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Outplacement Training 101: Creating a Social Media Layoff Policy

October 24, 2017 by Aley Brown

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Welcome to our five part blog series on outplacement training!

Throughout the series we will educate you on some of the most important aspects of outplacement training to help your organization better prepare for RIFs in the future. If you have suggestions as to what you’d like us to cover during the series, leave a message in the chat box (located in the lower right hand corner) with your ideas!

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In this installement, we’re going to cover social media policy, specifically when it comes to layoffs.

Let’s get started.

The Importance of Social Media Policies

So, what is a social media policy? To put it simply: it’s a “corporate code of conduct that provides guidelines for employees who post content on the internet either as part of their job or as a private person”, reports Search Compliance.

Most companies have a broad, all encompassing social media policy. This is a great business practice. We also recommend that your company develops a social media policy that is tailored to managing social chatter resulting from your layoff event.

What Is Outplacement Training?

Outplacement training is a process used in HR departments that explains how to properly release outgoing employees. Outplacement training typically covers how exiting workers will make a transition to a new, ideal role in an outside company, saving the current employer from lawsuits, brand tarnishing, and other negetives that usually spring up during downsizing events. 

We included this in our outplacement training series because online employer branding is becoming more important due to the permanence of the internet. It is essential that you have a policy in place to preserve your online presence for this specific reason. Imagine a negative post popping up on Google every time a potential customer or employee searches for a review of your company. Yeek!

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First Up: Analysis

Most businesses conduct some sort of analysis before constructing a social media policy. As outplacement training experts, we recommend that you conduct an ‘impact analysis study’ on the following topics:

  1. What online channels could be affected by a layoff?
  2. What groups of people could be involved?
  3. Who will be monitoring these communities?

Here is an example:

  • What online channels could be affected by a layoff?
    • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, Glassdoor
  • What groups of people could be involved in this type of online chatter?
    • Employees in our Sacramento, California office
    • Sacramento community members
    • Employees who manage our social media channels
  • Who will be monitoring the communities that might be impacted?
    • Internal employees

Next, Define the Proper Steps for Engaging Online

It’s now time to develop a prescriptive plan for how people should engage online. You will need to develop a plan for each of the groups of people that will be impacted. In the example above, the HR team would need to create policies for laid off employees, internal employees, and employees managing the social channels.

Laid Off Employees

“In correspondence with your confidentiality agreement, do not speak of your separation from the company to any member of the public, or online.”

Internal Employees

(This is a trickier group. You can advise them on policy, but you can’t prohibit them from engaging in online spaces.)

“When engaging in online communities, always make sure your actions are work appropriate. This means no profanity, no controversial language, and no violating the privacy of others (internal or external to the company). If you engage in an online conversation that mentions our company’s layoffs, please report the conversation to this HR contact: ________ for company liability reasons. If someone has grievances against the company, we recommend you privately give them the contact information of this HR contact so we can resolve the issue.”

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Employees Managing The Social Channels

Since these employees are representing the company, it is important that they understand how to respond to people in social channels.

This is the most critical group in the outplacement training process from a liability perspective. You will have people commenting on your content who are upset with the company. That is normal! Here is a typical policy that we recommend stakeholders use when responding to these comments:

“When people respond online with negative fodder about the layoff, do not delete their comment or deny their feelings in your response. Deleting comments diminishes trust with our audience. It is also important that you don’t admit liability on the company’s behalf in any way.

Respond to a grievance by apologizing for the person’s feelings, and then ask them to move the conversation into a private channel with the page. This way the conversation isn’t public to everyone in the channel, and you don’t violate anyones privacy. However, what you say in a private channel is important, because a person could take screenshots of the conversation. If a person keeps engaging in the public thread and won’t move the conversation to a private channel, it is up to you to decide whether a response is warranted. If a comment ever violates someone’s privacy or uses inappropriate language, you should take a screenshot of it for records sake and then hide/delete it from public view.”

Monitoring The Internet For Mentions Of Your Brand

It’s imperative that your company takes a proactive approach in responding to the various media that will result from your layoff. Being transparent in your responses helps keep community trust intact. We recommend using monitoring tools to look for content or social chatter about the layoff and then respond using the prescribed plans.

Our outplacement training research shows that these are the best two ways to monitor mentions of your brand:

1. Set up a Google Alert


For example: If your company’s name is “Cool T-Shirts 4 U,” you would set up a google alert to send you an email every time your company was mentioned in content online.

2. Use Social Listening tools to monitor mentions of your brand on social channels


We like the HootSuite tool used in the video above a lot. The tool has a free version and is very user-friendly. There are tons of various tools across the web, so make sure to do your own research and ask your marketing team for advice.

Monitoring allows your team to be proactive in responding to negative chatter so that you can control the narrative. It can also help improve your brand by showing online communities that you care about addressing grievances, which leads right into our next point:

Maintaining Quick Response Times on the Actual Channel

It is important that your company follow social norms for various channels.

It is disruptive and unauthentic to ask someone to email you about a grievance in the comments section of a Facebook post. It’s also super important that your company responds to these complaints in a timely manner. If someone tweets you with a grievance and it takes six weeks for you to get back to them, that’s a problem! It makes your company look inauthentic, bureaucratic, and unempathetic. 

Examples of Good Responses

While being timely is a must, having a poor response is a surefire way to ignite a larger digital bon fire. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment on social media, leading you to say something you probably shouldn’t.

So, to help, here are some examples you might use when responding to these comments:

“Hey Bob, we are so sorry about this. We would like to chat with you about making it right. Please direct message our page so we can start a conversation about it.”


“Sarah we are sorry to hear about how your cousin has been impacted by our recent layoff. Please direct message our company page so I can provide you the email address of our HR team. Your cousin can use this to discuss his severance benefits with someone in our organization.”

These responses are polite, to the point, and offer a the person a path forward to resolve the issue. 

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Setting Up A Response Team

Since you are going to be following up these complaints with actions, you need to – obviously – have a team ready to handle different situations. You can’t just say that you are going to fix a problem. You have to put your money where your mouth is and make it right as best as you can.

You should create a cross-collaborative team to work on this project, meaning that this team should include people from your HR department as well as members of your company’s marketing team.

HR team members can provide expertise about benefits and compliance and marketing team members can help with tool functionality. Ask department leaders in the early stages of your outplacement training process who they think would be a good fit for this cross-collaborative team. The amount of people needed on the team depends on the size of your layoff and your employees’ demographics.

Educating the Entire Company About the Policy

It is imperative that you communicate your new policy to the multiple stakeholders at your organization. We recommend requiring a one-time training session for all employees as well as required training updates to various stakeholders based on specific layoff events.

For example, if you are doing a layoff in your Atlanta office, those employees would need updated on the policy after the initial company wide training.

Creating a social media policy for your layoff event is more important than ever due to the permanence of your brand online. In previous years, a layoffee would only reach their inner circle with negative fodder about your company. Now, a severed employee can create a blimp on your company’s online blueprint that can last forever through a single Facebook post.

Want to learn more about outplacement? Schedule a demo with us today.

Speak with an Outplacement Expert
Aley Brown

Aley Brown

Aley is a versatile global business leader with proven experience managing high-performing teams and engaging a data-driven approach to strategies that exceed company objectives.

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