In the current economic climate, certain industries are grappling with a dearth of skilled workers, while others that ostensibly offer job security have witnessed a wave of unexpected layoffs. The aftermath of a reduction in force (RIF) can unleash a cascade of negative effects, spanning from a slump in employee engagement and productivity to a dent in mental and physical well-being. During such times of adversity, employees need to demonstrate exceptional agility and resilience, traits that are crucial for surviving and thriving in today's unpredictable world.
However, the question remains - how can HR leaders prepare themselves and their teams for the uncertainties that lie ahead? The answer lies in fostering and cultivating resilience skills.
Resilience is the ability to remain effective during times of adversity and bounce back from setbacks. Whether you are an HR leader responsible for communicating cutbacks, a departing employee or a remaining employee, resilience can serve a protective role, allowing people to adapt to challenges without the levels of stress, uncertainty, and resistance they would otherwise have experienced.
People with high levels of resilience are 60% less likely to suffer burnout and are 31% more engaged. They can have a 26% reduction in depression risk, and half the stress-related productivity loss compared to those with low resilience, according to meQuilibrium research. In short, people who gain resilience are happier, healthier, more engaged, and more effective.
Layoffs are a challenging and uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. The sudden loss of a job or a co-worker can leave employees feeling lost and uncertain about the future. How people react to change can be the difference between an organisation that is able to withstand a layoff and those that continue to struggle due to lost productivity and poor employer brand image.
The evidence is overwhelming that resilience is valuable, but it has even more value when the going gets tough. Resilience often has its highest payoff in a high-strain environment, like a reduction in force.
Here are three key skills that can help HR leaders effectively support employees during a workforce reduction:
1. Recognise emotional reactions
HR leaders should be aware of the different emotional reactions that employees may have during this process. These reactions can vary based on the employee’s personal circumstances, stressors, and work experiences. Managers should recognise that these reactions are based on each individual’s established default thinking styles, and not personalise them.
2. Practice self-care
Layoffs and job losses are beyond the control of HR leaders, and it is essential that they practice self-care throughout the reduction in force. Create a self-care plan that includes sleeping well, keeping hydrated, and taking breaks, which can help manage stress and emotions during this difficult time.
3. Take advantage of available resources
HR leaders should leverage the company’s well-being resources during the layoff process. This may include utilising the organisation’s support services, counselling, or training programmes. It is important for leaders to seek support from the organisation and its resources to help them through this process.