Don’t Burn Bridges – Helping Your Employees Land After a Layoff

HCA career training when employees are laid off

Unfortunately, layoffs are often an unavoidable fact of life for companies and employees. Though not a decision to be taken lightly, layoffs are sometimes the last resort to improve the long term viability of a company.


While laying off employees is always a painful process, there are things you can do to lessen the blow for outgoing employees, remaining employees, and the leaders that are on the front line of delivering the difficult news. With a thoughtful approach, an effective outplacement strategy, and career training coaches, you can help everyone look towards future opportunities rather current and past disappointments.



Help Outgoing Employees Land on Their Feet

A laid off employee has had their entire life changed in an instant. It’s completely natural for them to respond with emotion – after all, they have dedicated a substantial amount of their time and efforts to the company. Helping these outgoing employees land on their feet is a meaningful gesture of goodwill, and a way to demonstrate that you still care about their success.


Treating outgoing employees with respect and compassion is critical. Here’s where career transition and career management coaching can give employees clarity through complexity and direction towards a new, meaningful career.


In the case of restructuring and downsizing, employees are let go not because of anything they did wrong. Rather, it may be their termination is to help secure the company’s long term survival. By supporting an existing employee’s transition by helping them find the next opportunity, you are acknowledging their contribution to current and future success.


Beyond simply being the right thing to do, there’s a strong business case to offering career transition and career management coaching and support as well. Not only does it demonstrate that you value your employees, but it helps limit any litigation or public criticism, and improves the retention rates of remaining employees.


For many employees, the job market may have changed dramatically since they were last looking for a job, and they will not have their resume or network ready if the layoff came out of the blue. Career transition coaching can help outgoing employees build a strategy, develop their network, and identify new positions they may not have otherwise thought of.


If at all possible, giving employees advanced notice of layoffs and the services available can help them prepare before they are out of a job. It allows them to work on their resume, develop their network, and assist with transferring knowledge and work to remaining employees.




Reassure Remaining Employees

Once the layoffs are complete, remaining employees will almost certainly be feeling a mix of vulnerability, anxiousness, sadness, uncertainty and even potentially excitement as new realities sink in. It is so essential to acknowledge and address these feelings and communicate as openly and honestly as possible with these remaining employees.


Reassure them that outgoing employees, their friends and former colleagues, were taken care of with proper outplacement and coaching. The people who are left are the people who will help move your company forward, but only if they trust that you were fair and reasonable in your decision. As much as possible, confirm that assistance will be provided to help cover the increase in workload. Keep communication channels open and give them an opportunity to express any concerns or fears they may have.


Your ability to communicate effectively and regularly will prove invaluable in the long term. Strong leadership strategies are required to help employees focus on potential and purpose and to recommit themselves to the organization. Your leadership will be key in helping staff to recognize and deal with their emotions. Practice your listening! Listen to understand.


There may likely be a drop in productivity immediately following a layoff, but if managed correctly – with openness, honesty and an outcomes-focused perspective, remaining employees can be reinvigorated to help the company meet the future.



Ensure Leaders Have the Resources and Skills Needed to Manage Layoffs

Your leaders are going to be on the frontline of any layoff. They will be the ones communicating the difficult news to their employees, and in many cases, this will be the last interaction outgoing employees have with your company. It is therefore critical that leaders have the resources, information and skill required to handle these conversations and make them as humane as possible.


Leaders will also be on the front line in reassigning work to their remaining teams and ensuring the effective transfer of skills and knowledge. For a leader who has never gone through a layoff before, the entire process can be unclear and intimidating. If possible, prepare them for what’s to come through ongoing coaching and help them navigate the tough decisions that are ahead.



My Challenge to You – Review Your Outplacement Services

Though layoffs are often inevitable, the pain that comes with them does not have to be. Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal reported that not only were fewer organizations providing corporate sponsored outplacement services, the amount they were spending on these services had dropped considerably. While it may look like an easy cost-saving measure, cutting outplacement services such as career transition coaching can have damaging long term consequences on your brand, retention rates, and employee productivity. If you’re facing the possibility of layoffs, I recommend you:


  • Review the services you are providing to outgoing employees
  • Consider ways you can help outgoing employees land on their feet
  • Avoid “burning bridges”
  • Develop a clear communication strategy that emphasizes transparency and honesty.


Jennifer Collins is CEO and Managing Director of Hazell and Collins Associates (HCA). Learn more about HCA’s career transition and outplacement services.

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