Communication is perhaps the most important part of any reduction in force planning. It is important to know your message, understand your why, and be able to articulate it to your company. Following are just a few of our top tips on how to communicate during a layoff.

  1. If at all possible, deliver the message 1:1 and face to face. People want and need a personal connection, as well as the privacy to process the information. In some instance it is simply not possible to provide 1:1 communication due to the number of people impacted. In those instances, it is even more imperative that it be face to face. Sending a memo, like Microsoft did in 2014, not only risks misunderstanding and unanswered questions, it can create a hostile environment where employees feel they are simply numbers to an organization, thus significantly increasing your risk.
  2. Give people time to process the information and circle back to ensure understanding. When you present the news that you are terminating someone’s employment, only expect them to hear 25% of what you are saying. After your initial announcement, they will be thinking of how this impacts them and what they need to do, they will not be listening to information about benefits and timelines. They will need time to process the information you are presenting and will most likely have questions.
  3. Because people will only be listening to 25% of the message, it is VERY important to have information in writing for each employee. A best practice is to have individualized packets for every employee that are personalized with information about their time at the company. Providing FAQs is also an excellent way to convey your complete message and perhaps preemptively answer their questions.
  4. Always be sure to leave them with a place to turn for answers. Even if it seems obvious to you that they should ask their manager or HR, be sure to clearly communicate who they should be calling or emailing at 3am when they need clarification. (As 3am is when we ALL need clarification on something.)

It is always important to educate ourselves by reading articles and blog posts about best practices, however the real key to ensuring that your message lands with your employees, is knowing your employees. Over time, it is important to get to know your employee population and begin to assess what is important to them. Do they want 1:1 time with you and your team? Do they need their questions answered in person or in writing? Will the business analytics of a decision land well or will it feel cold and uncaring?

While a company is thriving it is best to take note of your employees’ communication style and preferences. The very best way to do this is by speaking with your employees and using an empathetic communication model to get to the heart of your company.

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