Making the decision to layoff even one member of your workforce is a serious choice with long and short term consequences. We put together a short list of things to help you plan and prepare for a layoff. Keep in mind that there are other items that you will need to take into account when planning and conducting a layoff, however these will certainly get you started and will help you think about the global impact a layoff may have on your company.
1. There are definitely laws! The US Government has created laws specifically governing employee rights regarding layoffs. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) offers protection to workers by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of some layoffs. In general, employers are covered by WARN if they have 100 or more employee and they are laying off a large percentage of their workforce. Additionally, some states have Mini WARN laws, which are more inclusive of smaller employers or employers laying off a small percentage of their employees. But WARN is not the only law you should be aware of, State and Federal anti discrimination laws should also be at the forefront of all decisions you are marking. It is important that the decisions you are making are not discriminatory, even unintentionally.
2. Understand the risks of your choices. The decision of who to layoff should be made carefully and with a global perspective. It is important not only to think of the short term impact, but the long term impact on your business. Why is this the person you chose? Who will take over their responsibilities? Is this a temporary decline in business or is this permanent? It is also important to think about what makes this person unique to your organization. Do they have institutional knowledge that will be difficult to transfer? Perhaps their uniqueness was not about their job responsibilities, but about something else they brought to the company. Were they the head of the party planning committee? Finally, and most importantly, you need to think about anything else that makes them unique that could pose an even bigger threat to your organization. Where they recently on an leave of absence? Did they recently suffer from a Workers Compensation Injury? The answers that you give do not necessarily preclude this individual from being laid off, but they certainly should be factored into your decision and your plans for the future.
3. Communication is KEY. From the first idea that this may need to occur at your company, to the final employee communication, it is extremely important that you stay in control of the information and the information flow. Rumors kill morale and cause excessive stress and worry. It is very important to bring only those that truly need to know into the circle during your planning stages. As you get ready to tell those affected, it is time to widen your circle. Each layer should be told and educated in order, and preferably as close together as possible. After you have made plans and you are ready to announce this to your company, your first step is to tell your managers and ensure they are trained to deliver the message effectively and answer questions from employees. Next the circle will widen to those impacted and finally it will encompass your entire organization.
4. Expect repercussions. Even the most well executed and communicated layoffs will have repercussions. People will ask you questions you may not have the answer to. Someone will be unhappy with the package you offered, even if it was extremely generous. An employee will come to you with a money saving plan to save their job. In each instance you need to remember why you had to make this decision in the first place and you need to express this with empathy and certainty. Empathy creates an environment where people feel understood and listened to. Utilizing empathy and transparency during a layoff is the difference between people feeling heard and understood, even if they do not like the outcome, and people feeling angry and resentful.
Taking a partner early on in the process to ensure you have support you need to make these difficult decisions with the care and analysis they deserve could prove to be invaluable. The road leading up to a company’s decision to layoff an employee is long and winding. The process of actually laying someone off should also be a long well planned decision that is executed with the care and concern it deserves.