Layoffs can be a painful but often necessary part of running a business. Losing your job in the blink of an eye and being uncertain of the future is an emotionally, mentally, and financially stressful experience, and a wave of layoffs hitting a company can have lasting impacts on the remaining team members. Employees may feel shaken up, fearful, and unable to focus on their jobs.
But there are ways to strengthen a team again after downsizing, and doing so is a necessary and worthwhile endeavor.
Low employee morale can be devastating for a company’s retention, productivity and employee satisfaction. On the other hand, good employee morale is crucial for a positive, engaged and fulfilled workforce. A pizza party or free t-shirt may be a fun way to brighten employees’ days, but we’re talking about real, practical ways of boosting employee morale to improve the working lives of your remaining workers. It’s important for all team members to feel valued, secure and motivated to grow and be their best each and every day, and this can be accomplished by building morale back up after it’s been shaken. Here are several ways to improve morale after layoffs.
Explain the ‘why’
Employee morale may be dampened by wondering why downsizing or mass layoffs had to happen in the first place. They may not be privy to the inner workings of the company or why layoffs were determined to be the right decision for the organization.
Be sure to communicate to them an appropriate level of information about why this decision was made and how this move contributes to the strength of the company overall. Having a concrete reason for a decision can make it easier to process. Clear communication will also help shut down rumors and unreliable information about what’s going on, which may give employees a better understanding of the whole situation.
Layoffs, or even simply the fear of potential layoffs, can generate a lot of anxiety and instability for employees. Job security is crucial for productivity and feeling comfortable at work. It’s important that they feel supported through the process and valued for their contributions. It’s worthwhile to put in time, effort and resources to hang onto the talent you have. Research shows that highly skilled, educated and trained employees are the most likely to leave when feeling dissatisfied at work. These are the star players you really don’t want to lose. Let your team members know how much you value their contributions. Think of a time that an employee came up with a helpful solution to a problem, helped a teammate or went the extra mile and let him or her know how appreciated it was.
Read more: Employee Retention 101
Another way to boost morale and support remaining employees in order to avoid losing top contributors is to revisit the company benefits. After a shakeup, employees may be itching to look for other jobs with more benefits or the promise of more stability. Everyone wants to feel taken care of by their workplace, so work with the human resource department to think of low-cost ways to create a more beneficial, flexible and enjoyable workplace. The company may not be able to give everyone a totally revamped health insurance plan or 20 extra PTO days, but maybe employees could benefit from an extra work-from-home day. Think of practical ways that employees’ working lives can be improved to let them know that this is a place where they are fully supported, fairly compensated, and deeply valued.
There are many logistical matters to consider after layoffs. Responsibilities, duties and all the tasks that go into making a company run smoothly still need to be covered, and it’s important to communicate clearly how this will be accomplished. Remaining employees may be concerned about feeling spread thin if they have to take over the roles of those who have left. How will duties be distributed? How will their day-to-day roles change, if at all? Be clear about the practical implications of layoffs on the remaining team members so there’s no murkiness about their roles and what this means for them. Having a solid sense of their tasks and where they fit into the organization will set employees up for success and help support them in doing their best each day. This could also be a chance for you to rely on feedback from employees on what they can handle and how duties can best be divided up.
Losing teammates to downsizing or coming into work each day with the anxiety of mass layoffs can zap employees of their creativity, innovation and motivation. After all, it’s tough to shoot for the stars when the ground you’re on feels unstable. Get employees excited again by renewing their enthusiasm for the job and belief in the mission of the company. Encourage new ideas and embrace different ways of doing things. Let them know about new opportunities or paths of promotion that may be available to them as a result of the changing company structure so each and every remaining employee can have potential for growth. Making work engaging, challenging and fun can be a way to offset the creativity drain that can plague workplaces after layoffs.
After a jarring event like layoffs, employees may feel a disconnect from managers. They may be wary or distrustful, which is understandable when feeling fearful of what’s to come. To prevent employees from feeling like they’re on an island, it’s important for there to be strong bridges of communication between a team member and his or her manager.
Ways to encourage communication:
- Have an open-door policy to help employees feel comfortable reaching out.
- Listen genuinely to employees’ fears and concerns.
- Create an employee survey to gather feedback about how they’re feeling.
- Seek feedback from employees before making certain decisions.
- Set up regular check-in meetings to keep employees in the loop and to assess how they’re feeling.
Having a listening ear is a great way to make sure all employees feel heard, which is crucial for strong team morale in a workplace, especially during tenuous times.
“It’s just business” isn’t always a great approach when real feelings are on the line. Even when facing challenging decisions about what’s best for an organization, it’s important to always take a people-forward approach. A lot of people are feeling financial stress right now, and layoffs can be devastating to someone’s well-being or livelihood. Losing treasured teammates and work friends can also change the day-to-day work experience for many people. Layoffs can have effects on everyone within a company, and having empathy and respect for everyone in the organization is especially crucial during tough and stressful times. Validate their feelings and have compassion for their situations.
Layoffs are rarely ideal for everyone. While downsizing may be necessary for an organization and its long-term health, it can slash workplace morale and have very real impacts on remaining team members. Low morale strikes a big blow to an organization’s culture, productivity and long-term health. Improving morale is necessary after stressful chapters in a company’s story, and fortunately there are many ways to do so. It’s important to make sure that everyone feels supported and heard so they can continue to do their best and feel excited to come to work each day.