ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
March 27, 2009

How to Engage Your Best Employees During Layoffs and Cost Reductions


With the national focus on cost-cutting and layoffs, a critical asset of every company is currently being neglected: the highest-performing employees who are vital for restoring organizational health. What are you doing to ensure your most valued employees remain with your company — engaged and motivated to achieve strong results? 

When an organization is in the process of cost-cutting and staff reduction, the messages communicated to employees often focus on streamlining and cutting back. However, these kinds of communications do little to engage employees.
As a staff member in an employee focus group once eloquently explained, “Let’s say you own a house and you decide not to replace the roof when it needs replacing and you stop painting so often. You are saving money, but if that’s all you think about, you don’t feel so good about the house anymore.”

Cost reductions alone won’t restore a struggling organization. After the cuts, it’s critical to engage remaining resources to move forward. The following are four suggestions for motivating staff:

  • Ask for their input on the company vision and mission. Tell them you value their opinions and invite their ideas regarding business growth.  
  • Assure them of their future with your organization. Employees who survive the layoffs frequently comment that, “Almost nothing gets done,” during the reorganization. Once the reductions are behind you, it’s critical to tell the remaining employees that they are important, and provide them with a vision of what is to come.
  • Be sensitive to survivor’s guilt. Remaining employees often feel depressed, numb and guilty about having made it through the reorganization. Acknowledge these feelings and give employees a chance to address them through confidential focus groups or interviews conducted by an outside expert.
  • Offer professional development. You may be limited in what you can provide right now in terms of salary increases and bonuses, however, consider inviting employees to enrich their learning with workshops and seminars. Support the ongoing growth of your best people.

enny Schade, president, JRS ConsultingBy Jenny Schade, president, JRS Consulting, has interviewed more than 1,000 employees while guiding organizations through turbulent change. JRS Consulting helps organizations dramatically increase attraction among customers and employees. Get more tips from the free JRS newsletter.

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