Written by Simon Callow, Head of International, Senior Leader and Regional Partner in London at RHR International

Recent major global redundancies at tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon, have led to many of the ‘surviving’ employees, whose jobs were not affected, to demand psychological safety from high-ranking executives amid increased disillusionment and decreased job security. The clamor for psychological safety, to a large extent, is due to what employees perceive as a random approach where they were let go suddenly, through a consultation period.

Leadership plays a critical role in rebuilding trust with employees after large-scale redundancies. When a company experiences significant downsizing, employees can feel uncertain about their future, question the company’s leadership, and lose faith in its ability to make decisions that align with their interests. As a result, leaders must work proactively to rebuild trust, demonstrate their commitment to the organization and employees, and show that they are working towards a better future.

 

Re-Establishing Trust, Morale, and Security

While unemployment is back at its pre-covid levels, large corporations are still making large cuts to their workforces and leadership needs to consider not only the immediate effects of them, but the long-term, too.

Leaders should be transparent about why redundancies were necessary, the steps being taken to mitigate the impact, and what the company’s plans are for the future. This will help employees to understand the situation and feel more informed, which can mitigate feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

Another key aspect of rebuilding trust is taking action to demonstrate the company’s commitment to its employees. This can be done in a number of ways, such as offering support services, investing in training and development, or creating new opportunities for employee growth and advancement. By showing the remaining employees that the company is committed to the well-being of its employees, leaders can help to restore faith in the organization and rebuild trust.

Employee morale reveals the workplace mood, reflecting upon how healthy a company’s culture is, how well employees are supported and how engaged they are; which can all be affected immensely by this news. To keep morale high, it’s extremely important for leadership to address this major change in the company effectively, collecting and responding to employee feedback is key to employee buy-in.

Lastly, establishing that your employees who were not impacted by the news feel secure in this new work environment is crucial for this transition. Creating a psychologically safe work environment for them, helping them adjust to their new normal including teams, workload, and leaders, and keeping a pulse on employee engagement ensuring the company is meeting their needs and the employees are meeting their goals are just some of the ways to re-establish employee security and satisfaction.

 

Why Psychological Safety is Imperative to Productivity, Efficiency, and Innovation

Trying to understand the trauma associated with the instability that comes with job cuts is extremely important to the employees who were let go, as well as those remaining. There are usually a handful of reasons that play into which employees were terminated and which departments will no longer be crucial to the company’s performance so, it is important for leadership to relay all necessary information, so everyone understands why these decisions were made and that they are not next in line to have their jobs cut.

Employees, even those who haven’t necessarily been the ones directly impacted, are looking for senior leadership to meet their day-to-day mixed emotions and sporadic questions associated with these redundancies with patience, empathy, and transparency. When senior leadership goes above and beyond to try to understand how all employees are feeling during these times of uncertainty, it helps those who were “let go” come to terms more easily with the situation and plan their next steps and those who remain at the company to feel safe again and shift their focus back to productivity, efficiency, and innovation in their work.

 

The Role of Leadership in Fair and Equitable Redundancies

How senior leadership handles these redundancies can have a major impact on a company’s, as well as the surviving employees’, success. When leadership poorly manages a mass redundancy, this can damage a company’s reputation and put surviving employees in a mindset where they are unmotivated, frustrated, and scared, subsequently leading them to explore alternative work opportunities. In addition, leaders want to remember that the employees being made redundant can at a later date become a future partner or colleague again.

The first step to announcing these changes is for leaders to be straightforward, transparent, and compassionate about the reason for these redundancies. It is important that these conversations happen with the individual leaders who work with these employees on a day-to-day basis and not from HR or a higher leadership figure that the employee does not necessarily interact with. Furthermore, ensuring the clear legal guidelines regarding consultation periods are being followed is crucial during this time. Meaning, if an employee is terminated, they are given the notice period that has been outlined in their employee agreement or given statutory notice period. How leadership goes about speaking to their employees about their termination will help them in the transition and reassure those still working there.

 

Another important step in communicating the news to those who were impacted, is explaining what happens next. Sharing that they will be receiving statutory redundancy pay, or some kind of support throughout the next few months or not is vital in this transition. These employees may have questions when it comes to the next steps in their journey, and it is crucial for these leaders to have answers without having to spin these employees in circles to get them. Additionally, remaining employees will note that their former colleagues were not just let go without fair compensation, thus reassuring them that if in fact they were to be let go at a later date, the company would handle it in a similar compassionate manner that left them feeling secure financially.

 

Rebuilding trust with employees after large-scale redundancies is a critical challenge for leadership. By communicating openly and transparently, engaging employees in discussions about the future, demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being, and taking action to move the company forward, leaders can help to restore faith in the organization and rebuild trust. This, in turn, will create a more positive and productive work environment, and help the company to emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of challenges.

 

About the author

Simon Callow is the Head of International, Senior Leader and Regional Partner in London at RHR International, managing the firm’s international operations with affiliates in Europe and Asia. Simon works extensively with CEOs and their executive leadership teams as an advisor and executive coach, leading several large-scale global human-capital due-diligence projects, successfully helping to identify and develop leadership talent and drive successful integration into the business.