An executive I admire was telling me about a downsizing program that the company is undertaking, driven by some major process improvement changes. He is pressing for rapid completion of the down-shift, in order to get through the staff pain as quickly as possible. (Totally the right thing to do in my view)
It's a regional bank, and one of the most respected and desirable employers in their small market. I was delighted to hear that they were doing their best to help employees find positions.
When we talked recently, my advice was: do even more.
The most important advertising you will do in the next year is how you treat these employees, I said.
Provide vacant office space, phones, copiers and a couple of PCs and encourage people to form a job-finding club. Help them get it started and keep it going. Tell them you hope you can bring them back someday as you get bigger. Encourage them to keep in touch.
We spend time and effort thinking about WOMMA (word of mouth marketing and advertising) and trying to show customers what good people we are with our corporate good-citizen stuff, cultural and charitable activities. But it's all for nothing if we treat our employees badly and they tell the world.
Employees understand business reality. There will be re-organizations and process changes that lead to job losses. This is no justification for disrespect.
Senior people often kid themselves that only the weak links are being tossed overboard. That the merger, or whatever is an opportunity to high-grade the team.
This is nonsense, a fairy-tale that HR people tell themselves to make themselves feel better. The truth is, talented contributors are being laid off. And what will they say about you later on? Will they be customers for life? Will they tell people how fairly and how well you treated them? Will they be what Eric Myers at ICE calls Evangelists or Vigilantes?