5 Ways to Keep Your Internal Friends Close During Downsizing

In something we can call the Recession job diet, the US economy is shedding jobs at the rate of approximately 73,000 per month. Don’t look now but we lost about 60,000 in June and almost 450,000 since the beginning of the year. Not surprising, the losses are primarily in the support to the housing market: financial services, mortgages, construction and manufacturing. 

But with the stock market imploding and grim forecasts ahead, more companies will no doubt follow suit just to keep fiscally fad-conscious. Some of this will be healthy shedding and some will be hard but the unintended result will also be fear and de-motivation among employees that you really want to keep away from the exit door.

Don’t believe me? Look at what’s going on at my nemesis Yahoo. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Business Week article:

Top Yahoo Talent Rushing for the Exits
Posted on: Friday, 20 June 2008, 12:05 CDT

Another day, another high-level exit — or three — from Yahoo! (YHOO). The most recent round came to light June 19, when TechCrunch reported the imminent departure of three prominent Yahoos: Vish Makhijani, general manager of Yahoo Search; Qi Lu, executive vice-president for search and advertising technology; and Brad Garlinghouse, senior vice-president for communications and communities and the author of a scathing 2006 memo dubbed the “peanut butter manifesto” that accused Yahoo of losing its focus. Garlinghouse and the others are among more than 50 high-profile Yahoo executives and managers who have left the company in the past three months or intend to leave, raising concerns that a leadership vacuum will ensue in light of failed merger discussions with Microsoft (MSFT), and amid withering public criticism of Yahoo management by billionaire investor Carl Icahn. The exodus makes it harder for remaining executives to persuade shareholders the company has the means to turn itself around.

Ha! As you know, I have hated Yahoo since the debacle when they lost my website (note: now I hate Verizon too since they lost my internet during the move) so in many ways it’s just desserts, but, as the President of a Corporate Communications company, I would still work with them if they wanted my assistance. Here’s what I would tell them.

5 Internal Communications Strategies to Deploy During Employee Layoffs


  1. Employee Recognition Program- It may sound disingenuous to begin recognizing the contributions of your current employees at a time like this but hopefully you already have a program in place and you can just ramp it up. Studies show that even non-monetary incentives enhance teamwork employee contribution and morale.
  2. Rumor Cooler- Spot communications that separate fact from fiction will keep everyone informed and show that senior management is in touch with grapevine and doing their part to create authentic reports of news as it’s breaking.
  3. Surveys- Sample your talent and identify their issues and concerns. This information can be cornerstone of a holistic strategy that touches on training and developing the high potential employees that remain.
  4. Social Networking Intranet- A hybrid site where employees can collaborate based on individual needs and form new professional connections will help both socially and strategically as you create a line of site from the staff to the business needs.
  5. Strategic Rebranding- Energize and educate your workforce on business goals and objectives as you roll out a new Employer Brand based on the To-Be vision of your business.  

In general, over communicate. According to HR guru Dr. John Sullivan:

ter layoffs, it is essential that you keep two-way communications going: first, in order to ensure that the employees know when the cost reduction targets are actually met, and second, to give them an avenue to vent their frustrations and to get answers to their questions. Open book management, although it may be initially uncomfortable, is the short-term solution to keep everyone feeling in on things.


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