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The forgotten art of employee experience during layoffs


They’re ticking up not just in the tech industry but across the country.

Sure, cutting jobs is necessary for your financial stability as a company. But as a leader, you can’t forget the human aspect.

Understand the importance of employee experience during layoffs and learn about some lessons we’ve learned over the years to make this big change as smooth as possible for you, your team and your outgoing employees.

Why employee experience is pivotal during layoffs

Maintaining company reputation & brand image

Layoffs are a sensitive topic. This isn’t breaking news.

They can significantly impact how your employees, customers and community view the organization. Handle layoffs …

  • Unempathetically
  • Insensitively
  • Not openly

… and you have the perfect recipe for brand harm.

Instead, choose sensitivity, empathy and transparency. And you can not only maintain your current brand, but improve upon it.

An example of handling layoffs spectacularly is Brian Chesky and the Airbnb leadership team. Why? They led with sympathy, help and support for alumni.

Supporting outgoing employees in finding new opportunities

Your employees got you to where you are now. No matter who they were or what they did at your organization.

Help them find another job opportunity that better suits them after they leave your organization.

A couple ideas and resources for your outgoing employees:

  • Job search assistance
  • Resume writing workshops
  • Benefits, insurance and a severance package

Change management DO’s during layoffs

1. Clearly communicate the reasons for layoffs

If you’ve ever lost your job, the first thing you want to know is why.

Be transparent about why your leadership team chose layoffs. And communicate this information clearly and concisely. No rambling diatribes about how much they mean to you and how hard this decision was.

I can’t overstate the importance of communication during massive changes in your company like layoffs. For both outgoing employees and survivors.

  • Share the data and facts about the situation
  • Prepare leaders and managers to assist in communication
  • Answer questions from outgoing employees and survivors separately

Help employees understand the reasons behind the layoffs. This will reduce anxiety and uncertainty knowing it (hopefully) wasn’t their fault.

2. Provide support & resources for outgoing employees

I won’t stop saying it: Layoffs are a difficult time for employees.

The least you can do is be helpful in their life’s next step.

These are simple yet incredibly supportive steps your organization make to make sure your alumni are taken care of – beyond their last day at your company. And it can have long-lasting effects.

Change management DON’T’s during layoffs

1. Don’t ignore the impact of layoffs on employees

Your outgoing employees will experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and anxiety.

Especially because you don’t know what they’re going through in the personal lives. They could be navigating a divorce or a recent move or a death in the family – and layoffs were the last thing they needed.

Be aware of this impact and be ultra-sensitive and empathetic towards employees during such a big change in their lives.

2. Don’t forget about “surviving” employees

It’s easy to focus on the employees who are leaving, but it’s critical you don’t forget about the employees who are still with your team. They face their own unique challenges and will require support as well.

Ever heard of survivor guilt? It’s a real thing. Surviving employees may feel guilty for still having their jobs while others have lost theirs. Among those who lost their jobs are their colleagues and sometimes long-time friends.

And obviously, they’re concerned about the future and their own job security.

Your business strategy likely hasn’t changed. So that means you now have fewer employees to do the same work. Dumping new tasks and projects on surviving employees immediately after layoffs will cause a lot of stress.

For all these reasons and more…

  • Offer training and development opportunities to help them take on new responsibilities and grow their skills
  • Show empathy towards surviving employees and provide support for their mental and emotional well-being
  • Communicate clearly about the future of the company, including any plans for reorganization of teams and projects

Remember, the employees who are still with the company play an important role in your company’s future. Don’t forget them during layoffs.

Layoffs are scary. Obviously for outgoing employees. But for you too – the bearer of horrible news.

With this guide, you should feel more prepared and confident if you have to communicate it. Remember …

  1. Provide support & resources for outgoing employees
  2. Don’t ignore the impact of layoffs on employees
  3. Clearly communicate the reasons for layoffs
  4. Don’t forget about “surviving” employees

Need help navigating big changes like layoffs or reductions in force? Collabo XD can help. We use design thinking to help leaders manage change. Indiana University and Red Cross are among our clients.

Get your free consultation here.



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