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  • Karen Gregory


There is nothing more exciting than watching your business grow. It’s hard work, but throughout the organization there is a pride and a sense of accomplishment. In the world of good and bad or ups and downs, the flip to this exhilarating feeling of success is when there is a down turn in business. It may be cyclical, it may be permanent, it may be sudden, but in all cases it is stressful. During these periods it is still the leader’s responsibility to develop a strategy to get back on track and remain profitable. This can mean a reduction in workforce.

Any reduction in workforce – layoff, downsizing, terminations, elimination of redundant staff due to mergers, etc., sets the stage for the potential of lower morale and motivation, higher anxiety, or a lack of creativity, productivity and commitment. Strong leadership strategies are required to come out of this down turn in a positive manner, prevent losing any additional talent, and put your business back in a growth stage.

Leaders must be proactive with planning, engaged with the work force, and consistent with communication. Communication must be honest (both the good and bad news) and empathic. The leader should be prepared to listen first, listen again, and listen again and again if necessary before responding.

A workforce reduction will create trust issues between employees and leadership. Expect your workforce to be emotional. It’s normal and natural. When we hold post-workforce reduction programs much of the first part of the program is spent allowing and listening to reactions and the emotional fallout from the remaining employees. It is not unusual for them to be concerned about whether they could be next.

Your rebuilding efforts should begin immediately. Hold a meeting with your remaining workforce. Review the mission statement of the organization and what you stand for, then deliver a message of stability with answers to “what we did, why we did it, and what can be expected in both the near and distant future.” Be open and honest, listen to their concerns, share expected benchmarks and timelines, and solicit their ideas/suggestions on how to meet those goals. This will help with buy-in which boosts motivation and morale. Follow this meeting up with regular meetings for all staff to keep them informed with the status of attaining those benchmarks.

After your all-staff meeting start conducting one-on-one meetings. This gives each employee the opportunity to discuss their fears and anxiety. Evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as well as their interests and goals and how they may fit in the big picture of the organization moving forward. Talk about new opportunities, personal growth, and new job responsibilities. Make sure to support your employees with coaching, mentoring, and additional training or education so they see themselves as being able to be successful in their new role. It is leadership’s responsibility to make sure that happens.

As you rebuild your team be sure to recognize and show appreciation for their efforts - everyone experiences the growing pains of learning new skills to fulfill new job responsibilities and new expectations. Through the efforts of the entire team it is possible to retain the talent you have, rebuild morale, and restore the profitability of your business.


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