As the global financial meltdown continues, organisations are having to find ways to trim back to stay profitable – or just to stay in business. And it is the organisation’s people that are often the first to go.
Many organisations see their communication department as the place to start. But Russell Grossman, director of communication at the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform prods our memories in Natasha Nicholson’s article Staying up during the downturn (CW Magazine, Jan-Feb 2009):
“…remember the disastrous consequences of doing that in the last recession [in the U.K.] more than 15 years ago. Firms that did so were ill prepared when they needed to power up again. The firms that didn’t lay off all their communicators had a clear advantage after the economy improved”.
Unfortunately, losing people equates to losing both skills and company knowledge – but there is another thing to consider. Your brand.
Just last year, organisations were focussing on attracting and retaining the right people in a competitive marketplace. A lot of time, money and effort went into building a credible brand and becoming employers of choice.
All that good work can unravel very quickly – especially if ex-staff start talking your organisation down. So the heart-wrenching task of laying people off needs to be handled with care and compassion – for your sake and theirs.
Head of brand and employee engagement at Publicis Consultants in the UK, Kevin Keohane, ABC, puts it perfectly (CW Magazine, Jan-Feb 2009):
“…the way [people] are treated on the way out the door is likely to have big implications on how they perceive – and communicate about – your organisation… Handle the departure well, and you may create an advocate for life, who may come back to work for you, refer star employees to you, or promote your product or service. …Handle it poorly…and you’ve probably created a vocal brand assassin.”
And finally, Gaynor Parke advises organisations not to panic in Be Resourceful (emPower magazine), and reminds us of this piece of wisdom from Henry Ford…
“You can take my business, burn up my building, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again”.
And he’d know.
There’s another side to retrenchment… read this dragonfly post about the ones left behind