Handling Layoffs

As I write this in September 2011, the economic times have been pretty harsh for many companies. Many of those have considered laying off some staff … till things improve (and let’s all hope they do).

The following advice is not of this time … it applies more generally … but unfortunately, more companies might find it useful at this time.

Here are the top tips for dealing with layoffs …

1. Don’t do it. If you can keep your nerve – and your staff – when everyone else (and by that I mean your competitors) is doing the opposite, you might be in a great situation to ‘mop up’ what they leave behind as they downsize or even go under. You might even consider ‘bucking the trend’ and investing in your staff … giving them new skills to enter new markets.

2. Have a plan. Take some time to work out where your business is going ... and the parts of it you can and cannot afford to lose. Then work out a process for tackling the areas in the ‘can’ box.

3. Think about your customers. In hard times, the last thing you need is bad publicity, so take the offensive. Prepare a statement (for the press, for your customers) which explains the situation … and shows you are handling the situation positively and with care and consideration for employees. Above all, make sure your customers know this action – painful though it is – is necessary to keep the company fit enough for the present and the future.

4. Follow the rules. Whoever and wherever you are, there will rules and regulations. Know them and follow them. Stick to them. Doing anything else will cost you aggravation, time and money.

5. Be objective. Have clear, transparent criteria for which positions/roles should go and stay …. Remember it is roles and positions not people you are cutting. But also remember, it is people who are the victims.

6. Talk. Make sure your workers know the state the business is in … not in detail, but make sure that they understand you are not looking at this lightly. They understand the working part-time is better than not working, that some people working is better than nobody working. They won’t like it, but they should understand it.

7. Help your employees through the process. Offer them job change advice; job change time; job change support.

8. Remember those who are left. The ones who are left might feel relieved; they might feel guilty. They need re-motivating and re-energising. If you can, offer some security (We won’t have any more lay-offs for a minimum of 6 months.)


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science -http://www.wcps.info and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK http://www.natprodcentre.com - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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