What to Say to Employees After a Layoff

July 18, 2018 by Josh Hrala

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When your company has to have a reduction in force or layoff event, there are many things to fret over. How do you notify those being let go? How do you provide outplacement support? What day should you hold the layoff meeting?

These issues are extremely important because you want the event to go over smoothly if you hope to not damage your employer or corporate reputation, which can impact your bottom line by having your existing staff look for work elsewhere or top notch talent passing you by for other companies.

This is why it is important to talk to your surviving staff members after a layoff has occurred and set a good example while conducting layoffs in general.

This brief guide will help you better understand how to motivate your surviving workforce to make sure that they do not jump ship if you should ever need to hold a RIF or a layoff.

Start By Holding a Perfect Event

The best way to make sure that your staff feels okay after a layoff is to do everything in your power to make sure the actual event goes off without a hitch.

We’ve covered a bunch of different aspects of layoff events in the past. Feel free to browse some of our helpful content here:
Download our layoff memo sample here.
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Download Our Layoff Script Here!

In short, it’s important that you handle everything to the very best of your ability, providing those being let go with the best experience possible.

Just because a person is making an exit from your organization doesn’t mean that they are no longer important to you. There is still an ROI for exiting staff members because they can tarnish your reputation on sites like Glassdoor and even coax their friends and old coworkers to stop using your products or to abandon your company.

Not to mention that it’s simply the right thing to do. You want people to leave your organization with their heads held high, knowing that you have done everything you can to minimize the negative impact on them during a layoff or RIF.

To do this, make sure you follow the best practices that go over how a layoff event should unfold. Make sure you have a strong policy in place, a recall policy all ironed out if you intend on recalling any staff members, an easy to follow layoff script that helps the notification meeting go over smoothly, a strong severance package, and – most importantly for morale’s sake – outplacement services.

Outplacement services help your employees get back to work in a new role faster, allowing you to ensure that they are in great hands and will land on their feet. This also shows that you care about your employees even when they make an exit from your organization, which in turn shows your surviving staff that if they were to for some reason get laid off that they will also have a support system.
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By holding a great (if you can call it that) layoff event, you can help your exiting staff members while also ensuring that your existing staff will stick around and stay engaged. Plus, it helps protect your brand’s reputation while keeping your company an attractive option for new talent.

Moving on, now that we’ve gone over the actual event, what do you need to say to your surviving staff?

What to Say to Your Employees After a Layoff

It’s important to remember that just because someone wasn’t let go in a layoff doesn’t mean that they are not worried that they will be next or are upset that they got to keep their job while their friends are now unemployed.

Chances are, depending on your company size, surviving individuals might have had a friend laid off, leaving a bad taste in their mouths and also making them a little emotional or distressed. This is completely normal. Emotions run high across the board during any reduction event. Even if you are trying to stave off a RIF by using furloughs or other activities, employees will read between the lines and guess that the business is somehow failing.

While this isn’t always the case in reality – you could have held a RIF because you have increased your tech stack and no longer need staffers for certain jobs, for example – people will always look at layoffs as a negative.

So, when a layoff event is over, it’s time to reinvigorate your surviving staff members. This where various forms of communication come into play.

Hold a Meeting

You can, if you wish, hold a meeting before the layoff that explains to your staff what is happening, how the event will be carried out, and give them time to ask questions. However, not many organizations like holding a big meeting that details the whole process, deciding to instead use email or small meetings to announce and carry out the RIF or layoff.

A follow up meeting is a great way to touch base with your staff, giving them a way to ask their questions and for you to calm nerves.

During this turbulent time, you should always give off an air of confidence and calmness to your staff members. In other words, be a leader. Show them, not just through words, but with actions, that the event was necessary and that those let go have been given tools to succeed.

CEDR Solutions, an HR consulting firm, explains that promoting teamwork during these events can help the surviving staff cope with the increased stress. They also say that honesty is the best policy when it comes to a layoff.

Don’t go into any of these meetings trying to bend the truth or lie through omission. Your employees will see right through this and they will distrust you even more.

But What Do I Say?

This is a tricky thing to give advice on, because it largely depends on your organization and how you normally communicate.

The best advice is to be calm, collected, and open. You need to be transparent about why the event was necessary, whether or not it is a RIF or a temporary layoff, and about your business goals going forward.

If you treat your exiting staff members with the respect and dignity they deserve, paying close attention to their success after they make their exit, you surviving staff will already not worry as much. However, it’s impossible to negate all of the stress from a layoff. No one wants to think they may not have a job in the future.

If you hold a meeting to address the move, explain to the retained staff members everything you’ve already explained to those let go.

Here’s a brief rundown of what that can look like:

  • Jump right in. Don’t make small talk.
  • Explain what happened (layoff).
  • Explain why in detail.
  • Explain that as retained staffers you value their commitment making the business operate.
  • Don’t lie. If things are rocky and there might be more layoffs, explain that finances are still shaky. If the layoff was due to another reason, explain that. But whatever you do, don’t try to pull a fast one.
  • Explain the benefits offered to staff members: outplacement, severance, etc.

If you hit all of these points in a small, quick speech, you will help settle the nerves of the retaining staff members.

What to Say to Employees After a Layoff: The Final Say

When it comes to layoff communication, you must be open, honest, and willing to help everyone involved. Whether that is providing outplacement services to those being let go or helping the retained staff members cope, it falls on you and your management team to navigate these troubled waters.

We highly suggest you take a look at our layoff script, layoff letter, and other resources to ensure you are well-rounded in your communication plan. You can borrow a lot of these tips when crafting a small speech to give to retain staffers after the event.

Download more resources here:
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Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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