My Dad has just been made redundant. It was a shock. This is the fourth time this has happened to him in his working life and like many who are going through this tough period, he's unsettled and concerned for the future. For weeks his employer didn't say anything only to "keep motivated because you never know, things might change and there may be a chance you will stay". Not surprisingly this kind of carrot and stick approach wasn't too well received and whilst work continued as normal, trust and brand engagement was inevitably damaged, so how do you maintain engaging employees?
Engaging a workforce through periods of change is a challenge for any business. Communication is critical for both employees that are leaving and the employees that are staying. According to recent research from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) organisations that have responded to the recession with office closures and involuntary redundancies have seen a sharp drop in CEO trust, with scores plummeting to 51 [on a scale of 1-100, against an average CEO trust score of 63]. What's worse, employees blame poor management as the reason. But those who have taken a more measured response, such as flexible working and budget cuts, have seen trust in their CEOs rise, with a score of 68.
So how can you manage the communications process throughout this period to ensure that trust and brand loyalty damage is minimised? Here are some Tribal Tips:
Ensure that line managers communicate with staff:
The worse thing you can do during tough times is to go radio silent on employees. Be truthful, be honest and tell them as much as you legally can about the situation and the implications. Make sure line managers are trained and equipped to communicate the process, the timings and have the support to answer questions.
Invest in the CEO brand:
Every tribe needs a leader - through good and bad times. This is not the time for the CEO to lock him/herself away with the bean counters. It's important that they're visible and approachable and repeatedly explain why a restructured is needed and what it will mean for the future of the business. Whilst the sea may be choppy, people look to the captain for reassurance. If he's not there, folks will get worried and your best sailors may choose to jump ship.
Listen and listen carefully:
Employees will talk. They'll talk to each other, their family, their friends and their old colleagues. This might be done over the phone, over lunch or even over social networks. Identify your top talent and get a measure of the mood by talking to them and regular pulse check surveys with your employees. Involve employees in shaping the future of the business - it's engaging to think that you're involved in the creation of something big. So ask them - you may be surprised.