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How Do You Layoff an Employee? 5 Steps to Conduct a Successful Layoff

21 February
by Raymond Lee
3 minute read

"How do you layoff an employee?" is a common question many HR professionals ask. Conducting a layoff requires preparation and flawless execution. No matter how many times you have planned and executed an event, something inevitably will go wrong. I’ve recently seen all sorts of things surprise HR on notification day such as FaceBook posts from the parking lot after their meeting, security deactivating badges too early, and IT shutting off email accounts from a RIF list that wasn’t the final version.  

High angle view of young partners discussing in meeting room at creative office.jpeg

A reduction in force, whether expected or not, is a hard time for the company and the employees. Make the transition a little easier on your notification givers, and download our free layoff script here. 

Download our Layoff Script!

Since so many things can go wrong, it is important to learn the answer to this question: "How do you layoff an employee?" Before you begin, here are 5 Steps to Conducting a Successful Layoff to consider.

How Do You Layoff an Employee? 5 Steps to Conducting a Successful Layoff

Enlist a Team

This might be the most important step in answering the question: "How do you layoff an employee?". Depending on the size of the RIF, this probably isn't a one person job. You will need to assemble a diverse team of colleagues to help. Your (RIF) team should include members of management, HR, legal, and public relations. The RIF team should be diverse in terms of experience, gender, age, race, etc.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It is important to have a clear and honest statement about why the reduction in force is happening. This will be very helpful to your management team who are delivering the news. Employees will want to know why they are being let go. Keep in mind the reason should always relate to a business decision. It is never personal. Choose your wording very carefully. Don't use terms like “cleaning house” or “trimming the fat”. Think about what would be acceptable for you to hear in their shoes. While this may seem like a frivolous step in the process of answering the question "How do you layoff an employee?", but it potentially has the most impact on the employees who receive the notification.

Select Employees for Termination

Consider offering a voluntary severance package. There are several benefits to doing this. Voluntary separations have always had multiple advantages over involuntary programs. Employees who leave voluntarily are less likely to sue their organization over their separation and are more likely to sign a release in exchange for severance and outplacement services, assuming it is offered.

When asking your team, "How do you layoff an employee?", it is important to consider using performance reviews as a starting point. Performance reviews definitely can and should be taken into consideration if you are planning a first round of layoffs. There are likely several employees on a performance improvement plan who would be likely to go first. For larger scale layoffs, the management team should have a clear vision of what the organization would look like post RIF and determine who of the remaining staff will stay to fill those roles.

Train Your Supervisors and Managers

Employees are going to come looking for answers. Make sure that your managers and supervisors have talking points and answers and that they're ready to talk. Open communication is important to maintain morale and productivity. A lack of communication fuels the rumor mill. A little coaching in this regard can go a long way. Saying the wrong thing or giving the impression of passing blame can cause a situation to elevate very quickly. Your supervisors and leaders should already have an outline of what they can and should say. Having a list of benefits, such as severance and outplacement you plan to offer your displaced workers, will help ease some of the discomfort.

Notify the Affected Employees & Hug your Survivors

Notifications should be done personally and privately. This is a sensitive and difficult time for your soon to be former employees, and it should be treated as such. Prepare a simple script for the RIF or layoff notification meeting. Don't waste their time, if they have questions, answer them to the best of your ability, but don't get off topic. HR should be able to help in this situation.

Lastly, your retained employee workforce needs to be loved after this process. Most of them will wonder if they will be next, so it’s important to set up meetings with the survivors and let them know of the good job he/she are doing and that you appreciate their work and continued support as the organization moves forward.

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