How to Motivate Employees After Layoffs


Well, it finally happened. You were forced to lay off some of your staff. The news wasn’t unexpected, but it was still a difficult transition that left your staff demoralized and wondering when the next shoe was going to drop.

This is the time for leadership and vision and it has to come from you. It’s critical that you rally your remaining staff to move forward so the company can prosper. You need to invest time, energy and resources in the people who remain.

Here are five things to think about in motivating your employees through this difficult time.

1. Repair trust. No matter how sensitively layoffs are handled, such an action breaks the trust between employer and employee. Remaining employees often feel scared, depressed and (often) guilty about still having a job. Recognize the wide range of emotions your staff (and you) will experience. Be sensitive to the emotions swirling about and cut everyone some slack as you all process the change and look toward the future. If possible, give employees a chance to vent their feelings through confidential focus groups or interviews conducted by a trained coach or other expert.

2. Make it personal.
Talk to each of your employees one-on-one. Let them know they’re valued, how their contribution to the company is needed, and that you support them. Encourage them to share their vision for the “new” company. Ask them for their input on redistributing the workload. This is a great time to ask what resources they need to do their job – specialized training, for example.

3. Address the workload increase head-on.
There’s no way around it; if people got laid off, those who remain are going to have to shoulder a bigger workload. This isn’t the time to go it alone. Include your staff in every decision, and involve them in deciding how best to proceed. If you allow them to come up with their own solutions, you’ll end up with an engaged, highly-motivated and hard-working team.

4. Offer opportunities for professional development.
Right now, you’re probably limited in terms of salary increases or bonuses, so encourage your people to expand their learning with seminars or workshops. If the company can pay for some of these classes, and/or allow employees to attend during normal work hours, you’re way ahead of the game. Tap your very best people for advance training to support their ongoing growth and ready them to move into positions of increased responsibility and authority.

5. Recognize that people respond differently.
Some people have difficulty accepting and adjusting to change; others excitedly embrace change and view it as a wonderful opportunity. Some people need to “talk it out” while others withdraw and brood in silence. You’ll have some complainers and some who agree on the surface but try to quietly sabotage any new ideas. Be ready to deal with all of these (and more) as you bring your group back together.

Have you experiences a layoff — from either side? What are the best (or worst) strategies you’ve seen for getting through it?

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