Layoff Communication: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Panda Anku

One of the most difficult parts of business communication gets more attention as layoffs mount amid an uncertain, faltering economy. And that communication is no longer the internal affair it used to be. It’s almost certain that they’ll be leaked, scrutinized, and considered by your existing employees, job seekers, and even potential customers and clients.

The cost of a misstep is high, both in terms of personnel costs and business costs.

Let’s examine some of the recent layoffs and learn what we can from the best and the rest.

Robin Hood

Taking a more people-centric approach, Robinhood CEO and co-founder Vlad Tenev wrote a blog post explaining the specific departments that would be impacted by the layoffs and taking personal responsibility for the overstaffing that led to this moment :

I want to acknowledge how troubling these kinds of changes are. We often talk about our mission to democratize finance for everyone, and one of the most valued aspects of Robinhood is the teamwork and camaraderie involved in working towards our mission together. I feel incredibly privileged and fortunate to have the opportunity to build with you all.

Over the past year, we have filled many of our operational roles on the assumption that the increased retail exposure we had seen in the equity and crypto markets during the COVID era would continue into 2022. In this new environment we are working with more staff than is appropriate . As CEO, I approved our ambitious workforce plan and took responsibility for it – that’s up to me.

He also detailed the resources workers would offer to redundant workers:

Everyone gets an email and a Slack message with your status—with resources and support when you leave. We’ll message everyone immediately after this meeting so you don’t have to wait for clarity. Retiring Robinhoodies will be offered the opportunity to remain employed with Robinhood and receive their regular salary and benefits (including stock carryover) through October 1, 2022. You will also be offered cash compensation, payment of COBRA premiums for health, dental and vision insurance, and job search assistance (including an optional Robinhood alumni talent directory).

Any affected hoodie can schedule time with our People team to discuss their specific situation live. We know this news is tough for all Robinhoodies, and we also offer wellness support for those who request it.

Tenev’s blog post begins with an empathetic expression that reframes a dark chapter in the company’s history as an opportunity to strengthen its culture, values, and mission. Tenev’s sense of personal responsibility for the poor decision to hire too many employees adds a rarely seen level of accountability to the message that demonstrates these values.

By delving deeper into the logic of how employees were informed, Tenev also offers a rare insight into how change communications can be shared with wellness fronts and centers that is worth emulating.

“The Crying CEO”

You probably never heard of HyperSocial or its CEO, Braden Wallake, until recently. You may still not know his name. You may know him instead as “the crying CEO” after he posted an emotional selfie on LinkedIn alongside a post announcing layoffs.

Wallake tried to respond in a human way and took responsibility for this unfortunate outcome – good rules of thumb for any CEO. However, he made the post all about him and his feelings and how losing his job affected him.

Well, to be fair, this isn’t a traditional job layoff memo. It’s a personal LinkedIn post. Nonetheless, it strikes an inharmonious note that places the CEO at the center and relegates those who have been fired to background figures in its own drama. If you’re writing your own reaction to being fired but still have a job, remember that this isn’t about you. Keep an eye on those affected.

Wayfair

The resignation letter from the online furniture retailer is in stark contrast to HyperSocial’s previous post. The letter from CEO and co-founder Niraj Shah takes responsibility without addressing him and his feelings.

I take responsibility for the impact this decision will have on the nearly 900 Wayfairians who are being notified today that they are no longer involved in shaping the future of our company. The people involved have not only made an enormous contribution to the company as colleagues, but also enriched us all as our partners and friends. We are grateful to have worked with them and we will actively support our colleagues in their next endeavors.

The memo also clearly spells out who will be affected and exactly what the process will be for those who will be made redundant, including specific severance pay details, as well as information on next steps for those staying with the company. All of these can help reduce anxiety during the waiting process.

Posting the letter in full on their website is also a strong act of transparency. If it’s going to leak out anyway, take a step ahead and share your message.

ford

The carmaker announced this week that it would lay off around 3,000 employees, most of whom were white-collar workers. Internally, the move was announced in a memo that was promptly leaked.

The memo begins with a nod to the brand’s history, stretching back to the Model-T, before acknowledging that what guided it in the past is no longer delivering the results it needs.

We’re committed to sharing information when decisions are made along the way. As we look at all aspects of cost – from materials to those related to quality – this week we are informing some Ford teammates in the US, Canada and at FBS in India that their positions will be axed. Overall, we are reducing our employees by around 2,000 and temporary workers by around 1,000. These actions follow a significant restructuring of Ford’s operations outside of North America in recent years.

The memo impresses with its clarity: it explains why costs are being cut, how they are being cut beyond staff and who exactly it affects.

It also doesn’t lose sight of the human cost while explaining how the organization will support those who will be out of work:

None of this changes the fact that this is a difficult and emotional time. The employees leaving the company this week are friends and colleagues and we want to thank them for all they have contributed to Ford. We have a duty to care and support those affected – and we will fulfill that duty – not only by providing benefits, but also by providing significant help in finding new career opportunities.

It’s a solid blend of business-centric pragmatism and people-centric compassion, which are the primary keys in any dismissal communication. Outline measures, mourn what has been lost and look to the future.

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