Customer Service in Layoffs

Layoffs are obviously things that every company would like to avoid, but many simply cannot. However, just like day-to-day operations, some companies handle what is essentially the same process of laying of an employee much different than others. A recent report released by a company called Telonu found that a majority of corporate layoffs were handled poorly. The company found out some interesting things:

  • 88% of laid-off employees rate ‘how their layoff was handled’ as poor or very poor. 
  • 94% rate outplacement support as poor/very poor.
  • 81% of those still employed perceive job security as poor or very poor.
  • 74% of those still employed rate morale as poor/very poor.

These are both important and discouraging metrics. When companies layoff employees, they should be on their best and providing the best service possible. Layoffs can obviously seriously impact employees’ lives and brushing them off is a horrible thing to do from a customer service and “good business” perspective.

Actually laying people off is tricky. If you announce that that a person will be laid off in advance, they are going to become demotivated and hurt morale in the office. If you catch people by surprise, it will likely be more difficult and stressful for the employee to find another job. Employees who are about to be laid off should be treated with as much dignity as possible in all circumstances.

Once someone is actually laid off, providing better service is less tricky. The company should provide as much help as possible to the laid off employees. Provide them with some job training, access to some hiring experts who can help them with their resumes and job searches, and so on. The more help that can be provided, the better. Many of these things are standard practices in companies that really want to help their laid off employees. Some companies, however, don’t care and just send the employees out the door.

When a round of layoffs is complete, it is important to talk to the other employees and let them know what will happen. Common sense will tell you that layoffs are not good for morale and this report confirms just that. As a company, you need to do whatever you can to boost morale and let the still employed employees know they are valued and what will be happening in the future.

I’ve never been involved with a layoff, so my experience with them is admittedly quite limited. If you have, however, please leave a comment and let us know what worked well and what didn’t work well before, during, and after a layoff.

4 Responses to “Customer Service in Layoffs”

  1. Barry Peters said:

    Apr 01, 09 at 12:06 am

    It’s amazing how many companies are not getting what you say above. I think empathy is hard for many HR folks/managers.

  2. Meikah Delid said:

    Apr 03, 09 at 1:18 am

    Well, some companies I know give a good severance package and even an after-work sort of training workshop to lessen the blow. But I think, employees would appreciate more a good severance package. 🙂

  3. Kate said:

    Apr 05, 09 at 3:08 pm

    There a lot of things that you can do to let the displaced help each other. One company I know uses an IM service (brosix) to help their formers network and help each other find jobs. Because they can have group events or one of one, even with video and file sharing, it has helped them to be a resource for each other. Not that it is a subsitute for empathy, but it is a good idea for expressing it.

  4. Scott Larner said:

    May 26, 09 at 1:28 pm

    I was laid off last spring and in reality, it was more of a reduction in force. The company announced the day of the layoff approximately one month before and stated that, of the 12 managers, 4 positions were to be eliminated, so everyone knew there was a good chance of being one of the 4. Each manager was given a set time to be in the HR office and was either offered a newly restructured position, or walked out the back door. Once out the back door, that was it, you were on your own. A severance package was offered but that was it.

    I was told that it was a tough decision and really came down to not enough chairs when the music stopped. And even with as tough as the news was to hear, there were a few things the company could have done in addition to the suggestions you have given above.

    My suggestions for potential posts would be: 1. preparing a letter(s) of recommendation for exiting employee. 2. Preparing a contact list for important services, such as, corporate contact for 401k, health insurance, confirmations of employment, and such. Remembering that when an employee is walked out, it is usually immediate, and not given the opportunity to return to their desk and get personal items until some weeks later or until the company does it for them.

    Thanks for the good article.