upsetting for those who stay behind. It’s a good idea to give work a purpose and explain to employees how their roles make a big difference to the company’s overall goals. People who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to connect with their work and want to do a good job.
It’s by having a strong connection with teams that HR experts create a healthy company culture, one that encourages staff retention and engagement and ultimately helps employees feel valued in the aftermath of a mass layoff.
Offer Support Services
Depending on your level of seniority and how you cope with stressful situations, creating a safe space around what support services look like is key. To do this, you can partner with businesses to work with affected employees for résumé and LinkedIn review and feedback, as well as interview prep to help them land their next role. You can also offer mental health services, like introductions to counseling practices to help them work through any emotions to ensure they reenter the workforce in the best place.
Jenna Bayuk is the founder of Kinship Kollective and has more than 15 years’ experience in the development and coaching of individuals in business spanning marketing, events, talent acquisition, and operations.