Preserving Productivity in the Wake of Layoffs

Ann All

Anyone who has ever lived through a layoff -- or even a near layoff -- knows the experience is generally a demoralizing one.


Leon Grunberg, a professor at the University of Puget Sound interviewed by IT Business Edge's Susan Hall for a story about the impact of layoffs on remaining employees, summed it up pretty well:

There's a huge increase in insecurity and that uncertainty is very destabilizing.


So it's not surprising to see a Harris Interactive survey that pretty much confirms it. According to the survey, which was commissioned by The Workforce Institute, 66 percent of respondents said morale has suffered and people are less motivated in the wake of layoffs at their workplace. Susan cited some similar numbers from training and leadership company Leadership IQ in her story. Seventy-five percent of workers said their own productivity had declined following layoffs, and 64 percent said coworkers' productivity had dropped.


Companies coping with layoffs can reduce stress in remaining workers -- and hopefully help maintain their productivity -- by communicating with them, said Jason Zickerman, CEO and president of business coaching service The Alternative Board, another of Susan's sources. He said:

Let [surviving workers] know that they're here because you believe they can work together to get the company through these very challenging times. You've got to show them your appreciation. Help them prioritize their work. Let them know why they are there and let them know how they can help.


The folks surveyed by Harris Interactive offered other suggestions:

  • Look for ways to improve morale, said 50 percent of them. If you can't afford Googlesque perks (and few companies can these days), perhaps you should consider creative, cost-free ones like having a top executive call employees to personally thank them for their efforts, an idea used by Network Appliance.
  • Automate processes for added efficiency, said 46 percent of respondents. Seek suggestions from employees on how automation and other process improvement efforts should work.
  • Invest in new technology to manage productivity, suggested 36 percent.
  • Take a fresh look at how to redistribute the workload among remaining employees, said 36 percent. In another story, Susan offers input from experts on how to deal with this so-called ghost work. Before coming up with any kind of a plan, employees should sit down with their managers and detail how they spend their time. Break it down in daily, weekly and monthly increments, suggested Paul Facella, president and CEO of consultant firm Inside Management and author of the book, "Everything I Know about Business I Learned at McDonald's." That should help companies come up with ways to prioritize tasks and ensure they get done.

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