After almost a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a huge effect on a number of industries and many companies are feeling the pinch financially. Even despite Government initiatives such as the furlough scheme, it simply wasn’t enough for some companies to keep hold of their employees after a devastating financial year. We write this after waking up to the news of Heineken cutting close to 10% of its workforce with 8,000 jobs cut, including some from their head office in Amsterdam. With hospitality being one of the worst affected industries, and this accounting for a huge portion of the brand’s sales it is clear that Heineken bosses took this decision to prioritise survival, and for a brand who have always flown the flag for employer branding we know this decision will not have been easy. Our hearts go out to all of the employees affected, and for any UK based employees who have found themselves on the job market unexpectedly, I would encourage you to reach out to our sister brand Hirecracker if you need any advice or assistance in your job search.
The worst affected in these situations is of course the employees, but when a company is backed into a corner and forced to make these difficult choices, we understand how devastating it can be to see all of that hard work around engaging employees and managing an employer brand go down with it too. To help any companies who may be experiencing this right now, we’ve collated a few key pieces of advice to help you through these adverse times.
7 things to help your employer brand after making job cuts
Keep your employees updated prior to making job cuts
Job cuts aren’t decided overnight, so where possible look to be transparent with company updates and key business decisions. If you anticipate having to restructure, find ways to save budgets financially or make redundancies, you want to ensure this is delivered in the right way to employees. If your people find out about job cuts from whispers among colleagues or rumours in the media it can have a really detrimental affect on your wider employer brand. This may be different depending on the type of job cuts you are being forced to make, for example, if you are terminating employment for individuals who are underperforming or for isolated incidents rather than the wider financial picture, we know that these situations occur a little differently. Where possible, be prepared, speak to your employees, and control the delivery of these difficult decisions.
Show empathy and offer support
Losing your job can affect more than just your financial well-being. It can lead to an overwhelming amount of stress, a knock to your confidence and for some even a big social disconnection too. Try to show some empathy for the employees you have to let go and offer support in whatever way you can. With many companies being forced to cut jobs this past year, we have seen a number of them releasing lists of candidates’ profiles and encouraging people in their network to share to help get people back into suitable employment.
Be prepared for the fallout after making job cuts
Even if you handle situations like this in the best possible way you should prepare yourself for a fallout. It could be employees who lost their jobs spouting negativity about the brand to employees you kept hold of, social media blowing up with angry posts or negative Glassdoor reviews. Even the squeakiest of employer brands is not exempt from situations like this. Of course the level of “backlash” may vary depending on how you approached the previous two steps, but be on hand to cope with whatever is thrown at you. Monitor your Glassdoor and if possible ask your CEO or a Senior Manager to personally respond to any reviews. This isn’t to solely defend yourself and you certainly don’t want to find yourself in an argument with an ex employee on here, but instead listen to what they have to say. They may share insights that you can improve upon with your internal employer brand, or highlight concerns you weren’t aware of. If the review is completely false and left only in an attempt to damage your reputation then reply to it telling your side of the story. Take a similar approach to social media posts too. Be on hand to listen and respond empathetically. It can be difficult not to react in an emotional way to these posts, but a calm and collected response will do more for your employer brand long term than getting into a public argument, trust us!
Reassure employees and share your plans
Job cuts instantly cause uncertainty and anxiety for employees. This could be those who lost their jobs getting in the ears of your remaining employees, or even just individuals panicking about if they will be next. Addressing your people is an absolute must here. Depending on your size, and the varying COVID-19 restrictions, you may not be able to deliver this face-to-face with every employee, so consider issuing a statement and company update to the wider team. If job cuts came as a response to falling profits, share your plans to combat this for the future, and consider how you can empower your people to help you get there. This is a time where you will need your people on board, rallying together to get where you want to be, not feeling worried and potentially losing your most valuable employees as a result.
Measure engagement and identify potential issues
Just as we mentioned that job cuts can breed uncertainty for your remaining employees, you may want to keep an eye on engagement levels for your team. This isn’t to say release an engagement survey the day after you announce job cuts, but be mindful of what is happening and make sure you pick up on any little niggles employees have before they expand into bigger problems for your employer brand.
Don’t ignore what happened, but shape the narrative
A strong employer brand never stops, but it’s important to adapt the messages you share to reflect the changes in your business. For example, Heineken have always been recognised with their quirky employer brand videos when it comes to attracting employees, and a lot of strong brands will share insights about how their company is a “great place to work”, but at a time where you have had to cut jobs you are unlikely to want to continue sharing this type of content. Don’t pretend you haven’t made the cuts and carry on like normal, but equally now is not the time to be silent. Instead shape the narrative and share insights into why these decisions were made and your commitment to your employer brand for the future.
Continue to invest in your employer brand
Stop thinking of employer branding as a recruitment only function! Too many companies switch on employer brand promotion as a way to attract more candidates, but if you always operate with a stop start approach you’ll make it far more difficult to grow your talent pool. There is plenty to share besides “we’re hiring” posts, so just because you had to make job cuts doesn’t been you should stop promoting all of the stories and insights that draws candidates towards you.
Those are just a few suggestions to help you through the turbulent times of making job cuts in your company. Every organisation is unique, and every situation that leads to job cuts is also different too. If you need a bit of advice to help you navigate this period then please feel free to get in touch. Our employer brand and qualified HR leaders are always happy to help.