An article detailing the layoffs that continue to happen worldwide.

How To Design a Layoff Communication Plan

Layoffs can be disorganizing and unsettling for employees and their employers. Cutting down a workforce is not a route any employer wants to go down. Still, in many cases, it is usually a solution – albeit an uncomfortable one- for a company’s problems.

While every stage of a layoff process is complex, not communicating the layoff to employees effectively can make it a more rattling process. Layoffs are confusing, but effective layoff communication reduces the worries and stress accompanying the process. In this guide, we will offer everything you need to know about communicating effectively during a layoff process by creating an effective layoff communication plan.

Communicating Layoffs Effectively

A survey of 2000 companies showed that an estimated 65% of companies implemented a layoff process between 2008 and 2011.

Layoffs are typically seen as a way to cut company costs when the economic environment becomes challenging. While layoffs are seen as stepping stones to help a company out of a difficult financial time, it is usually a disastrous event for the employees caught in the crossfire. After all, laying employees off means you are letting them know they are now, as far as the company is concerned, unemployed.

How do you break this news to employees working tirelessly toward a company’s growth? 

Communicating layoffs effectively doesn’t simply involve telling your employees how their roles have been affected due to downsizing. It is a strategic process that makes the already painful process less painful by being empathetic while minimizing anxiety and stress that might arise from the situation.

Seeing that layoffs are rarely spontaneous decisions, it is essential to have a plan in place to ensure necessary information is disseminated effectively and as compassionately as possible. This is where having a solid layoff communication plan comes in.

Importance of Layoff Communication Plans

The impact of layoffs in an organization ranges from job insecurity to impaired office relationships and even a strain on productivity. For the affected employees, layoffs lead to shock, sadness, and in many cases, anger at the organization.

How a layoff is communicated will cause a lasting impact on an organization. It impacts the affected employees, the surviving workers, and the company’s overall reputation. As such, it is essential to communicate with employees to provide transparency, support, and understanding during a difficult and emotional time. To do this, you need an effective playoff communication plan.

Some critical reasons for a layoff communication plan include:

  • Employee Well-Being: Being told they can no longer work with a company is one of the most traumatic news any employee can be given. This will cause a range of negative responses that adversely affect the involved employees’ mental and physical well-being. A solid communication plan can help convey the news with empathy and sensitivity, thereby offering the support and resources necessary for going through the transition. Transparent and compassionate communication can mitigate the negative emotional results of the process and help employees cope with the situation more effectively.
  • Improve Employee Morale: Employees who remain after a downsize are equally negatively affected during the layoff process. The fear and uncertainty of what their fate in the company holds looms over them, making them doubtful of their purpose and stance in the company. This, in turn, adversely affects employee morale, making them less productive in the long run. By effectively communicating the layoff information, companies can address employee concerns and maintain trust in the organization. This helps employees handle the news of the structural changes taking place within the company better, ensuring they remain engaged in their duties and organizational roles.
  • Employee Retention: Layoffs create a sense of insecurity in the workforce. Knowing that their jobs can be taken away from them should the company’s financial situation not improve, employees are usually unsure of where they stand. In many cases, employees end up feeling dispensable. Effective communication can convince employees that they are still valued by the company, even if the layoff does not directly impact them. This improves employee morale and increases job security, making it less likely for crucial talent to leave the organization.
  • Legal Considerations: In many jurisdictions, there are several laws and regulations guiding the termination of employee employment by an organization. These laws vary by state and country and highlight factors like the duration of notice and severance packages that should be given to victims. A proper communication plan ensures that the company complies with these regulations, reducing the risk of legal repercussions.
  • Company Reputation: How a company handles its layoff process significantly affects its reputation within and outside the organization. Employees are a company’s most prominent ambassador and their testimonies about a company significantly affect that company’s reputation. When a company handles layoff insensitively, it is implausible that an employee will sing its praises when they leave. This can tarnish the company’s image among customers and stakeholders. Conversely, a well-managed communication plan can demonstrate the company’s commitment to treating employees with respect and dignity, thereby reinforcing its reputation as a company that values its employees.
  • Mitigating Rumors: Layoff processes often lead to speculations and rumors among employees. Rumors are usually made up of misleading information that may negatively affect employee morale and even damage a company’s reputation. Effective communication during a layoff process can proactively address rumors and provide accurate information to avoid misunderstandings. This makes it easier to ensure clarity during the process.
  • Internal Alignment: Layoffs can throw internal operations off track. This problem may be especially pronounced among executives or leaders of teams, those within which employees are to be terminated. This confusion not only makes the process more difficult but will also affect other ongoing operations with the establishment. With a well-thought and formulated layoff communication plan, companies can ensure managers and leaders are on the same page when communicating with their teams. This prevents confusion and shows every member of every section is on the same page with other occurrences going on within the company.
A man and woman having a meeting
Communicating with empathy minimizes the adverse effects that accompany company layoffs.

Steps For Creating a Layoff Communication Plan

Creating a layoff communication plan involves various elements driven toward making the downsizing process more seamless and tolerable for all parties involved. It is built to dispel the confusion that comes with the process, ensuring the damages caused by the mass communication of employee contracts are minimal.

Since communication is one of the many things companies get wrong during layoffs, it is essential to create a plan to guide the communication process. Some steps you can take to create an effective communication plan include:

1. Involve The Right People

When communicating effectively about downsizing, it is first essential to identify the right audience. This will ensure you tailor your layoff communication strategy to suit the needs of the various employees in the establishment.

Although downsizing typically targets certain employees, it creates a ripple effect that affects all members of the organization. As such, it is essential to communicate the plans for the layoff effectively so everyone knows what to expect and, in some type of way, prepare for it.

The categories of people to include in your planning range from employees being laid off to those who survive the layoff. You must also include clients, shareholders, and anyone who plays a role in the company’s success. By knowing this different category, you can identify their unique needs and ensure the right people know how structural changes will affect them going forward.

2.  Choose The Proper Communication Channels

The channel a company uses to announce its layoff process says a lot about them. More importantly, it determines how the employees will receive the information and how well they can or will react to the information. The right communication channel ensures that information reaches the affected party of the layoff timely and effective.

It ensures information spreads evenly as when due. The best communication channel for communicating news about layoffs depends on the size of the company and the severity or urgency level. The best media for layoffs include face-to-face meetings, video conferences, emails, phone calls, official newsletters, and even face-to-face company-wide announcements. However, it is best to notify affected employees in person rather than via texts or emails.

Layoffs are emotionally-charged events, and face-to-face communication allows human connection. Delivering news about a job loss to an employee via text seems impersonal, especially since it doesn’t leave room for employees to express themselves or for employers to receive feedback. However, by delivering news about a layoff in person, employers provide reassurance and support during that period and enable two-way communication. 

3. Develop Your Messages

Layoffs are rarely spontaneous, but surprisingly, many companies do not bother to spend time purposefully developing how to properly pass information to their workers. Many employees tend to adopt an informal method that involves dropping the news like a bombshell without adequately planning to pass the message effectively. 

As such, it is vital to adopt a formal stance, ensuring to take time to develop the messages and ensure they are passed around effectively. This reduces or entirely eliminates the effects of rumor mills, ensuring all workers have access to crucial information. 

During this development stage, it is essential to apply strategic timing and tactics of passing the right messages at the right time. This is to ensure the messages passed to the affected parties yield minimal negative impact on them.

4. Train Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors are the closest representations of authority to employees. They are litigators in the chain of command and are usually directly in charge of all employees in an office. As such, when it is time to communicate the terms and effects of a downsize, managers and leaders are usually the ones employees talk to. 

As a result, it is important to train managers and supervisors on the proper ways to effectively communicate with employees during the sensitive and emotional process. Managers should be prepared to understand the emotional impact of layoffs and be equipped with the skills necessary for sharing the news compassionately, considering the individual circumstances of each employee.

Additionally, training your managers and supervisors on how to communicate during and after layoffs effectively ensures the remaining employees get the morale boost they need. With an empathetic manager trained to help them navigate the confusion following the entire process, the effects of the layoff on team members and employees are mitigated. This creates an environment where employees continue to feel supported even after a downsize.

5. Notify Employees

When all elements are in place, the next step involves notifying the employees. However, before simply sending out emails or scheduling meetings here, you will discuss with employees about their fates. It is essential to first determine the timing of how you’re going to do so. Additionally, you may also want to pick the order in which you are going to discuss with employees.

The communication or notification sequence of layoff communication plays a significant role in the process. Undoubtedly, some employees will take the news of the termination of their appointment worse than others. It is essential to keep this in mind when choosing to notify workers.

For example, if the company is laying off a large number of employees at once, you may decide to communicate with the more outgoing workers first before working your way into the best of the affected workforce. 

You may also prefer to notify all employees at once. For layoffs on a small scale, you may like to notify employees individually regardless of sequence, or you may decide to notify all employees at once. For terminating remote workers, the strategy might be a little bit different from that of laying off physical workers.

The preferred method depends solely on your workforce, policies (if any), and management preference.

6. Building Bridges

The layoff process with terminated employees does not end when they are told they can no longer work with your company. Even after termination, it is best not to burn bridges by continuing to offer support. After all, former employees were once part of your establishment and still yield power over your reputation in the public. 

Continue offering support like job searches and career counseling. You may also provide access to training and job referrals and pay out the necessary severance packages on time. By providing as much support as possible, organizations show they are empathetic and value employees even after the end of their work contract.

7. Helping Employees

A layoff communication plan is incomplete without a strategy for ramping up communication with surviving employees. Layoffs can be brutal on workplace friendships. With familiar faces gone, nerves frayed, and tension at an all-time high, it is not strange for employees leftover from the layoff to be stressed. This can negatively impact organizational operations, damaging employee morale and severely reducing employee productivity.

To fix this problem, it is important to continue communicating with employees even after layoffs. Work with employees to restore their faith in their jobs and show them that the company still cares about them.

Help them get back on track. Create an environment that fosters psychological safety to ensure employees can communicate their grievances without being frowned upon. More importantly, prioritize wellness by providing adequate support and resources employees may need. This will help them acclimate to changes faster and create a seamless integration process.

A man pointing at sticky notes on a whiteboard.
Creating a solid layoff communication plan is one of the most essential procedures a company can undertake

Creating The Ultimate Communication Plan

Layoffs can be emotionally stressful for any organization. However, the lack of an effective and efficient communication plan can make the sensitive process even more complicated.

Layoff communication plans ensure that affected employees are informed with empathy, transparency, and respect during this challenging and sensitive process. While this doesn’t change the fact that the workforce is undergoing a drastic change, it makes the changes easier to handle for employees who lost their jobs and those who are left over after the fact.

Restructuring after a layoff might require a company to hire talent to make up for the loss of employees. When hiring quality candidates with the necessary skill sets to fill your vacant job roles, our team at iCreatives has the experience and skills to meet your staffing needs.

From remote employees to full-time workers, we help you source talents faster regardless of your industry and budget. To begin your hiring process, contact us at 855-427-3284 or 855.i.creatives.

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