How to keep employees motivated during layoffs

2022 has been a year of layoffs. More than 2 Lakh people were laid off globally

Layoffs are a harsh reality of the corporate world, and they cannot be avoided. They are inevitable and going forward, they will continue to happen in this volatile world. Usually, we talk about people who lose their jobs. But no one talks about the ones who survive. During a mass layoff or a downsizing activity, the environment is not friendly at all. It is difficult to maintain the morale of the remaining employees when negativity is in the air.

Impact of Layoffs

Agreed, the company is going through a bad phase. However, there is still a business to run. There is a need to balance organizational needs and employee happiness. We must keep the show going!

Layoffs are challenging times. It impacts the mental health and thus productivity and performance of the ones who survive. As a leader, one cannot simply accept this. A mass layoff impacts the sentiments of the existing workforce in many ways. 

First, there is a feeling of fear amongst the employees. The fear of when will the axe of layoff fall on them.? Like others, will they also lose their jobs. Another is the feeling of loss. People lose their colleagues during such layoffs which can further demotivate them and then, the phenomena of Survivors Guilt seeps in. Survivors Guilt is a phenomenon where employees feel guilty of being one of the survivors while their teammates and friends are out of job. These challenges impact the employee’s sentiments and thus, their performance.

Last year was the year of mass layoffs. Whether it was Meta, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, or Twitter, all the big brands laid off their employees. According to media reports, globally, more than 2 lakh people faced layoffs in 2022. This by far, is a huge number.

Managing Morale in the layoff phase

There are certain steps that employers can take to keep the morale of their teams high.

Be Transparent and honest

The most dangerous feeling during layoffs is ambiguity and confusion. Make sure you are open and honest with all stakeholders and your own employees about what is happening within the company. Why are the layoffs occurring? How many employees will lose their jobs? And which teams will bear the impact should be clear to all. This way you can cut the air, and people can better prepare for what is going to happen next.

Be empathetic during layoffs

Genuine support to people during these times is highly appreciated by employees. You will have to understand the situation and the difficulty people are going through and offer support. In fact, you will also have to support the people who are departing. Genuine efforts of placing them in other firms receive high appreciation from people. Moreover, the ones who are leaving should get good compensation.

Re-organise workload effectively

As people leave, the workload is affected. The ones who survive, feel overwhelmed and overloaded with work which further adds to their stress. As managers, one will have to manage tasks as per priority. Things which are not important or can wait, should be put on hold to keep the workload in check.

Keep appreciating good work

During these tough times, one should look to reward and appreciate every single positive effort of team members. This keeps the morale high and a feeling of being valued and appreciated never dies. Using digital platforms which can offer instant appreciation, fun activities and build an internal community can be very helpful for keeping the engagement level high amongst your people. Keep appreciating employees with non-monetary rewards such as digital badges or as simple as latest movie tickets or small vouchers. 

Give exciting projects and assignments

In such a negative environment, interesting projects, cross-functional collaborations and building new strategies keeps employees busy and engaged. Give them the freedom to drive these projects as they want and assign roles as per their strengths and interests. This also keeps them aligned to the larger picture and the mission of the organisation.

Layoffs, it is not the end of the road

Communicate with teams that this is not the end. Better days are coming ahead. Keep telling employees that the market looks very positive in the coming days and things will gradually improve. Moreover, organisations can also look to rehire laid off employees when things are much stable and perspectives of growth are much brighter.

The above steps can ensure that you continue motivating the workforce and the business continues to sustain and further grow as things improve.