How To Handle Layoffs

Staff cutbacks may be the only way for some jewelers to survive the economic downturn. Following are some of the main issues jewelers must address when considering layoffs, according to staffing experts:

  • Develop a communication plan that covers both affected employees and the rest of your staff as well as customers, the marketplace, industry, and media.

  • Have a clear written policy that provides managers and human resources people with detailed guidelines on how to implement layoffs.

  • Coach your managers and HR people on what to say and how to handle layoffs calmly, professionally, and with sensitivity and compassion for the affected employees.

  • Notify the affected employees first. They shouldn’t hear the bad news through office gossip and rumors. Handle these sessions privately and face-to-face, ideally with the employee, supervisor, owner, and/or HR manager or staffing agent present. Don’t let someone go via e-mail or phone message. Most experts advise timing the discussion for the end of the day or the end of the work week to prevent office gossip, give affected employees the chance to consider the news in private, and avoid a situation where they will have to endure the workday with this hanging over their heads.

  • Be honest with the employees who are being terminated—as well as the rest of the staff—about why the company had to make this difficult decision. Stress that it is not their fault, express regret for the impact on them and their family, offer positive words about their performance, and thank them for their contributions. Explain what will be expected from them in terms of work responsibilities during their final days. Go over any security issues (e.g., clearing out desks, handing in keys, etc.) and be ready to answer questions.

  • Have a detailed layoff packet ready for each affected employee that includes an official termination letter; date of the employee’s last day; rights the employee has under federal, state, and company guidelines; expiration date of health insurance; information on continuation of health insurance; and information concerning benefits and outplacement resources.

  • Offer outplacement services such as career counseling, skill assessment, letters of recommendation, revision of resumes and cover letters, job search assistance, etc. (Diamond Staffing Solutions offers these services.)

  • Have an employment attorney advise you on the proper procedures to follow to avoid violations of employment laws and limit your exposure to lawsuits.

  • Do not ignore the people who survive the cuts. Some may feel guilty they are still employed, especially if those let go included friends. Others may feel depressed, angry, confused, or worried that they will be next. Reinforce the company’s strategic vision and goals, emphasize the value and importance you place on your remaining employees, reiterate the action plan you’ve put in place for your staff, and stress the need for teamwork and cohesion.

  • Rally the troops with ongoing communication, regular progress updates, positive messages, and even counseling if needed. You may have to call on your remaining employees to do more. This means you’ll need to clarify job roles; oversee the transfer of employee skills into other areas; offer opportunities for career growth, skill building, and further education; and provide employees with a sense of hope and purpose.

The key to implementing a best practices layoff plan and minimizing negative fallout is to have a clear, formal, legal policy in place that treats those who are cut with care and dignity and seeks to move them back into the workforce as quickly as possible. How you handle the people you let go sends a strong message to the employees who remain regarding their value to you. Your actions also tell customers, the community, your vendors, and your industry what kind of company you are. Finally, your layoff protocol sends a message to outside candidates that can affect your ability—positively or negatively—to attract top talent to your organization in the future.

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