Navigating the aftermath: How HR can support remaining employees after a layoff

Going through layoffs or a reduction in the workforce (RIF) can create a ripple effect in an organization, from a drop in morale to a dismal increase in turnover. If not handled carefully, layoffs can transform a once thriving culture into a toxic environment.

Sloan from MIT recently studied Glassdoor data to assess the impact of layoffs on surviving employees and company cultures. They found that the more often employees mentioned layoffs, outsourcing, or the possibility of being laid off in their reviews, the lower their company ranked for culture.

Leading through challenging times, HR leaders must think outside the box and find ways to seize opportunities from challenges. Focusing on the needs and success of remaining employees can help organizations come out of the other side of an RIF with a stronger, more resilient team.

Keep an eye on employee engagement metrics

Employees can become distracted and demotivated during a major event like a downsizing. Increased workloads or constantly changing priorities also create a higher risk of burnout. Surviving employees who were previously compromised can disengage seemingly overnight.

Monitoring these factors is essential after a layoff. Leaders and managers need to be aware of the potential risks to their team and be able to take quick action to mitigate them. Measure employee engagement it’s a great way to get actionable insights to do just that.

A well-crafted, science-based engagement survey can reveal how an RIF has impacted your team, while also giving employees an outlet to share their feedback confidentially. People want to feel that your organization is listening, especially in difficult times.

A study of Revelio Laboratories found that at many companies that have recently had layoffs, DEI roles are declining faster than non-DEI roles. At the companies they analyzed, more than 300 DEI professionals have left their organizations and some have lost their entire diversity teams.

Going through a layoff or other major disruption to your organization couldn’t be a worse time to de-prioritize your DEI initiatives. Ensuring a more inclusive environment for employees who remain after a RIF is critical to maintaining high engagement, retention, and job performance.

A DEI survey can help you gauge the impact and shed light on how employees feel after team layoffs. This can be done in conjunction with the diversity metrics you’re already tracking. Audits of your existing programs and benefits can also help ensure they remain fair and inclusive after you’re laid off.

Get in touch with your top performers

The last thing most leaders want is to lose their top performers, especially when the company has already had to reduce its workforce. Unfortunately, the effect of layoffs can snowball and increase the risk of woeful turnover.

When turnover increases, team members find it harder to meet their goals and leave HR scrambling to fill open positions. And when that turnover includes your best people, who are often also warriors for your culture, it can be felt throughout the organization.

TO research bank The study found that 63% percent of employees who quit their job in 2021 cited “no opportunity for promotion” as a major factor in their decision to quit. After an RIF, high performers need to see that they still have a bright future with their organization and that there are exciting new challenges ahead.

In addition to engagement surveys and 1-on-1 managers, another good way to communicate with remaining employees is through tenure interviews. These interviews provide an opportunity to ask employees how satisfied they are with their jobs, what is going well with their work experience, and what obstacles may be getting in the way. Talk to your top talent and find out how to best support them, before it’s too late.

Lead with resilience and compassion

Rather than allow frustrations to boil over after a layoff or other disruption, people leaders should approach employees with kindness and positive intent. HR leaders can also be instrumental in ensuring that employees know about and have access to the resources they need to navigate difficult times.

Trying to ignore or minimize people’s feelings will not motivate your employees and may even be detrimental to their mental health. That said, helping to build a resilient workforce can make future setbacks easier for everyone to overcome.

Resilient teams demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Optimism: Resilient teams use positivity to overcome obstacles and change the label of failure from something negative to something useful.
  • Growth Oriented: Resilient organizations value a growth mindset and use learning and growth opportunities to motivate and inspire high performers.
  • High confidence: When leaders share their feelings with employees, it encourages more open communication and creates a more collaborative and engaging environment.
  • Meaningful work: Inspiring employees by connecting their work to the company’s purpose creates a deep sense of belonging. Motivate your team by showing them that their work is meaningful and valuable.

Get the HR guide to supporting employees after a RIF

The ultimate guide from 15Five, Building Organizational Resilience: The HR Leaders Guide to Staying Engaged After a RIF or Layoffoutlines proven strategies, tactics, and practical tips for supporting survivor employees and retaining top performers while building a stronger, more resilient culture.