There is plenty of daunting news to go around in this economy. There are, without question, going to be a number of businesses that have to make hard decisions in order to remain competitive, and sometimes that may involve cutting ties with employees who, in an ideal world, make valuable members of the team. Consumers and employees alike are poised to understand dilemmas like this, but there are steps businesses can take to make those harsh decisions without doubly tarnishing their brand. If laying off workers is a step that your company arrives at, there are some measures you can put in place to do so in a respectful, minimally damaging way.
Offer resources for future employment. Nobody welcomes being laid off, or, at least, virtually nobody. It can be devastating, particularly for employees who have been with a particular company for a long time. It can be extremely daunting to enter back into the swirl of people submitting resumes, particularly when you may be competing with people who are younger and have fewer expectations about how much money they will be making. One thing companies can do is offer their employees transitional resources so that they will not be entering the labor market unprepared. Write glowing reviews of their performance, direct them to connections who may be helpful, and provide them with information about how to curate their resume and perform in an interview. Will it be more difficult to do this if you are a massive company shutting down entire branches? Of course, it will, in which case you should prepare your management team to work on a micro level as much as possible, and in any case do as much as is feasible to cultivate goodwill with people who have worked well for you. It isn’t their fault they are being laid off, so make sure you are living up to that fact.
Don’t counterbalance lay-offs with massive bonuses to a few special executives. This one can be tough to thread because talented executives are often spry even during tough economies, so companies have to do what they can to compensate them for completing valuable work, but there are few headlines more damaging than “factories close as execs receive massive bonuses.” Layoffs ought to present to the public an image of company-wide sacrifice, not one of subjecting their loyal employees to possible foreclosure so that a small handful of elites can buy new yachts. Find ways to compensate your upper-management team that doesn’t read as a slap in the face to your rank-and-file employees.
There is no way to enter into layoffs that doesn’t entail a degree of sadness and struggle. Make sure you are presenting an image that promotes not only good business sense, but also civic responsibility.