Are you being forced to make cutbacks? What about letting go of some employees? It’s not a pleasant situation to be in, but there is a way to handle it correctly, remembering that your employees are your ambassadors, whether they can stay with you or have to leave. It’s important to behave humanely and positively throughout the entire process.
Something didn’t seem right. This wasn’t just another invitation and it didn’t feel like the meeting that all the employees were expecting. Some got suspicious when the list of invitees and the subject of the meeting were kept hidden. Then they started figuring out which of their colleagues weren’t invited. The company Bird surprised 406 of its employees when it fired them during a Zoom meeting two weeks after they all started working from home. Some put in extra hours just to help the company get through this difficult time, even as it was forced to wind down its activities around the world. Suddenly, about 40% of Bird’s employees were sent home in what became an excellent example of how NOT to let employees go right now, or ever.
When letting go of employees, it’s worth remembering that both sides of the table are occupied by human beings and it’s important to be humane and transparent while trying to understand their position and help them as much as possible.
Outplacement services are meant to help you formulate a plan, understand how your brand will get through these kinds of crises and how to treat your employees when you have to let them go and after. As part of their services, they hold a number of additional meetings with employees who have been let go to help them understand what comes next and what their options are. This also helps you manage the entire process properly in a humane and respectful manner so that your former employees head out into the job market less resentful and with practical tools to help them move forward.
Here are a few important points to help you understand better how best to approach the process of letting employees go:
- Plan it out ahead of time – If you have to let go of a number of people due to the current situation, it’s important to have a plan, including a timetable, the way in which conversations will be conducted, the order of who you will talk to first and how to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. True, it’s not pleasant, but there are ways to make it a bit better. It’s on you to take care that your messaging is clear and reflects your brand during and after the conversation.
- Stick to a schedule – It’s absolutely critical to set aside time for a conversation with all of your employees, including those you aren’t letting go. Remember, most of your employees will be in contact with their colleagues even after some have been let go, which can impact the morale of the organization. That’s why it’s important to demonstrate unity, leadership and to be prepared for the days ahead.
- Don’t drag things out – When you let someone know you’re letting them go, try not to drag it out too long. Come prepared to deliver all the important points, possibly even writing them down beforehand. Make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Be attentive and patient. It’s not easy, but you have no choice – you have to do it. Try to avoid parting ways in any way that might feel traumatic for your employees. In fact, make it as pleasant as you possibly can. Continuing to care for employees after their contracts are terminated is a great way not only to display empathy, but also to give true and honest help as they face the next steps in their lives after working for your organization. Don’t forget to leave things on a positive note, complement and thank them for the work they’ve done and generally praise them instead of tearing them down. Talk to them about the next step in their careers and how you might be able to play a role.
- Really want to help – After terminating a contract, and as part of the process as a whole, it’s best to follow up with employees who have been let go with two or three more meetings meant to help them prepare for the next phase in their lives. Take this opportunity to help them improve and update their resumes, LinkedIn profiles and to locate new opportunities. Employees released by your organization should be informed of their rights, understand what comes next and know that you have done everything possible to give them the tools they need and thanked them for everything they’ve done.
- The day after – Reach out to your employees who remain and tell them what happened, where things currently stand and where you’re headed together. These employees will also emerge stronger with the knowledge that they were not let go even in times of immense pressure, but were taken into consideration and can count on you for help in the future. This is another instance in which it’s important to display leadership, discuss the future and make sure that your employees have the option of talking to somebody in the company when they need it.
- Don’t be afraid to get help from professionals – Understanding that you can do all this best with the input of professionals will help you prevent expensive and unexpected mistakes. An organized plan will make it easier for you to emerge from this crisis stronger while granting employees the necessary tools, whether they are leaving or will continue leading the ship you’re on forward into the future. Managing this process in an organized and responsible manner will allow you to maintain the employer branding you’ve always aimed for both inside and outside of your organization today as well as when this crisis is over.
The goal of this process is to help you part ways correctly, leaving the best taste possible in the mouths of everyone involved by providing tools and guidance to employees you have to part ways with, especially when this situation has been “forced” on by abnormal circumstances. Don’t act on a whim or out of stress. Do things properly, with the help of professionals if necessary, and help your team leave respectfully with an open door to return another day or at least to continue as your ambassadors externally, outside the walls of the company.
Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have about our outplacement services.