How to Conduct a Virtual Reduction in Force (RIF) or Layoff

February 02, 2023 by Raymond Lee

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Recently, many companies have been slammed in the news for botching the layoff process, particularly when notifying employees who are working virtually or in hybrid roles. 

If your leadership team is preparing to announce layoffs company-wide, calculated and careful preparation for your team is critical. This isn’t just another Zoom meeting; this is an announcement that affects people’s lives and the future of your organization. 

Not only do executives risk losing the engagement of remaining employees and other stakeholders, but they risk damaging their brand internally and externally with the possibility of making headlines for heartless notifications via text message, email, or “Group Zoom firings,” facing backlash on social media.

In this article, you will find best practices on how to conduct a compassionate, virtual reduction in force (RIF) of layoff, compliantly. Also included is a webinar on compassion and compliance before, during, and after a layoff.

The Business Case

Before you begin planning the logistics and notification process of the reduction in force, it’s important that leadership is aligned with the business case as to why the layoffs are happening in the first place. This business case will become the basis for the notifications. The business case, for example, could be a loss of revenue, loss of a key customer, market share loss, acquisition, divestiture, etc.

If your CEO, President, or business unit leader is consistently transparent about current business conditions, then the business case for a layoff should not come as a surprise.

Once the business case is established, HR leaders should align with the business leaders to ensure managers, directors, and execs are all clear on the business case and reason for the layoff and are able to clearly communicate it in a consistent way so all impacted employees are hearing the same message..

Hybrid and Virtual Employee Layoff Best Practices

Hybrid and Virtual Employee Layoff Best Practices

Although in-person notification meetings are often considered preferable to video meetings as some see them as being more personal, we know in today’s world of hybrid and remote work, in-person is often not possible and certainly not required for a compassionate notification.

Those that are let go really do appreciate managers who have the empathy and courage to let them go in person, where in a conference room on a screen.

If you have a large layoff of virtual employees, you should think about the risk and exposure of notifying a large group. The larger the group, the less control you have over employees joining on time, hearing the complete message, or accounting for who is actually attending and receiving the message.

Consider your CEO or leader sending an email notice a day ahead of notifying employees that a layoff will be happening and asking employees to respect one another during this challenging time. You can also let employees who are virtual and hybrid know that they will receive a calendar invite from their manager for the meeting time. Make sure the employees accept the invite so you ensure they will plan to attend.

For hybrid employees, consider sending a virtual meeting invite the day before so that the impacted employee does not commute to work the next day only to find out they have been laid off and then need to drive home after that often emotionally charged meeting.

The best day to conduct your layoff is on Wednesday. It allows you two days to plan and it doesn’t put the employee into the weekend right away and gives two days to ask questions.

During the meeting, managers should follow a layoff script and perform the RIF notification meeting just like they would if they were in an office. You can read all about that entire process here.

Right now, employees will likely have questions about unemployment benefits, COBRA, and other policies that can get quite confusing, especially with all of the other stress people are going through at the moment.

Note: you can download a whole packet of layoff resources by clicking here or clicking the image below:

Download Our Layoff Script Here!

We highly suggest that you review the Department of Labor’s COBRA guide and also speak to your legal counsel about all of the local, state, and federal laws that may impact your event. This includes any questions you may have about your state’s current unemployment laws.

Considerations for Remote Reductions in Force

The remote employee’s direct manager should also be prepared to discuss how to tie up loose ends with current work projects. Since your remote employee keeps all of their hard work products outside of the office, your managers will need to have the plan to get the status and any work done on ongoing projects before the employee’s last day.

Normally, this process is made easier because remote workers have been performing their jobs remotely for some time. Right now, workers may have projects spread out all over the place between their office location and their home location. Either way, it’s important to understand what projects need to be finished, which projects need to be reassigned, etc.

Regarding severance packages and separation agreements, consider emailing a copy of the severance documents that are not signature required. It is best to send these documents over to an employee with same-day delivery, an overnight service, or by using a digital platform like DocuSign. When sending hard copies, make sure that your shipping includes verification that the right person received the documents to avoid any legal trouble that could result from a document going missing, or the wrong person seeing privileged information.

Lastly, make sure you follow all state requirements regarding separation notices. Again, please be sure to lean on your legal counsel to understand what you may need to provide.

Protect Your Brand With Outplacement Services

Reductions in force and layoffs always have the potential to tarnish hard-earned employer brands, a topic that is paramount for CHROs.

To make sure that your brand continues to thrive, we recommend that all employees let go – in-person or remotely – are offered outplacement services.

In this day and age, it helps to work with an outplacement provider who understands remote technology and has been delivering outplacement digitally for years.

Speak with an Outplacement Expert
Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee is the President of Careerminds, a global outplacement company based in Wilmington, Delaware. He has over 20 years of human resource, outplacement, and career consulting experience. He has his bachelor’s in psychology and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. He is active in SHRM and ATD. Raymond’s been featured on SiriusXM Business Radio, CareerTalk, and the Wall Street Journal and he’s published a book titled, Clocking Out: A Stress-Free Guide to Career Transitions.

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