Tips for laying off employees in a social media world

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.


Slight service interruption

Over the last few days service on this site and several of my other sites has been less than perfect, downright poor for some of them. This has been due to several related factors. Firstly the performance of my previous hosting provider MD Webhosting and secondly the unavoidable service interruptions while moving hosting providers. I am now on a VPS environment provided by SliceHost.

I will not go into the details of the issue I had with MD WebHosting, let’s just say I would not recommend them to anyone.

Things should start to settle down as I get everything fully sorted. I appologise to people who have been impacted by these issues.


June 23rd is a big day!

Today is a big day!

My final official day of employment with Nortel, which means my noticed period started 1 month ago. At 10:30am I meet with HR to hand back all of the “corporate items” and move on.

It is 4 years since I wrote my first blog post. That is 1,460 days worth of blogging, generating 1,138 posts with 2,069 comments.

Finally today is PubCamp Melbourne, where I have decided to led a discussion entitled:

A discussion on how Enterprise 2.0 can drive an organisations revenue and stock price. A look at the relationship between Enterprise 2.0, employees and an improved bottom line.

I plan to have a quick presentation at the PubCamp session and then open it up for discussion. Going to cover areas of employee engagement, the current research to show a relationship to positive financial returns and other areas for Enterprise 2.0 to deliver hard dollar savings.

Reader numbers mean a rethink

When I setup my blog several years ago I decided to use FeedBurner to manage my RSS feed ( There were several reasons for this decision the top two were portability and statistics. When I moved my blog to WordPress a good couple of years ago I kept my FeedBurner feed and put a link to it on the sidebar. However WordPress still automatically created it’s own feed, which since browsers have become to recoginse RSS feeds in the HTML meant that a number of people started to subscribe to the WordPress feed. Subscribing to the WordPress feed is not bad, it’s the same content, but I was missing the statistics.

My reader numbers, according to FeedBurner, for the last year or so have been stable at about 240-250 readers. Not a huge number but given the lack of focus the blog has had, I was quite happy.

Last week I found a new WordPress plugin, Feedburner FeedSmith, that redirects requests to the standard WordPress feed back to my FeedBurner feed. I installed it thinking I would finally get a better understanding of reader numbers.

My reaction. Wow.

It seems there are a few more of you than 240, closer to 500.

Firstly, thanks! I am very grateful to you for finding space in your RSS Reader for me and my blog. Of all of the blogs out there, for 500 people to subscribe to this one blows me away.

This also got me thinking, given there are more readers than I thought I probably should double my effort on each blog post.

101 Links about HR

Today I received an email directing me to a new list called “The HR Bible: 100 Articles Every Human Resources Pro Should Read“. Given at one point had grand plans of building a one stop shop of this information, I had to look.

An initial scan over the titles provided we with a sense of excitement, all these good topics in one place, like:

  • Six Tips for Developing Your Employees
  • How to Find Great Part-Time Employees
  • HR Outsourcing Basics
  • Ten Ways to Attract and Retain Great Employees
  • Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
  • Top Ten Recruiting Tips: Ten Tips for Successful Employee Recruiting

I read through some of the article which were quite good, however not all of them are relevant to all sizes of employers or countries. For example the article on “How To Fire An Employee“, which comes from wikiHowTo which will also teach you How to Win a Street Fight, could quite easily lead you to a lawsuit in some countries.

Other than some items not being suitable everywhere the list is a good starting point for ideas and research.

I know the my title says 101 links, but the post only has 100 links so where is the missing link? The one on how to win a street fight, cause some days being in HR is like a street fight :-).

Taking control of information overload

Something I have been struggling with for about 18 months is information overload, who hasn’t, especially with regard to email and RSS feeds and to a lesser extend podcasts.

To date my method of coping has been to unsubscribe (I removed about 500 blog feeds) or ignore the stream of information (which I do with email subscriptions), this works to a point. I still keep up with the big stories, using the assumption that the limited number of blogs I do follow will point me to the really important stuff, this I must say works well. However I am missing a lot of other interesting stuff and sometimes it takes a week or two for me to catch on that something big is going on.

This morning I found a great post from Steve Rubel (via Twitter from Techmeme) on how to be an information ninja, where Steve provides a run down of how to use Google Reader to control the information overload. The post has 5 key sections:-

* The Core Philosophy: Google Reader is a database and a feed reader
* Continually add tons of feeds in organized, methodical way
* Establish a taxonomy that makes retrieval and sharing easy using on-the-fly tagging
* Annotate your data by connecting Reader to Gmail or Blogger
* Putting it all together – sorting, searching and sharing

After reading it I realised why I was unable to keep up with the information flow, I was not managing it very well. I guess a new years resolution will be to sort out this information flow.

Listing of Top 100 HR blogs

Came across a list of the Top 100 HR blogs from back in September. An interesting read and well worth checking them out if you are looking to expand your feeds.

A couple of thoughts. First it is good to see some of the older blogs (2 year +) there and a lot of new ones. Secondly there are a couple from the southern hemisphere the now closed Now Hiring Blog and the Asia Pacific Headhunter.

It is also very good to see that there are enough HR related blogs out there that there can be a Top 100, at one point there were only 100 :-).

What’s with this Twitter thing?

I know many people just don’t get Twitter, even when it is explained to them, however given the growth of the tool there must be “Something about Twitter?”

Twitter Life Cycle


But what is it?

Over the last week I have seen a few blog posts once again trying to sort out what it is and a couple knocking it down again. Let us explore.

One of the better overviews of what is Twitter was done by my Twitter mate Laurel Papworth who gives us her 3 uses of Twitter which fits about 80% of how I use Twitter, they are:

1. Testimonials and Status Updates (people)
One, Twitter is good for getting a brief update on the status of the people in my social network.

2. Filter, Discoverability, Social Search (and share)
Second, Twitter is excellent at linking me to other sites. Not people but sites.

3. Conversation and Discussion
Twitter is also acting as an (almost) instant chat channel for all my friends.

The only piece I see Laurel missed was the “flash-gathering” aspect, while it could be part of point 1, I see it as important enough to have its own bullet point. What do I mean? Yesterday on the way to Sydney I twittered:

(For those not in Australia Gungagai is between Melbourne and Sydney and has a famous dog sitting on a tucker box.) Within 20 minutes I had an invite to a meetup on Sunday. This is not the first time, quiet often my social engagements are impromptu gatherings based on other people’s tweets. I have caught up with people for lunch, coffee, drinks, dinner, been invited to movie nights, games of ping pong all sorts of social interactions. (This also could be that my social life is lacking as well.)

I would also like to see point 2 expanded for specifically news, many people within my Twitter network get breaking news via Twitter. Lots of news seems to break first on Twitter before it hits the mainstream news organisations, other times people receive news on Twitter without having to visit mainstream news organisations.

Now back to 2 posts that stirred me into action.

First Simon Chen from EightBlack say he still doesn’t get Twitter and that maybe he is too old at 41. Simon shame on you for even thinking it is cause you are too old, I know 20’somethings who don’t get it, getting Twitter has nothing to do with age. As with any tool it comes down to how you use it, and how you integrate it into your life. But one downfall/detractor of Twitter to remember is without friends it is very boring and there is nothing to get. Which is why several people have proposed that we need Twitter guides to help new users getting started. This has started to happen where regular users have started to “promote” new users/friends to help them connect with others to begin their Twitter journey. Oh, yes Simon being one of your Twitter friends means I probably do need to get a life :-).

Second up is James Farmer, who also doesn’t get Twitter which is cool. I am not sure I agree or disagree with James that Twitter is not micro-blogging, we would need to first agree on what is blogging. But it is publishing if we assume that publishing is “the activity of making information available for public view“, just not everyone is interested in consuming the information that is put other there, I feel the same way about Readers Digest.

A final thought if you are in Sydney on Sunday come join me and a bunch of Twitterers for drinks from 2pm at Glenmore Hotel.

Twitter influence and follower growth

There are several classic cliché’s such as “money makes money” and “success breeds success” that basically mean the more you have of something the more you get. Normally I would dispute these concepts but I am starting to question my personal perspectives.

Two things have happened to make this happen. Firstly I spent an hour or so finding as many active Twitters from Melbourne to find out more about what is happening locally and secondly the launch of TwitterPoster Australia. Key here is TwitterPoster rates people with more followers as having a greater influence.

Why are these things important? A proportion of the Melbourne Twitters I “friended” also friended me and this in turn increased my so called influence on TwitterPoster, which drove more friends and the spiral began.

It took almost 6 months to get the first 100, but in 3 weeks my followers have grown from around 180 to over 330. Ok for some with 1,000’s of followers this is nothing but for an average shmuck like me it is very cool.

But really what has changed? Not a lot, other than another 150 people listening to my Twitter dribble.

The next trick is to work out what to do, if anything, with all this influence :-). Actually that starts to move into personal branding which is a whole other post.