Employee Trust After Layoffs

The loss of employee trust following layoffs can impact a workplace in numerous ways. Here’s how to rebuild employee trust and morale.

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Building Employee Trust
Steps to reestablish trust and get employees to rebuild confidence in their job and your company

Here's what you need to know:

  • For those employees who are reinstated, it will be important to rebuild their confidence in their job and the company
  • Team members may be assigned new roles or may have to take on additional or differing responsibilities to weather the economic storm. Communicate their individual importance and the value of their efforts
  • Boost team and individual recognition as much as possible during the transition
  • Acknowledgment of how employees feel is important. The more support you can provide during the transition, the faster and smoother it may be
  • As you bring workers back, have plans in place to distance, sanitize, and mitigate exposure risk within your workplace

Layoffs — and the corresponding loss of employee trust — can affect any business and any industry. They’re sometimes a necessary response to economic uncertainty, to which no one is immune. Entire sectors can be forced to downsize, and so too can individual businesses.

When businesses re-onboard former employees following a layoff, one of the biggest issues they face is regaining employee trust. Employees are anxious about their job security in both the short and long terms, and their reactions can vary. The primary challenge becomes regaining the broad workplace trust of all who return. Here we’ll cover employee trust and rebuilding trust in the workplace with those rehired after termination.

Restore confidence

Restoring employee confidence requires building trust both in their sense of value to the business and in the organization itself.

Show the business’s future

If employees don’t have faith in the business’s future, they’re unlikely to trust that their jobs are secure long-term. They already know that even if they’re valued, organization-wide issues could force them out of a job again. The slightest sense of deja vu could lead them to seek other positions elsewhere. This unexpected increase in employee turnover could set the company back again, both in turnover-related costs and productivity.

To restore faith in the business’s future, show what it looks like. Share organization-wide statements about the business’s future state by explaining how past challenges have been addressed. Explain how the business is stronger, building and maintaining trust consistently. When individual employees have questions, answer those too.

Communicate the value employees have

To restore faith in employees’ personal positions within your organization, communication is again key.

For staff members who are back, consistently remind them of their value to the company. If you can reopen your organization at full capacity, remind those who return that their good work can bring others. This will only make the business stronger as more employees return.

Every team member will be a critical component. While you cannot manage external factors, each individual employee can do their best to bring the company back to speed.

Employee recognition should be constant

Boost team and individual recognition as much as possible during the transition. Financial rewards for work well done may not be feasible in the near term. Still, most employees appreciate verbal acknowledgement of a “job well done.”

For the smallest of businesses, you’ve seen how challenging it is to run a company short staffed. Now is the time to recognize and express how vital every member of the team is to the company’s success. High-trust organizations where everyone knows their value are better positioned to excel. Establishing a high-trust team is a start.

Address emotional pain by offering professional counseling

Stanford University cites emotional and physical reactions to what many consider an “overwhelming and stressful experience of loss and change.” Job reinstatement doesn’t always fix this, as the aftereffects of fear, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and more can linger.

Depending on your business’s size, benefits, and state, here are some ways to provide support for anxious employees:

  • If your employees have access to counseling services, remind them those services are available during this time.
  • For employees who don’t have access to counseling, let them vent and express their fears to you.
  • Bring together groups to discuss their concerns if you can. Knowing others have the same worries they have may provide consolation and peace of mind.
  • Address employee concerns as well as possible. Try to assure staff that if you all pull together, the organization will be better for it.

Leverage influencers (and address complainers)

In the context of returning employees, influencers are those with more sway among their fellow workers.

Work with positive influencers

Leverage those with whom you’ve built employee trust so they can in turn help rebuild mutual trust in the workplace. For their coworkers, witnessing confidence from staff on equal footing can reinforce messages from business leaders and managers. You might leverage the positive impact of these influencers by:

  • Having them lead team meetings.
  • Calling on them when leading meetings.
  • Including them in groups sharing concerns.
  • Encouraging their employee engagement.
  • Educating them on why the business is stronger.

Even if they aren’t speaking directly to the workforce’s return, seeing a coworker speak on any subject with enthusiasm and confidence can be encouraging.

Address negative influencers

Address the influencers with whom you haven’t yet rebuilt employee trust. You can’t force negative influencers to be quiet. But you can work with them to minimize any impact they might have.

Those who fear their return to work is temporary may be uncertain they’ve made the right choice forgoing unemployment benefits. Remind them that unemployment coverage was only short term, but their value to the organization is for the long haul.

Some staffers may interpret recent upheaval as a sign that it’s time to jump ship. If you need your top performers to stay on board, make a special effort to keep them happy and engaged. Holding on to them as you begin to rebuild your company will be worthwhile for long-term growth and sustainability.

In addition, team members may be assigned new roles or have to take on additional or differing responsibilities. There may be a resistance to change or a learning curve involved in adaptation.

Consistent communication about their individual importance and the value of their efforts may be needed to restore confidence in their own performance. Many will take pride in knowing their work is integral in reestablishing “business as usual” for themselves and others.

Learn more about layoffs and their challenges

No matter what stage it’s facing, knowing how to manage layoffs before, during, and afterward will support the company’s success. For some, it’s a matter of knowing how to avoid layoffs instead. For others, a well-planned layoff strategy will include how to communicate the layoffs to employees and avoid future layoffs. In all cases, mutual respect is key.

For ongoing tips and resources regarding and other business and HR challenges, visit Workest daily.


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