Employer Branding is Critical during Layoffs and Restructuring

Recent headlines have been filled with news of large-scale layoffs and restructuring at iconic US and Canadian companies. Especially this close to the holiday season, the impact to people and jobs is significant, and the news is unfortunate. With the kind of impact these changes have on people and families, public and internal perception about crisis and financial instability (although unfounded) can really take hold. 

So while it may seem intuitive to put aside employer branding initiatives during this time, and focus instead on change management and transition plans, it’s during these times that an employer brand is most vulnerable and most critical. Here are 3 ways to safeguard your employer brand if you’re going through layoffs or organizational restructuring. 

1. Ensure Your Actions are Aligned With Your EVP

Employer branding isn’t just about how you act or communicate to attract talent to your organization – it’s about how you treat them once they join and how you treat them during a time of crisis or exit.  Every interaction throughout the employee lifecycle informs how employees view your brand, so it’s important that your actions during a time of crisis are aligned with your employer brand and EVP (what employees value most).

Wherever possible, find a meaningful link between the layoff or reorganization and the eventual positive impact that it will have on your people and employer brand. Yes, you’ll still acknowledge that this change will be tough and will be difficult for those that it affects, but how will this change help you safeguard your corporation and, in the long run, help deliver what employees value most? Make sure that you answer those questions and continue to build on the programs that matter most to them. For example, if providing a learning culture is a key component of your EVP, make sure that learning opportunities continue. Ensure that your leaders are taking time to provide mentorship and guidance, highlight internal and external development programs, and discuss how this time of transition and change can be an opportunity for reflection, learning, and growth. 

2. Treat People Well

Treat employees who are leaving with respect and gratitude for the work they have done for the organization; provide honest feedback about what other opportunities may be open to them; and a clear understanding of what support they will have available to them. For example, if there are open roles to fill in different locations or departments, review the skills of departing employees and consider offering them those roles instead of letting them go. If they’re not eligible for those positions, be honest about that as well. Being exited when a company is still hiring can be confusing and can cause unnecessary anger and stress. In terms of additional support, severance packages are one way to go but, if you have the means, consider offering an outplacement program to help people find their next opportunity. Offering outplacement sends a clear message that, while you don’t have a role to offer, you are committed to minimizing the negative impact that your decision may have.  

What about those who still remain? Be sure to treat the employees who remain with compassion; the company will be counting on them to continue moving the organization forward in the absence of their colleagues.  Provide coaching to all the leaders in the organization on how to present the difficult information but also consider coaching on what not to say, to help them support their remaining employees. And what about celebrating success? This part is tough, and you want to ensure that you’re sensitive to the mood and morale in the organization, but that doesn’t mean that positive reinforcement and recognition should completely stop. The people who remain may be feeling uncertain about the company’s future and their own job security. So when people act in a way that reinforces and supports your employer brand, make sure to  thank them. When people do good work, make sure they feel appreciated. Ensure that leadership is visible, hands-on, supporting people through this transition, and looking for ways to reinforce the behaviors that lead to success. This will help you engage and retain the top talent that you need within your organization. 

Whatever you do, the way that you exit people from your organization can leave a lasting impression. So it’s important to treat people well, and in a way that helps set them up for success, despite the difficult circumstances.   

3. Develop Key Messages and Strong Communication Plans

What you do matters, but what people hear matters just as much. That’s why paying attention to the way that you communicate during layoffs is critical. First, ensure you define a list of key messages that answer the most common questions that will be asked. What is the reason for the change? How many people are impacted? What is being done to minimize the negative impact on people or provide them with options? How are executives feeling about these changes? What is the company’s future outlook? All communications – from in-person meetings to group-wide emails or public relations and social media campaigns – should be aligned with these key messages and as transparent as possible. 

Then, develop a strong and clear communication plan to share the news both internally and externally. Ensure to take a thoughtful approach about who needs to be communicated with, what they need to hear, and when they need to hear it. There’s nothing worse than news (and misinformation) being spread by hearsay, which can happen when a communication plan isn’t structured correctly. Develop a list of FAQs so that internal teams supporting this transition are clear on the key questions and answers. Then review all your current collateral and communications, to ensure that they are consistent, aligned, and that the tone matches the mood of the organization. 

Lastly, stay focused on the tasks at hand, keep an open mind to what’s reported in the media about the crisis, and provide enough details to help your employees feel confident you have a well thought-out strategy for managing the company through this period, and the next 12-18 months and beyond. Clear, open lines of communication across the organization will help to mitigate the high level of stress that everyone will be feeling, and prevent the stories that get spread when people do not have all the facts.  Employees, external clients, and vendor partners will be watching closely to see if the actions of the organization match the messaging.

How to Build a Resilient Employer Brand

Maintaining your employer brand takes work. It’s an ongoing process that requires understanding your employee experience and what employees value most, building on the best of what you have to offer, and then closing any gaps. This is especially true during and following a major change. Use any adjustment period to listen, reinforce the behaviours you want to see, and to lean in and deliver what employees value most. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be on the path to building a resilient employer brand and culture that can withstand any change. 

If you would like to learn more about employer branding and how we can help you build a resilient and best-in-class corporate culture, call Blu Ivy today at 647-308-2352.

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