This in turn has triggered staggering job losses everywhere. Many businesses have had to close their doors permanently and those who haven’t are struggling to stay afloat. The only thing that is happening with certainty in these uncertain times are the layoffs.

Having to let people go at the best of times is one of the hardest things to do. There is no good way to ever tell someone that they no longer have a job in the current organisation and during a crisis such as the current one, it is emotionally overwhelming.

Unfortunately as COVID19, continues to wreak havoc on the workplace, many employers are facing the prospect of making drastic cuts to their workforce in order to keep their organisation afloat.  In this light it becomes extremely critical to ensure that the evaluation for letting people go has been thorough and non biased.

Layoffs Across Industries

Despite requests from the Prime Minister, to exercise empathy towards employees many organisations across the country have had to lay off their staff in order to keep their business afloat. It is not just startups that have had to conduct this exercise but also well-established organisations. Here below are some of the statistics in India and around the world

  • Swiggy, the food delivery partner which had hired around 8000 employees last year has announced a cut of about 1100 employees as of May this year.
  • Zomato is laying off 13% of its workforce, along with a 50% pay cut for the higher earning bracket.
  • Indiabulls, a financial services group, has reportedly asked about 2000 employees to resign since the company will undergo some restructuring due to the current world crisis.
  • Uber, the cab hailing app, has slashed its workforce by about 3700 (14%) employees mostly in the departments of recruiting and customer support.
  • BookMyShow, the event and movie ticketing platform has announced that 270 employees will be impacted  in its efforts to downsize.
  • Automation Anywhere, the US based robotic automation set up has laid off 10% of its workforce.
  • Oyo, the hotel booking company, has laid off hundreds of its employees in the US in departments such as sales, HR and business development.

Make Sure Layoffs Are A Last Resort

The people are an organisation’s most important assets. It would make a significant difference if the organisation can evaluate other options to see if any combination of lowering salaries, cutting benefits, reducing work hours or unpaid leave can replace layoffs

Keeping the communication lines open between employees and the organisation is crucial and may yield unexpected results. When people come together in an adverse situation, it is possible they may come up with novel ways of tackling the layoff situation and increasing the growth of the company as well.

This way the workforce tends to feel included, trusted and heard. Open communication is extremely important for people working remotely since fear and uncertainty is amplified by isolation and silence on the part of the organisation.

Approaching Layoffs Cautiously Is Crucial

In the end, however, not everyone will be able to avoid a layoff. When all other means have been explored and rejected and the inevitable becomes the only way forward, preparing for it would be the best way to handle it.

Layoffs should be handed empathetically and sensitively all the while ensuring that the dignity of the employee remains intact. Once the leaders are convinced that layoffs are mandatory, the following steps will help to handle the process efficiently and humanely:

Gather Information

Having updated information about the employee, the scope of their work, and the impact the layoff will have on them are all must-haves. Once the announcement for a layoff is made employees are bound to have several questions. It is best that the authorities dealing with the layoffs have the required information to answer the questions satisfactorily

Employer Brand And Reputation

How the organisation treats its employees at this crucial time will play a huge part in shaping the employer brand and reputation. People should be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect while being conveyed by the news of the layoff.

Being overly emotional or too mechanical will not convey the message in a convincing manner. The right mix of practicality and humanity needs to be employed here. Acknowledging the employee’s emotions and reactions will help toward the cause of the organisation too.

Offer Assistance Realistically

It is important that the message reaching the employee is not sugar-coated nor filled with false promises. Inform the employees being laid off that the communication line will still be open in case they have further questions or require references.

Ensure Transparency

The whole process of layoff needs to be transparent so that the remaining employees understand the process clearly and that it is an inevitability rather than a choice. An open question-answer forum will certainly help to put several fears to rest. The commitment to move forward should be made clear to all employees

Hiding Behind COVID19 

The ideal way to lay off employees is by having a face to face conversation before letting them go. However, the existing COVID 19 pandemic has pushed many people to remote working which makes the in-person option, not a viable one. In no way should this trigger the company to carry out the exercise via email, SMS or a group call. An individual video call will ideally be the most respectful thing to do.

Organizing Final Payments

The only certainty during this pandemic is uncertainty. It is very unclear and unpredictable as to when the situation will improve and to what extent. Even taking a wild guess if it will be possible to onboard a particular employee again at a later date if at all. In such situations, it would be helpful to organize the final payout to the employee without further delay.

While the job of informing an employee of being laid off is a difficult one and needs to be handled with a lot of sensitivity, it is also necessary to bear in mind that it is a task to be completed. Listed below are a few points to ensure that the job gets executed satisfactorily:

  • Schedule a video call possibly the same day as the invitation is sent out
  • Jot down important points in order to be sure of covering all the aspects
  • Maximize privacy in the room
  • Adopt a supportive tone
  • Speak slowly and calmly
  • The reasons for a layoff should be clear and factual
  • Summarise and give the employee time to absorb and ask any questions
  • Outline plan for the return of office equipment
  • End the call with clear steps to be followed pursuant to the call

If organisations have not yet laid off their staff, now may be the time HR could prepare for such an eventuality. There is no ideal or best way of telling someone they no longer have a job in the organisation they are currently employed with. However, putting in place some guidelines and practicing empathy in dealing with the situation will go a long way for the health of the organisation.