How to Support and Re-Engage Employees After a Restructure

How to Support and Re-Engage Employees After a Restructure

While restructuring and layoffs are challenging and can certainly be disheartening, there are ways to bring everyone together, and keep those remaining employees motivated and focused. 

How to Support and Re-Engage Employees After a Restructure

Amid layoffs and restructuring related to the current economic landscape, it’s imperative to recognize the feelings and accommodate the needs of employees still in the workforce who are dealing not only with seeing their team members lose their jobs, but also with personal challenges that are often invisible, undefined, and complicated.

Studies show that nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees retained after a layoff saw their productivity decline afterward, while 69% said that the quality of their company’s product or service deteriorated. When these respondents were asked why they felt that way, they expressed feelings of guilt, anxiety, burnout, and anger.

With many organizations recovering in the years post-pandemic, uncertainty continues to loom, resulting in drastic changes in how organizations do business. With a lack of public enthusiasm for the spending habits that typically fuel the economy, it seems like more shifts and upheaval in the labor market could be on the way.

While challenging times like these can certainly be disheartening, and stressful for you as your team, there are ways to bring everyone together and keep those remaining employees motivated and focused.

Let’s break down how human resources and managers can support and re-engage their people following large employee turnover or drastic organizational change.

Prioritize motivation over management

To keep employees motivated despite challenging circumstances, let your mantra be, “Lead first, manage second.” Rather than zeroing in on management duties related to tasks and processes, focus on your core function as a leader — capturing the hearts and minds of employees. Taking care of the well-being of the people who carry the business is always good for business.

To create an environment in which employees and remote teams can maintain their motivation levels and keep their spirits up during challenges, leaders need to focus on five areas:

  • Clarity
  • Trust
  • Buy-in
  • Development
  • Engagement
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Communicate with clarity

In down times, ambiguity is the enemy and creates disengaged employees. Ambiguity leads to conflict and discouragement because employees are left to fill in the blanks at the very time they are feeling most fearful and uncertain about their jobs.

Work diligently to remove as much ambiguity as possible from your organization by:

  • Over-communicate what you do know and be honest about what you don’t know.
  • Repeat the information often.
  • Help your employees put their current reality into perspective.
  • Clearly define current organizational goals and their roles in achieving those goals.

Additionally, stop encouraging employees to “think outside the box” during this time of organizational change. That kind of direction can actually derail motivation levels because it comes across as out of touch with reality.

Redirect employee energy from resistance to problem-solving by encouraging them to “think inside the box,” where the “box” consists of goals on the one hand and constraints currently in place (such as a freeze on headcount or limited funding) on the other. Return to your core values to answer “how do approach these challenges?”

This will help generate solutions that respect the very real constraints on your employees.

Remember, notifying managers and exiting employees of an impending layoff is only one part of your larger communication plan. You’ll also want to communicate this direction with your surviving employees and discuss the root of the decision in order to maximize retention and engagement.

When addressing your employees, be authentic. Don’t evade the subject or make up a story that softens the blow. Be direct, honest, and compassionate. This is senior management’s opportunity to reassure its employees and show they are valued.

Instill trust to safeguard motivation

Reductions in force during uncertain times, like downsizing or furloughs, can do a number on your teams. If you’ve had to lay off your employees, you may end up spending more time adjusting organizational goals, team priorities, and individual workloads than helping your business grow and succeed. To avoid further disengagement and turnover, make sure you have an effective plan in place. Without it, the layoff could breed mistrust among your employees.

An important part of learning how to support employees during layoffs is working to ensure that your employees can trust you as a consistent, dependable leader who is committed to their best interests and outcomes.

While you may not be able to reassure your employees that their jobs are secure, you can assure them that you will work diligently to develop them and their skills to be best prepared to handle whatever comes their way.

Resist the urge to share your own disgruntled fears or collude with your leadership team or employees against the company. This actually threatens your trustworthiness. Employees are looking for you to put aside your needs and fears and to provide realistic and inspirational leadership — step up and give it to them.

View this opportunity as a way to bolster your leadership team to support their own departments or teams, work together to ensure clear communication, and establish trust.

Maintain trust in the workplace by supporting employee needs

Offer outplacement services

Outplacement services like career coaching, employment services, and upskilling are initiatives that show you empathize and truly care about your people and speak to your wider strategy in terms of change management.

Remember, redundancies are also part of the employee journey, and how your organization and management approaches layoffs should also speak to your core values.

A proper offboarding strategy, aligned with your fundamentals, shows company consistency and care in your overall planning. This can then impact trust and engagement levels with your remaining staff.

Also, proper offboarding leaves a much better experience for individuals, and these people might return and become boomerang employees.

employee retention strategy guide

Re-instill a sense of purpose

Too often during an economic downturn, leaders require less “buy-in.” That is, they begin to expect and accept less from their employees. “Since I can’t give you a great raise, I guess buy-in is optional.” Many leaders believe that engagement levels and happiness come from a lack of stress at work, when in fact they come from teamwork, accountability, and a shared vision. About 70% workers need that sense of purpose when it comes to work.

Insist on buy-in by tying back to that shared vision, team building, and clear communication on your strategy (including why redundancies were made).

Hold your employees accountable to succeed despite the circumstances. Let their motivation be built by overcoming difficulties under the direction of a great leader who cares about them, recognizes their great achievements, and values the employee experience.

Establish this by working with leadership to create a work environment that continues to motivate and support your people. That can either be through a large or department-wide town hall or by sharing your organization’s plan for confronting challenges.

Approach challenges as opportunities to grow

We know that diamonds are rocks under pressure. Give your employees time and attention, and encourage teams to tackle these challenges as a growth.

The greatest development does not come from just training, it happens when employees are trusted with a challenge and are supported and coached accordingly.

Make your commitment to employee development conscious and visible. You can launch initiatives like a mentor program, talk through career development, or even offer shadowing days across different departments.

Stay focused on employee engagement

Changes due to redundancies may severely impact employee engagement and productivity levels and can be assessed by asking:

  • Are your high performers keeping up with their performance compared with the change?
  • Did employees’ perceptions of their intent to stay at the organization change?
  • Are we still able to achieve our strategic goals and maintain a positive company culture?

The best way to understand how these changes are impacting teams is to ask them. Implement employee surveys (or even a short pulse survey!) and adjust your change management plans accordingly.

When organizations act with transparency, honesty and openness, these actions help prevent potential downturns in employee engagement.

The days, weeks, and months before and after a layoff are often emotionally challenging times for everyone at a company, and being a compassionate leader during these times is essential.

strategies to combat the great resignation

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 creates a more positive environment that encourages employees by demonstrating appreciation for their contributions, providing transparency into the business climate, and encouraging personal growth.

If you need help supporting your team, consider employee engagement programming. Cooleaf’s happy to help with your goals and you’ll see a stronger, more fulfilled team!


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