Letting Workers Go Due to Covid-19

During the continuing coronavirus pandemic, many retailers have furloughed or laid off employees. While this is never a simple process, decent communication might make it relatively less painful and emotional for everyone involved.

If it’s decided to let some employees go indefinitely, your company isn’t alone. Many well-known omnichannel retail companies have already announced significant layoffs.

On June 3, 2020, The Economist reported that”American retailers have laid off or furloughed one-fifth of their employees.”

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Macy’s, by way of instance, furloughed most of its employees in March 2020 as shelter-in-place orders were declared throughout the nation. Then on June 25, 2020, the business stated that 3,900 of its workers would be let go indefinitely.

Sur la Table, a Seattle-based kitchen supply merchant, confirmed last week that it laid off 20 percent of its corporate employees (27 workers ) as a consequence of the pandemic. Even though this is a far smaller amount than Macy’s, you can bet it was a stressful experience for every person who lost a job and for everybody who stayed.

Now add to the layoffs at a number of other retailers, such as Nordstrom, J. C. Penney, J.Crew, and Neiman Marcus, to mention only a few.

Layoffs Hurt

“Letting people go is an emotional event — not only for those being laid off but for people who stay,” composed business advisor and entrepreneur Stever Robbins at a 2009 Harvard Business Review article.

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Many articles and newspapers echo Robbins’ point about laying off workers and doing it well. The literature recognizes that the layoff procedure is hard under the best of conditions, and the Covid-19-induced downturn isn’t the best of circumstances.

Retail industry leaders who have determined that a layoff is necessary should next recognize that communication is empathy.

All involved will want to comprehend how they’re personally affected (i.e., do they still have a job?) , why the layoff was necessary, and how the layoff will enhance the company’s performance and help to ensure its own survival.

“Managers often believe that they shouldn’t let workers know when things are going badly,” Robbins wrote. “They do not want their employees to become discouraged. But people are not dumb; they know when things are not going well. Even if top managers spin the situation positively, the message comes across through uncertain objectives, a reduction in resources dedicated to continuing projects, and other subtle clues. Discussing and acknowledging the corporation’s position is the first step to keeping people involved — and dedicated to solving issues they understand.”

Company leaders must communicate directly with workers, describing who will be laid off, why, and how it can assist the company. Photo: Dylan Gillis.

When workers are let go, business leaders should meet with individuals and groups to communicate what’s happening, when it’s happening, and why.

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Prepare, but be Rapid

Although it’s important not to delay communication a layoff, it’s also necessary to consider what to communicate.

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“Should you decide layoffs are necessary or others have decided for you, then be sure you’re ready before you reach out to the affected workers,” wrote Rebecca Knight in an April 2020 article also in the Harvard Business Review.

Effectively, this means knowing if the merchant can help workers with the transition to a different job. If not, can the merchant offer any type of exit package, and at the very least, can the merchant point laid-off employees to government programs like unemployment?

Company leaders should also be ready to answer questions such as,”What happens to my 401(k)?” And”Can I get paid for my holiday time?”

Ultimately, a business must do its best to assist laid-off workers understand what’s happening to them and help them cope. These things are communicated should be compassionate and consistent. They should also be carried out whenever possible.

Businesses should also communicate with workers who survived the layoff.

These people”also need reassurance about their own future — and also an understanding of the strategic aims behind the reductions,” said Robbins.

“Reassurance” is an important part of what has to be communicated. Surviving employees shouldn’t be worried they are next. They wish to know that the appropriate cuts are complete, and the company (or, more specifically, their occupation ) will continue .

Work Load

After retail company leaders have communicated with laid-off and staying workers, it’s time for another round of conversations to describe how workloads will be changed.

For living employees, this is the next logical question. Once they know they won’t lose their job, and once they understand the strategy behind the layoffs, those workers are going to want to know how their jobs and responsibilities will change.

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