How to communicate a strong employer brand amid layoffs

Layoffs are devastating for those who are told they no longer have a job. But they’re no walk in the park for those left behind, either.

Layoffs are devastating for those who are told they no longer have a job. But they’re no walk in the park for those left behind, either. And they can cause doubt and concern among those who are considering joining your organization – even if it’s in an area of the business that was not directly impacted by the cuts.

Reinforcing the organization’s culture and commitments in your employer brand can help soothe some of these anxieties, especially when it’s woven directly into executive communications around the layoffs.

Addressing the impacts of layoffs head-on can help preserve your existing talent. Reacting with empathy and compassion can help new talent see themselves working at the organization, even if they’ve just had to say goodbye to some workers.

One method of doing this is through the all-important layoff memo or email. Increasingly, these documents are being published externally immediately after being shared with employees so all stakeholders can see the same information. This can simultaneously serve as a way to reassure your remaining top performers and show prospective workers why you’re worth taking a chance on.

Let’s take a look at some recent layoff notices that have walked that tightrope of empathy and employer branding.

Explain your reasoning 

No one likes being bossed around without being told why.

Even if many aspects of a layoff are outside of our personal control, ensuring your stakeholders understand the logic behind it can make the bitter pill a little easier to swallow.

That’s why it’s critical to take the time to explain what happened to lead you to make the decision to cut jobs, even if that means admitting to mistakes.

Zoom exemplified this principle during a round of February 2023 layoffs. In a letter posted to the company’s website, CEO Eric Yuan took responsibility for the cuts – including financial responsibility. Here’s a portion of that letter:

Steps we are taking 

Each organization across Zoom will be impacted by these changes. We did not take a single departure lightly – our leadership carefully examined and made decisions based on critical priorities for long-term growth, and also looked for functions that have become overly complex or duplicative. Some teams will also be adjusting their structures to allow us to better invest in the opportunities ahead. But today we are focused on supporting those leaving Zoom and making the transition as respectful and compassionate as possible. 

As the CEO and founder of Zoom, I am accountable for these mistakes  and the actions we take today– and I want to show accountability not just in words but in my own actions. To that end, I am reducing my salary for the coming fiscal year by 98% and foregoing my FY23 corporate bonus. Members of my executive leadership team will reduce their base salaries by 20% for the coming fiscal year while also forfeiting their FY23 corporate bonuses. 

Zoom did several things right here from an employer branding perspective:

  • Explaining the seriousness with which the company took the cuts.
  • Pointing out who the cuts would impact (everyone) and where the cuts would be deepest.
  • Putting leadership’s own skin in the game by explaining pay cuts and salary forfeits for executives. This shared pain can be a powerful tool for building trust.

By being transparent about what happened, who it will impact and how executives are owning the outcome, trust is built. But this is just the beginning.

For more information on how to access the full  story and become a member of Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council, reach out here.

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