Michael Specht

A blog from Australia looking at technology, management, Human Resources (HR) and recruitment.

Tips for laying off employees in a social media world

October 19th, 2008 · 5 Comments · Blogging, Enterprise 2.0, HR Management, New Media, Social Networks · 30,611 views



Over the weekend Techcrunch posted about the layoffs traking place due to the economic downturn. There are two main themes in the post; first some of the layoffs are clearing out of dead wood and the other being it is hard to keep layoffs a secret when everyone is a publisher.

To the first point. This is not new companies have always used downturns to shed deadwood, not sure why this was even raised by Michael Arrington. 

The second point is far more interesting and will have major impacts on employers for years to come. In a world where anyone can publish, and does, how you manage this process is critical.

But in the age of everyone-is-a-publisher it takes just a second after someone is walked out the door for them to post about it on Twitter or their blog, and it spreads from there.

Blog posts, tweets, video content all remain in search engine caches for a very long time, if not forever! Which means if you are thinking of cutting back here are some tips for doing so in a social media world, some of these are just plain common sense.

  1. Do it quickly, ok this is always the case but even more so now. Use the old carpenter’s rule “measure twice, cut once” the last thing you want to people having multiple chances of publishing about the process.
  2. Remember the jobs you are cutting have people in them. Treat them that way.
  3. But also remember humans do not make rational logical decisions based on information given to them. They will instead pattern match with either their own experience, or collective experience expressed as stories. This usually means they will react poorly initially.
  4. Provide employees some advice about being careful if vent online, make sure if they do it will not lead to nasty legal battles down the track.
  5. Expect things to be blogged, tweeted, and generally discussed. 
  6. Monitor the internet to see what is being said. Allow people to vent but if needed gently correct the messages if they are blatantly wrong.
  7. Don’t get into a online publishing war over the smallest of things published, sometimes ignoring it is the best option. The more times search engines find a topic the higher they rank it in the results. Also bloggers tend to react quickly and harshly don’t give them additional fuel to write about.
  8. Communicate with the employees who are leaving, but do so honestly and openly, limit the corporate bullsh#t.
  9. Communicate with the employees who are staying, again do so honestly and openly, limit the corporate bullsh#t.
  10. Setup a Facebook alumni group (if you don’t have one), automatically invite all of the employees who are leaving. Remember some will be boomerangs.
  11. Setup an internal wiki to allow the people leaving to document their knowledge in a central location. This way you might collect some of the knowledge that is leaving before it leaves.
  12. Communicate to your customers, suppliers, media, analysts and blogosphere what is going on and why.
  13. Make sure you are not applying double standards with your executive team as this will certainly get people talking. 
  14. Make sure the rest of the organisations is also cutting back on expenses. If you keep people flying first class while laying off employees this will also get people talking.
  15. Highlight the other cost cutting measures that the organisation is taking to show layoffs aren’t the only thing.
  16. It is a great time to have the CEO start an blog, this will show them as a real person a factor that should not be overlooked during this period of change.
  17. Finally make sure you pay severance packages fairly and on time.
These are my initial thoughts, have to head off and join the family but chip in with your own while I am gone.

 

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