Who would your customers lay off?

2009 April 28

Witt Istanbul Suites
Creative Commons License photo credit: Witt Istanbul Suites

Raise your hand if you’ve been affected by layoffs – meaning you either had to accept one or dole them out – due to the downturn in the economy. Yeah. We thought so.

Now raise your hand if you think more layoffs are in store.

That’s likely the truth, and another likely truth is that a good many companies are probably hurting themselves and their customers by approaching layoffs poorly. Yes, layoffs stink. No one wants to get one; no one wants to give them.

That said, when they’re handled with care and caution, layoffs can definitely help a company survive the downturn. Jimmy Guterman, writing over at HarvardBusiness.org, lays out some thoughtful advice about reducing the pain of ill-considered cuts:

Thinking strategically about both groups and treating them respectfully ensures that the virtuous circle — the vital link between engaged employees and satisfied customers — remains unbroken. And it positions your company for greater success when the economy turns around.

Layoffs are going to happen. It’s a non-idealist situation, that’s for sure, but if you’re the one doing the laying off, there are idealist ways to handle the situation. You can approach the decision of which employees to let go from a customer experience standpoint, as well as from the perspective of the remaining employees.

(Of course, if you’re the one being laid off, there’s not a lot you can do to control the outcome of the immediate situation and you have our sympathies. We sincerely wish everyone the best of luck in finding even more meaningful work the next time around.)

Lastly, and this can’t be said enough, although layoffs are depressing and in some cases inevitable, that doesn’t mean they can’t be approached with respect and a forward-looking attitude:

For those who must go, the best procedure is to “lay off people as if they were future customers,” he says. “When you let someone go, try to put together a safety net, do the best you can do, provide relocation support. Treat these people as potential future customers and potential future employees — as if they will one day be in a position to send business to your company.”

The whole article is a great read.

[via HarvardBusiness.org]

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