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Strengthening employee involvement after a restructuring

by Ana Lopez
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Dave Wilkin, co-founder and CEO, 10KC.

Economic uncertainty and fear for the future have led to mass layoffs and layoffs at many companies. And while these measures may be fiscally sound and necessary, employee engagement is undoubtedly impacted when an organization downsizes or reorganizes.

A quick glance at social media, and you can see how layoffs affect employee sentiment and confidence within a company. Transitions can bring out a wide variety of emotions, including guilt, anxiety, burnout, and even anger. But sentiments aside, employee morale affects business results. This was reported by an oft-cited study 74% of employees retained after a layoff say their productivity declined after that.

When companies think about restructuring or downsizing, they need to develop a multifaceted approach that focuses on employee engagement both while it happens and after it happens. Through my experience working with large corporations, I’ve found that transparency and communication are key to keeping employees engaged after a layoff. This is what I’ve seen work.

1. Communicate layoffs and restructuring as a long-term vision.

While it can be difficult for team members to build morale, especially after the loss of a close colleague on the team, it’s important to remind them of the bigger story. The reason for layoffs cannot be just to cut costs and increase profitability. These messages lose sight of the people building your mission.

Layoff messages should align with the larger cause your remaining team is already investing in. The language needs to change from reactive messages, such as: “We are shrinking our team to save costs…” to proactive messages, such as: “These changes have happened, so we can … “

2. Help those affected find their new role.

Companies can help laid-off workers by distributing or creating layoff lists, increasing their job openings, and matching exceptional talent with outside opportunities.

By encouraging your remaining employees to participate, you can help create an environment of empathy and solidarity while also giving everyone a constructive way to move forward together.

3. Invest in your remaining people.

Restructuring usually means cutting back on in-person events, conferences, or retreats. It is logical; they are precious. But an organization, especially after a layoff, cannot lose the benefits these activities bring, such as team building and connecting to leadership and relationships. After the layoff, companies need to create strategic opportunities for employees to come together to build relationships, discuss how they feel, and strengthen cultural bonding.

Also invest in talent development. Show your remaining employees that you are committed to their long-term success with your company by providing them with learning and skills development, mentoring and sponsorship programs, networking opportunities and more.

4. Support open dialogue.

A lack of clarity or an open dialogue can cause fear and uncertainty. After the layoffs, leaders must answer the tough questions. How do you do it?

• Solicit input from employees (preferably anonymously) on the uncertainties or topics they would like leaders to discuss.

• Be transparent. Share these questions with employees and let them vote on the questions that matter most to them.

In addition, employees feel seen and heard by their leaders and team. This kind of collaboration builds trust and makes employees feel involved in the decision-making process, even if the news isn’t always favorable.

Let’s not forget: You can retain employees by building relationships. During layoffs and restructuring, relationships can be challenging to maintain, especially if a company fails to acknowledge and support the feelings and needs of remaining employees. But if a company builds the right infrastructure to support communication and transparency and prioritizes relationships in the process, the organization is much more likely to retain employees, especially in the midst of uncertainty and change.

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