Keep Remaining Employees Engaged After a Layoff

Keep Remaining Employees Engaged After a Layoff

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by Chris Barton, Founder & Managing Partner

Workforce changes have become a regular way of doing business for many corporations and employers, and often those changes involve reductions in personnel. While a lot of emphasis has been appropriately placed on those who find themselves downsized or otherwise in the job market, there’s another group that needs consideration: those left behind.

According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “employees who remain in the organization will experience a wide range of emotional reactions to a reduction in the workforce” similar to the stages of grief: denial, shock, pleading, anger and lastly, acceptance.

Emotions may be raw. Some of their co-workers are gone, which of course is tough because there may have been years of familiarity and friendship built up. They may be facing an increased workload. On top of that, the employees left behind are likely worried that they might be next.

Here are other common issues to look out for in your remaining staff:

  1. Increased self-absorption and focus on job security where the concern is more self-directed and less for the greater organization. 
  2. Some may question the credibility of senior management. MIT “research has shown that perceptions of the (perceived) fairness of a workforce reduction process tends to influence retained employees’ commitment to an organization. 
  3. Trust is often diminished. 
  4. Employees’ health may diminish while sleeplessness may increase. 
  5. There may be resentment by retained employees that the departing staff received generous layoff packages and help finding new jobs. 
  6. Some may feel encouraged or “charged up, finding new excitement in their work and welcoming of a new challenge.”

So what are some strategies for dealing with these often inevitable swirl of emotions in the workplace? MIT HR suggests to step up communication, specifically:

  1. Hold regular meetings with staff and use an agenda. 
  2. Ask how people are doing and be prepared to listen and respond empathetically.
  3. Inquire about rumors and address them. 
  4. Check on staff individually more often. 
  5. Set clear, realistic, attainable short-term goals.