With COVID-19 Spike Messaging Must Be Ready To Go
As the spike in Coronavirus infections, once again, pervade our country, employee anxieties will likely increase commensurate to the surge of the virus. Many workers will experience heightened concern about the status of their jobs and whether furloughs or layoffs are eminent.
In these tumultuous and uncharted times, leadership must make every attempt to provide compassionate, empathetic and unfettered communication to affected or potentially affected employee populations. These are difficult times for everyone; however, they also afford the opportunity to galvanize good will and loyalty with employee populations, as well as other stakeholder groups. Remember, how leadership engages with employees will be observed and noted by vendors, shareholders, future employees as well as the entirety of the leadership team itself.
In the case of furloughs or layoffs – or any highly consequential issue affecting employees – every attempt must be made to inform workers face-to-face. Just as it is in our personal lives, matters of the highest import demand in-person communication. On this topic, the same holds true for the workplace. Though challenging, delivering unpleasant information to workers face-to-face demonstrates respect for them both as a person and as a colleague. Apprise impacted employees first and those unaffected should be updated subsequently.
Furlough vs. Layoff
Though to some it may seem axiomatic, it is quite important to explain the differences between layoffs and furloughs and the effects both would have on employment. Because the discussion about layoffs – not to mention their occurrence – is far more frequent, many workers will have an understanding about what they are. Still, leadership should take nothing for granted and should address precisely what layoffs will entail.
Furloughs, however, are far less discussed and, not surprisingly, less is known about them. Additionally, furlough programs tend to vary more from company to company than do layoff programs. Leadership would do well to keep those facts in mind as it drafts talking points about furloughs and how employees will be affected.
After the all the difficult furlough/layoff conversations have been completed, too many companies believe the communications work ends there. It is, to some degree, understandable. However, not continuing to engage with the remaining employees can be a critical missed opportunity or, worse still, an actual oversight.
A reduction in workforce, irrespective of why or how many people are gone, is distracting to those who remain. Naturally, remaining workers will have questions and concerns about job security, increased workload, merger possibilities and more. Leadership should be certain management demonstrates increased visibility and is prepared to explain how changes will affect remaining workers.
A reduction in workforce often requires enhanced efficiency. An excellent approach to solving this matter is to involve the remaining workers in seeking a solution. Request suggestions from employees on new approaches to enhance efficiency. Not surprisingly, front line employees are often able to offer solutions that would not occur to leadership nor management. Additionally, including employees in procuring a solution fortifies their commitment, loyalty and trust.
It goes without saying there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions for companies facing layoffs or furloughs. There are hundreds of variables that potentially impact the multitude of decisions that leadership must make. Still, there are a core set of objectives that are consistent with virtually all organizations. Smoothly executing a reduction in workforce is likely a goal for every company faced with this challenge. Engaging with employees candidly, transparently and genuinely are among the better ways to achieve a smooth transition when layoffs or furloughs are unavoidable.