An alarming number of employees are worried about layoffs. What HR can do

While the current job market is certainly in flux, according to the results of a recent survey, workers are taking a glass-half-empty view toward potential layoffs—which, experts say, presents both a challenge and an opportunity for HR leaders.

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For certain industries, this is an especially tense time, led by announcements this week from two of the big tech companies. Google announced layoffs for hundreds of employees in its core engineering division and elsewhere, as reported by The New York Times, and employees at Amazon learned that Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios units would be letting hundreds of employees go. Among other early 2024 layoffs, Amazon-owned Twitch also announced cuts for 500 employees, over a third of its staff, according to Bloomberg.

This activity is likely to concern a workforce that is already unsure of job security. According to My Perfect Resume’s 2024 Workplace Trends Survey, 85% of workers are worried that they will lose their jobs in 2024, with 50% reporting they are “a little worried” and 35% saying they are “definitely” worried.

The San Francisco-based resource for resume and career advice polled more than 1,800 U.S.-based respondents for the survey, which found pessimism among employees and job seekers extends beyond layoffs. For example, 78% expect a recession in the coming year, while 69% believe that competition for jobs will increase, and 62% anticipate that the labor market will be more stressful than in previous years.

“The 2024 workplace landscape promises a dynamic blend of challenges and opportunities,” says My Perfect Resume career expert Kellie Hanna. “To succeed, workers and employers alike must recognize that adaptability is the name of the game, while striking a balance between addressing challenges and seizing opportunities will determine the winners.”

5 strategies to manage layoff fears

With such a high percentage of respondents concerned they will lose their jobs in 2024, HR leaders are going to have to “work hard to allay those fears to maintain employee morale.”

Hanna shared five strategies to help HR professionals relieve, or at least minimize, layoff fears:

  • Be transparent: This matters especially if a round of layoffs has already happened because rumors about more layoffs are sure to follow. To preserve company morale and prevent the departure of top performers who fear their jobs are in jeopardy next, Hanna says, HR should detail why layoffs were necessary to safeguard the company’s overall financial health.
  • Extend empathy: Watching colleagues lose their jobs isn’t easy for retained employees and often plants a seed of worry that more layoffs will be coming. Leaders, guided by HR, must acknowledge “survivor’s guilt” and remind those employees how important they are to the company’s future.

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  • Stay positive: Never speak negatively about employees who lost their jobs, Hanna notes. Even if the layoffs were connected to poor performance, criticizing those who are no longer with the company could “poison the water” for remaining staff, she says.
  • Emphasize teamwork: In the aftermath of layoffs, HR leaders must focus on teamwork and collaboration to create cohesion. Doing so can create a sense of purpose for employees not impacted by the layoffs.
  • Set realistic expectations: Finally, while positivity can go a long way, layoffs often will mean more work for remaining employees. So, Hanna says, be prepared to set clear and achievable goals for how the workload will be redistributed post-layoffs and how it might shape compensation and career growth for employees whose jobs were not affected by the layoffs.

“I believe it’s critical for HR departments and employers to acknowledge the fears, extend empathy and communicate clearly,” Hanna says. “These practices will be the key to minimizing employee fears about layoffs.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].