(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Cynthia Wilt, board of directors, Career Transition Center)
As leaders of your business, have you ever had to downsize your staff and disrupt your team? Where do you go for help? Where do you send your employees for help? Have you been through this yourself, so you really understand what happens to people and their families? And, what happens to the ones who are left behind – those who keep their jobs? How does the loss of their fellow employees affect their morale, their productivity and their loyalty to your business? Many questions to ponder, aren’t there?
There is always the typical government center to send them to when they sign up for unemployment compensation – where they try to help you, but getting one-on-one help is not usually possible. This was the problem we saw when Career Transition Center was started in 2011. We are a nonprofit organization that assists unemployed and underemployed Northeast Ohio residents who cannot get help elsewhere, and we have learned their needs from the thousands of people we have dealt with during the years.
Many of your employees have never gone through this situation before, or, even if they did, they may not know how to do a real job search. They need support and honesty given by career coaches who know what the employers in the area want in their new hires. You can hire an outplacement firm to handle each person or in groups, but, depending on your budget, you may not really get much assistance for each person. So, what is your moral and community obligation as an employer to help these people? How does your business value system fit into your next steps? These people were once your friends, your team and your fellow employees. What do you owe them? These are things you need to think about before the situation to lay off even occurs.
Some people immediately become depressed and afraid for their future. They tend to do rash things, and their spirit gets so low that they are not able to interview well for other jobs. They may feel that part of the job loss was because of them or their team. And, maybe they should have done something better or different. They become insecure, and some even lie to family and friends about their situation, which is unhealthy for them and for a good job search.
Do you give letters of recommendation? Do you offer assistance? Or do you just walk them out the door on the same day they are told? Many people live paycheck to paycheck and may lose their auto, their home, or worse. They need someone to help them become empowered during job transition and career change. They need to gain confidence and realize their actual value in the local market. And, they need the tools and encouragement to develop and implement a plan to reach their next step, something not available just from job clubs or one-stop centers.
Are they a part of the “vanishing middle class” – workers between age 45 and 70 that may not have up-to-date skills; so, employers will not consider them for a new hire? These people get shunned because they are too expensive, too old, or too (you fill in the blank). Sadly, this group remains out of work the longest and is becoming the new poor. They may need to learn current job-search skills and new technology to be considered for the jobs of today. How you plan for these uncertain times has a huge impact on what your business reputation is. It speaks to who might want to work for you, or what people in the community say about your business. It explains what type of employer you are. Now is the time to think about these things and make a plan for how downsizing is handled in your business. If the time comes, you will be better, stronger and make good decisions.