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  • Writer's pictureMiranda Boyden

Navigating the Storm: Preparing for Layoffs and Downsizing

When faced with the possibility of layoffs and downsizing, the best leaders are proactive, transparent, and compassionate. By doing so, they protect their company's long-term reputation, preserve employee morale, and position the business for future growth.

"Great leaders are willing to sacrifice their own personal interests for the good of the team." - John C. Maxwell

As a business owner, it is imperative to make tough decisions for the greater good of the organization or your business. One such challenge is navigating the stormy waters of layoffs and downsizing. But how can you handle this difficult process with grace and empathy, while ensuring your business thrives in the long run?

According to a 2021 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 64% of organizations have experienced a downsizing event within the past five years. Furthermore, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that companies that successfully navigate layoffs and downsizing are 2.7 times more likely to achieve long-term profitability and growth than their competitors.

Here are four key strategies to help you steer through this complex situation.

The Strategy:

Assess the Situation

Layoffs and downsizing are not just about numbers – they affect lives. Before making any decisions, take a step back and evaluate the overall health of your business. Are layoffs and downsizing absolutely necessary? Analyze financials, market trends, and competitive landscape to determine if this is the right course of action. Remember, layoffs should be the last resort, not the first.

Communicate Transparently

Transparent communication is critical during uncertain times. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, employees who feel well-informed about changes in their organization report higher levels of trust, engagement, and job satisfaction. Keep your team informed about the reasons behind the downsizing and the measures taken to mitigate the impact. Be honest, clear, and compassionate in your messaging. Being a leader means sharing the discomfort, so remember to be present -- this information can be followed up in an email but not given in an email.

Consider Alternatives to Layoffs

Before resorting to layoffs, explore other cost-saving measures. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 69% of organizations implemented alternatives to layoffs during the 2020 recession. Options such as temporary pay cuts, reduced hours, or furloughs can help retain valuable talent and maintain morale. You should NOT be doing layoffs if you are still hiring in positions targeted to be laid off or if you know you will be rehiring to reduce a salary. This breeds a toxic company culture and will actually cost the company more in the long run.

Offer Support and Resources

Ensure those affected by layoffs receive the necessary support. A study by the Corporate Executive Board found that companies that provide outplacement services during layoffs experience a 50% reduction in litigation risks and maintain a better brand reputation. Offer career coaching, job search assistance, and other resources to ease the transition for your departing employees.

Preparing for layoffs and downsizing is a complex and emotionally charged process. By maintaining empathy, communicating transparently, and exploring alternatives, you can make tough decisions with foresight and grace. Remember, as a leader, it is your responsibility to prioritize the well-being of your team and your business, even during the most trying times.

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