How to Lay Off Employees with Care and Compassion

Claire Hastwell

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LAURIE MINOTT

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Laurie Minott & Claire Hastwell

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If you were to ask managers around the world what part of their jobs they disliked the most, there’s a good chance you’d find laying off employees at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, the reality is that even among best companies, layoffs cannot be avoided in extraordinary times.

However, the Best Workplaces find ways to maintain trust, even when tough economic times call for layoffs. Our research has shown that companies who build trust during difficult times experience faster recovery to their business and to their brand.

What do they do when faced with the prospect of letting people go?

We looked at our data from the Great Recession to see how leading organizations navigated those tumultuous days. And talking with leaders at Best Workplaces™ navigating through this more current crises, we found a number of common practices:

1. Promote a culture of listening

When leaders and managers focus their time listening to their people, they are better equipped to have tough conversations when layoffs are necessary.

When you really know your employees as people, rather than merely workers, you know what they value and what style of communication resonates best. You can have the conversation knowing how to best respond to their needs.

For example:

  • Longtime employees might need reassurance that the layoff wasn’t due to poor performance
  • Caregivers might be more focused on what this means for their family

Everyone reacts differently during stressful situations, but knowing who they are and what is important to them can help you be more sensitive and focused, making a difficult conversation more compassionate.

2. Support your managers

For many managers, laying off an employee is the most difficult part of their role.

Support your managers by providing tools, resources, and support with delivering difficult news, so they feel more prepared for these conversations.

Some ways you can support your people managers:

  • Meet with managers to acknowledge the challenges, the importance of their role, and describe the company’s approach for supporting employees – linking it to company values.
  • Call on experts in grief or resiliency training.
  • Create a forum (whether an online chat channel or recurring meeting) for leaders and HR to talk about employee reactions and how to answer difficult questions that come up. 

3. Communicate transparently and often

Open and honest communication will help employees understand how the crisis is impacting the company and can create a greater understanding of the difficult decisions the company is facing.

While you don’t want to elicit fear or panic, employees want to understand how the company is faring in these tough economic times. People will be more resilient if they understand how outside forces are impacting their job, their profession, their industry and their company.

When layoffs are announced, leverage all levels of leadership in the discussion, with the goal of consistent, clear and effective two-way communication. For example, the CEO can host a town hall for the entire company. Then, General Managers can host smaller sessions with business units and managers can lead sessions with their teams.

Many leaders at Best Workplaces are sending weekly videos recorded from their living rooms on their smartphones. These messages are imperfect but vital to sharing information timely and sincerely.  Employees value this authenticity.

This sends a much stronger message of care, openness and authenticity – things we all need and hold onto in times of insecurity.

4. Offer internal or external support to help affected employees

How employers handle layoffs tells a lasting story of an organization’s culture. For this reason, we recommend going above and beyond what is expected with support and care for employees.

The best companies provide:

  • Time for employees to process, gather their belongings and say goodbyes
  • Severance and extended health benefits
  • Transition counseling, employee assistance or resume preparation
  • Assistance with programs and services such as unemployment benefits and job retraining
  • Introductions to, or job listings from, other local employers who may be hiring
  • Written and verbal references to support employees’ job-seeking efforts

5. Engage remaining employees

Following layoffs, remaining employees often feel “survivors’ guilt.” After all, the employees who left were their colleagues and friends.

Left unaddressed, such feelings of guilt can sap morale and hang over your company culture. Here are a few examples of ways you can combat this:

  • Engage with employees often to let them know how the organization is helping those laid off and make them aware whenever placements (internal or external) are successful so they can see the extension of care.
  • Create space in meetings for employees to talk about how they are coping.
  • Since remaining employees may be putting in long hours and picking up extra work, consider increasing support to ensure employees have the resources they need.
  • Remind them about external resources such as EAP and employee resource groups, so they can share and process their experiences.
  • In one company, the HR team repurposed their time to make personal calls to every employee to see how they were doing and what they needed for support.

6. Follow up with laid-off employees

An employee’s relationship with a company shouldn’t end when they are laid off.

Your Human Resources team can reach out to employees following their departure to:

  • Check-in on their wellbeing
  • Provide updates of any job connections made with other employers
  • Remind them of resources that continue to be available
  • Ensure they know that they can be rehired in the future to replace attrition or address new priorities.

We’re here to support you through COVID-19

Each week, the coronavirus crisis introduces new challenges, unlike anything most businesses have ever faced.

To help you through this time, we have free videos and resource  that discuss these new challenges and how to face them while preserving company culture and employee experience.

You may also download a FREE copy of the first ever Philippines Best Workplaces 2020 Insights Report and learn about the latest organizational and workplace research.

Claire Hastwell

As the Content Program Manager at Great Place To Work, Claire helps decode the psychology behind high-trust workplaces using Great Place To Work’s extensive data repository on employee experience. Claire has co-authored noted reports such as “Women in the Workplace” and “The Power of Purpose at Work,” and contributed to Fortune with her profiles of the Best Workplaces™. Her latest report on employee retention strategies draws on the experience of 1.3 million employees to give leaders strategic guidance on retaining their top people. 

LAURIE MINOTT

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work®, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ in IT-BPM 2024 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

This recognition helps attract and retain the best talent in the industry, ensuring that your organization continues to thrive with top-notch employees. Additionally, it strengthens the company’s brand as a desirable place to work, instilling pride and loyalty among current employees. It provides a significant competitive edge in the industry, showcasing the company’s dedication to employee satisfaction and well-being.

These organizations set themselves apart in the IT-BPM sector by cultivating an excellent workplace, contributing to their overall growth and success.

The IT-BPM sector is a cornerstone of the Philippine economy, known for its rapid growth and substantial contribution to employment and economic development. Companies in this industry play a pivotal role in driving innovation, enhancing business efficiency, and providing critical services on a global scale. Being recognized on the Philippines Best Workplaces in IT-BPM 2024 List not only highlights a company’s commitment to creating a positive workplace culture but also enhances its reputation in a highly competitive industry.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces™ in Asia by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2022 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 130,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:
1.  The criteria we evaluate

  •  85% concerned with Trust and Maximizing Human Potential and
  • 15% concerned with everything else

2.  Where the data comes from

  • 100% Trust Index for organizations with less than 100 employees
  • 75% based on the Trust Index survey analytics and 25% based on responses to the Culture Audit for organizations with more than 100 employees.
For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees