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5 Ways to Keep Employees Focused Before, During, and After a Layoff

Worker productivity is easily impacted by outside factors– from stress levels to lack of sleep to the political climate. Employees might be more productive if they exercise before they start their day, or less productive if they stay up too late binge-watching their favorite show on Netflix. While HR leaders can’t control what employees do on their own time, we can take action to keep productivity high when we know a particular distracting event is on the horizon, like a layoff. So what can employers do to maximize productivity?

As it turns out, productivity levels can correspond to the actions you take before and after a layoff, and not necessarily the day the news breaks. When business leaders act with transparency, honesty, and openness, their actions help mitigate potential productivity loss, even in the case of a large workforce reduction.

Here are 5 steps for keeping employees focused in the event of a layoff, and ideas for actions you can take before and after a layoff occurs to set your company up for future success.

#1: Address the elephant in the room

Layoffs are usually the last resort for companies, ideally occurring after a concerted effort to curb spending, cut costs in other ways, and offer employees alternatives to involuntary separation. In many cases, employers have some time to honestly communicate the financial situation to employees before a reduction in force (RIF) takes place. When employees are left out of the conversation, they have a tendency to make up their own reality.

After all, the signs that a company is having financial difficulty are too easy to sense from within the organization, and leaders who think they are fooling employees are only kidding themselves. As a result, employees spend time thinking about possible consequences instead of working toward increased profitability. All this worrying can lead to an immediate drop in productivity that may not rebound until up to a year after the actual layoff event takes place.

When you address the elephant in the room–the fact that the current financial situation is less than ideal– it gives employees the chance to take action. If employees understand the company is struggling, they can do their part to reduce expenses, and make decisions while keeping costs top of mind. You’d be surprised how much money can be saved at the departmental level. Teams find creative ways to push spending out a few quarters, or do more with less. Employees would much rather cut spending than see their colleagues, friends and themselves released from employment.

When business leaders take the initiative to communicate openly and honestly before a layoff, employees can step up and focus on creating solutions within the company instead of focusing on and worrying about finding other employment opportunities for themselves.

#2: Train managers to coach employees

As soon as cost-cutting measures are put into place, managers should receive resiliency training to prepare them to listen to their employees and how to offer support appropriately. The object of resiliency training is to teach managers how to acknowledge the change while providing relevant information without creating panic.

During this period, managers can play a vital role in encouraging employees to stay focused on what they can control, instead of what’s outside of their control. This subtle change of attitude increases productivity as employees learn to work on creative solutions and their own professional development instead of worrying about what may or may not come to pass in the future. Managers who are transparent and honest about the current business climate will earn the trust of their employees. The right training will prepare managers to be effective coaches for employees in the event of a layoff or involuntary job transition.

#3 Encourage thoughtful innovation

Immediately following a layoff, shift your focus from the business of downsizing to effectively creating a productive workplace that encourages thoughtful innovation. While particular positions may have been eliminated, their workload hasn’t. The remaining employees and managers will need to find ways to modify processes and redistribute the workload. Involve everyone in the business of finding solutions and acknowledge the impact of the layoffs on teams, workloads, workflows, and relationships.

While organizations and managers may want to just move on from a reduction in force, many employees won’t be ready to put it behind them immediately. This is the time for a pro-active approach to employee communication. Encourage members of management to resist the temptation to isolate themselves in their offices. As part of resiliency training, managers and members of the HR department should be directed to remain visible – walk amongst teams and ask how people are doing. Show genuine interest in their mental state and look for those people who don’t seem to be as productive or positive as before. Talk to them about what they like about their job and help them to find ways to show some immediate wins.

Get team members back on track by helping them to set short term goals and let them know how their contribution will help the other members of the team. Taking steps towards accomplishment and being part of innovative solutions is good for a person’s emotional state and will do more toward improving productivity than only discussing what employees can do for the company.

#4: Be proactive

As Michelle Riklan wrote for Huffington Post, “layoff survivors are often not sure why they ‘made it’ while their peers didn’t. Sure, they have an inkling; a good performance, a not-so-expensive paycheck, and tenure come to mind. But these are nothing but speculations, and until you confirm them, layoff survivors will continue fearing for their future in the company.”

During a layoff, communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s not enough to have an “open door” policy, because some employees might not feel comfortable approaching management when a layoff has just occurred. Just because people are silent, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about the impact of the layoffs or worrying about their own future. In the absence of communication, people will make up their own reality – and that reality is rarely positive. Every step of the way– before, during, and after a layoff– communication is key. Failing to communicate in a timely fashion, or avoiding sharing pertinent details with employees will derail attempts at a return to normalcy and productivity.

Management and HR must have a plan for reaching out to employees with one on one meetings designed to reiterate the messaging of the layoff. During these meetings, managers need to address why the layoffs occurred, acknowledge how hard the situation is on surviving employees, and assure employees that there are no more layoffs happening at this time. While these conversations should be reassuring, be careful not to make promises or predictions that may not come to pass. Be honest, be kind, but don’t sugar coat the message. Developing trust is the number one goal at this time.

During this time, it’s important that managers and members of the HR department remind employees of their value. People want to know their value, and are inspired and motivated when it’s clear that the work they’re doing is meaningful. HR can also ensure they have resources in place for employee’s who find the changes particularly challenging.  An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great solution especially when communicated in a way that helps people understand the confidential nature of the resource. It’s also important to help employee’s understand what an EAP can do for them from general counseling, assistance with work/life issues, financial planning conversation and other resources.

#5: Benchmark your progress 3 months out

Immediately following a reduction in force or a restructuring event, organizations often focus on minimizing the damage to culture and productivity. Although many companies are still experiencing the effects of a reduction in force for more than six months, most don’t have long-term programs in place to address the influence of the layoffs on productivity and employee satisfaction. Before the layoffs occur, plan to revisit employee concerns at the 3 month mark. During this time, revisit resiliency  training for managers and employees and schedule one-on-one meetings between managers and their team members to check the temperature of employee sentiment and assess who need additional support.

It may be tempting for some organizations to move forward with costly planned events, large campaigns or costly expenditures. This is not the time for company-wide parties or large, ostentatious shows. Many impacted employees may still be looking for work and the sting of the increased workload is still being felt by the survivors.

The three-month mark might be a good time to schedule an all-hands meeting to discuss the state of the company and plans for improved financial success. A town-hall style meeting is a good forum to answer questions from employees and to provide transparency into company business plans where appropriate.

Follow-up on whole-company meetings with department meetings to discuss how the contributions of individual departments tie into corporate goals and schedule individual meetings with team members to discuss how their efforts tie into the success of the team.

The days, weeks, and months before and after a layoff are often an emotionally challenging time for everyone at a company. Having a plan and taking specific actions can help mitigate the loss of productivity and instill an increased level of trust for those employees who remain.  Open and honest communication helps to create a more positive environment that encourages employees by demonstrating appreciation for their contributions, providing transparency into the business climate, and encouraging personal growth.

The post 5 Ways to Keep Employees Focused Before, During, and After a Layoff appeared first on RiseSmart.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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