By Sarah Babbitt, VP, Agency Marketing
A mounting list of companies announced layoffs over the past week. Among them are Meta (at 11,000 employees), Twitter, Salesforce, Stripe and Zendesk. As they have, we’ve seen some vastly different approaches to layoff news.
Some are sitting much better than others, and they’re the reminder we all need on how to manage these announcements, especially as they seem to be coming with greater frequency and scale. Between the media and the echo chamber that is now LinkedIn, the impact of layoff communications is big and immediate. If you haven’t handled it with empathy, you’ll pay the price in countless feeds.
Breaking Down Recent Layoff News
Meta and Stripe were candid and accountable. Both published memos, signed by their CEOs, who took personal responsibility and citing specific mistakes (Zuckerberg perhaps even more so (👏🏽) than the Collison brothers, who leaned more into external forces).
Zendesk, Meta and Stripe outlined clear plans. They all share the specifics on severance packages and the steps they’ll take to stabilize the businesses moving forward.
Twitter caught flack for a lack of clarity and humanity. Twitter’s policy-focused, nameless email offers no apology or details. It left the public (and likely Twitter’s remaining employees) wondering about, well, everything.
Salesforce kept it private. At the time of writing, Salesforce had only released a short official statement: “Our sales performance process drives accountability. Unfortunately, that can lead to some leaving the business, and we support them through their transition.” Not getting in front of the story lead to speculation (and misinformation in the press).
Twitter and Zendesk conflated messages with marketing speak. In contrast to Stripe and Meta’s more conversational memos, Twitter and Zendesk’s were a bit terse and jargon-filled.
Meta and Stripe reinforced long-term vision. The Collision brothers balance empathy with optimism. Zuckerberg outlines Meta’s future with conviction — and tell me it isn’t powerful…
“I believe we are deeply underestimated as a company today. Billions of people use our services to connect, and our communities keep growing. Our core business is among the most profitable ever built with huge potential ahead. And we’re leading in developing the technology to define the future of social connection and the next computing platform. We do historically important work. I’m confident that if we work efficiently, we’ll come out of this downturn stronger and more resilient than ever.”
5 Must-Haves in Layoff Announcements
Pretty much every business should be prepared with plans for proactive issue management around layoffs, as they’re premeditated, not unexpected crises. Here’s what we recommend covering in layoff communications, not necessarily in this order.
- The news. Don’t bury it or add to the angst — start with the details (the numbers, how and when departures will be communicated).
- Compassion. Be authentic in your acknowledgement of the situation and how people are feeling – both those who are leaving and those who are staying.
- Context. Take accountability. Get out in front of the rumor mill by outlining the “why” and owning the situation and the story.
- Details. Explain severance packages and impact to remaining team members, like reorgs.
- Future outlook. It’s key to make layoffs part of the long-term vision. Make remaining employees and stakeholders feel confident in the future of the company by reaffirming mission, values, plans and market opportunity. Sam Strader, a Director in our Corporate Advisory Group, sums it up well. “After the chaos of the last two years, these layoffs can’t just be about cost-cutting and profitability, which sounds short sighted and insufficient. There needs to be a bigger narrative – one that explains why this is a strategic business decision and includes a “so we can…” component.”
In getting layoff news out, there are a few other important elements I’ll leave you with. First, prioritize internal communications and assume they’ll go external. Not every company is under as much scrutiny as the ones above, so reporters may not key in on your news but it’s still a good practice to follow. Second, don’t cross it off the list after the news is out. Continue to discuss challenges and outlook and build confidence — and do it often. This is the crux of issues management.
Need help building out a proactive plan or communicating an upcoming round of layoffs? We’ve done it and can help humanize the news and protect your business reputation in the process.
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