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Now, more than ever, organizations have to make tough workforce decisions in response to economic conditions. One impact of inflation sitting at 6.5% is higher labor costs. Many companies are looking to their workforce as a way to reduce the overall budget. In fact, according to our 2023 Global Talent Trends Survey, roughly 29% of organizations are considering, or have already implemented, a reduction in workforce in response to the rising cost of labor.
It’s important to keep an eye on how transitioning employees are treated when they exit, as it can have a huge impact on the way an organization’s brand is perceived. Companies like Glassdoor have empowered current and former employees, as well as candidates, to write public reviews, putting the fate of an employer’s reputation only a click away.
With boomerang employees on the rise and the talent shortage predicted to impact the workforce for years to come, employees who are being transitioned could be the very talent needed to meet future workforce demands. This makes how an employee is treated on the way out just as important as how he or she was treated when recruited and hired.
So, how can an organization safeguard its brand reputation in times of uncertainty? Although not foolproof, here are three ways:
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” as Albert Mehrabian famously quoted. He concluded that three components are at play when a message is delivered: words, tone, and body language. The 7%–38%–55% rule illustrates that there is varying emphasis given to each of these three components by the receiver of a message. The receiver derives only 7% of its meaning by the words used, 38% by the tone, and 55% by the body language displayed when a message is delivered. Facial expressions, minor shifts in posture, and the tone in which the message is delivered all convey very powerful, unspoken messages. This makes having a clear communication plan critical when having to transition employees. Offering training to those who will be communicating the message can go a long way toward equipping leaders with the skills to deliver messages empathetically.
It is hard enough to be transitioned out of an organization, but what if an employee receives the news about the change and is then left on his or her own to figure out “what’s next.” One can imagine the range of emotions the employee might face — fear, anger, disappointment, sadness. A best practice when tough decisions are needed is to offer outplacement services to the departing employee. According to Mercer’s 2022 Severance Policies and Practices Survey, an average of 64% of organizations offer some form of outplacement to departing employees. A virtual “meet people where they are” approach will speak volumes about how your organization values its talent. Not only is it critical to give transitioning employees a resource to find the next step, it will help ease the transition.
After the difficult decisions are made, being open and transparent with the employees who remain with your organization is the key to keeping them engaged and your employer brand intact. Not only will they hear about how departing employees were treated, they will be watching closely to see how the information is communicated to the employees who are still with the organization. We have seen that organizations that are willing to be open, have clear and direct communication about the decision, and handle communications emphatically fare better than those that are secretive and closed off.
One way to ensure that you are still in tune with the needs of your workforce is through employee listening efforts, which survey the employees who are still with the organization and allow them space to voice any feedback they might have about the situation. Often when an organization restructures its workforce, work streams or initiatives are moved to the employees who are left. This workload increase or change can be stressful, so keeping a pulse on your people is critical during these times of transition. Organizations where employees feel that they are heard and that their feedback is valued, have shown an increase in engagement, which increases employee productivity!
Building goodwill by communicating with care and providing outplacement services for employees who are transitioning, while also keeping a pulse on the employees who remain, can go a long way when it comes to brand reputation. Supported employees are less likely to leave a negative review or speak badly about their employer. Meeting people where they are is always a good practice, and will pay dividends in the future.
For more information on outplacement services or employee listening solutions from Mercer, please contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-434-2120.