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How Managers Can Help Employees Cope with Layoff Fears

According to Mondo While the current employment market in the US is strong — with low unemployment rates and high job growth — this could all change in the near future as many businesses struggle to adapt with the changing economy.

With a recession looming, companies such as Twitter, Meta, Microsoft, Docusign and Snapchat have already laid off between 2%-20% of their workforce.

Most leaders would rather deal with tight budgets and talent development challenges than the elimination of jobs and having to lay off staff. When a layoff is necessary the process is made smoother and less painful for employees who remain, leaders, HR and even those being let go when it’s handled with skill and care.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) gives great strategies for how people managers can help allay employees' fears regarding layoffs

1. Be Transparent

Often, employees have no idea if their company is financially stable because management doesn't share financial information, said Jill Santopietro Panall, SHRM-SCP, owner of 21Oak HR Consulting in Newburyport, Mass.

Be honest with staff and let them know whether the company is expected to have a successful year or if difficult times are ahead, she said.

Keep in mind that there could be an information vacuum because many employees aren't working onsite full time, said Nancy Halpern, leadership coach and founder of Political IQ, a New York City-based consulting firm that diagnoses political dysfunction in organizations.

"At times of uncertainty, many companies say very little, and what they do say is very generic, and then people will anticipate the worst possible outcome," she said.

To avoid rumors, Halpern recommends managers overcommunicate with their staff and avoid using cliches.

2. Maintain Composure

Remember that the manager sets the tone, so be careful not to show panic, Panall said.

"If you, as a manager, don't know what's going on with the bigger picture, you need to find out," she said. "You don't want to inadvertently be the conduit of rumors and fears."

If employees are working onsite, be careful of appearing overly secretive. "Closed-door meetings and whispers can lead to staff panic," Panall said.

3. Encourage Cross-Training Staff

Despite fears of a recession and possible layoffs, some companies still say they seemingly can't hire enough people or keep up with demands for certain goods.

Managers can help shift employees into much-needed positions by advocating for cross-training, Moser said. "It's cheaper to redeploy existing staff than to find new talent," she said.

Let staff know that if there are layoffs, management may consider redeploying talent, Moser says. Then find out what skills employees are interested in learning and give them a stretch assignment that connects them with another department.

"Employees want their employers to approach them with employment opportunities and possible career paths," Panall said.

4. Focus on What Employees Can Control

Remind staff that it's a good practice to always have an updated resume and LinkedIn profile and to keep in touch with their professional network, Halpern said. Help staff see the possibility of a layoff as a bump in the road of a long career, and remind employees that there will be other opportunities.

"Be as honest as you can be and let your staff know you care about them and their careers," Moser said.

What else would you add to the list?


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