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4 Ways to Avoid Attrition During Layoffs

Sean: Hey, everybody. Welcome to The Inflection Point brought to you by the fine people at Pivotal Twist. My name is Sean Perlmutter.

Henry: And I’m Henry Caplan. And today we’re going to talk about four ways to reduce attrition in the workplace. Now, attrition is a fancy word for “I quit.” And there’s some interesting data, particularly around people who are at companies that are facing a lot of layoffs that that actually increases attrition quite a bit. So we’re going to talk about four different ways that you can prevent quitting, prevent attrition and retain your talent, which is so key.

Sean: We’re in late spring of 2023, and right now there are layoffs aplenty, I am so sorry to say. It’s not a good time for a lot of people who are getting laid off. We’re seeing it from Google, we’re seeing it from Twitter, from Meta, from Salesforce. But it’s not only tech. We’re also seeing it from Compass, from Amazon, from Disney. Layoffs are happening. So there’s a lot of pain out there, even though our unemployment rate is actually pretty good.

Henry: Yeah, and let’s be honest, I mean, some companies are having to let people go because the bottom line is in a recession, it’s challenging. And, you know, in order to save the entire body, you cut off a limb. But what’s particularly interesting is when layoffs are compounded with attrition. Right? This is when people are being laid off and people are quitting simultaneously. So according to Visier, (I think I’m pronouncing that right), a human resource company, the likelihood of quitting employees is almost 8% higher during layoffs.

Sean: Right. So people are quitting on top of people being laid off by a factor of about 8%. That’s rough. So if you’re a leader of an organization, you know, the pain just gets compounded. There’s a contagion effect, right. So why is that? Let’s share some of the reasons why we see the attrition at the same time as the layoffs. Like one of the first things that I think of is people are seeing their workload getting increased and they’re like, I’m out of here. That’s it.

Henry: Yeah. You know, a manager or a new manager who isn’t really a great fit, wasn’t great at inspiring people or doesn’t really know the role very well.

Sean: RTO. Return to office. You know, a lot of employees are just not down with that and a lot of organizations are pushing hard for that. So if there is enough dissonance there, the employee might choose to say sayonara.

Henry: Yeah, 2023, people have been dealing with family issues, personal issues, health issues and priorities and values have changed.

Sean: The most glaring reason that I think of, though, Henry, is this: If a colleague is cut, you start thinking to yourself, Am I next? Yikes.

Henry: It’s a really good point. You know, there’s this sword of Damocles hanging above your head. So what’s the solution? Well, there are a myriad of them, but I’m going to give you four big ones here. Empathy. Communication. Support. And catharsis. Now, feeling seen and heard is elemental. It kind of fuels a lot of our work in terms of story, right? People want to feel seen and heard and a sense of connection with each other, right?

Sean: So acknowledging people’s circumstances ends up being really critical for you as a team or organization leader. You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of your people and demonstrate that you care.

Henry: Joe. I get it. I know. I really understand. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and it’s… It’s pretty scary times. I totally get it.

Sean: Yeah, definitely. I think I’m going to be next.

Henry: Yeah. So I’ve been there as well. And, you know, I can imagine your perspective, but we’re going to get through this together and I’m going to commit to you as best as I can to be clear with you about what’s going on, where we’re going, and keep you as happy as I can.

Sean: That little role play demonstrates so well the type of empathy that’s needed to help prevent your people from saying, I’m out of here.

Henry: Yeah, I mean, clear communication helps people stop guessing, right? They can breathe. They feel much more in control. So intentionally being upfront and direct and honest and transparent relieves that uncertainty.

Sean: Right. So I’ll play the leader in this case and say, Adam, I want you to know that you are not at all in our layoff plans and your responsibilities are going to stay exactly the same.

Well. Thanks, because it’s been weighing on my mind.

Sean: I bet. And so I also want you to know I’m going to continue to be honest with you and transparent. And together we’re going to make a way forward.

Henry: Yeah. So this is clear communication, number two on our list. Right? And it’s because, you know, the very threat of fewer people doing the same amount of work, we are going to need that extra level of support, that guidance, and that leadership that’s so important.

Sean: Yes. The third part of preventing attrition during layoffs is offering support. You want to make sure that you’re giving your people all of the tools necessary so they can do their job well. Again, I’ll put on the leader’s hat once more and I’ll role play with you, Henry, to say: You know, I want to make sure that you’ve got everything you need, whether it’s IT issues, communication issues… You tell me what’s needed. I want to make your job easy.

Henry: Well, that’s good to hear because I’ve got a ten-year-old computer and nobody returns my emails, so I’d appreciate that support.

Sean: Okay, I hear you. We’re on it. I’m speaking to IT. And we’re going to make sure that all your communication channels are greased so that you can do that as easily as possible.

Henry: As simple and as basic as that. It took less than a minute. And, you know, being able to listen, being able to ask the right question and being able to offer up support, so clear communication, so important. The last one is catharsis. And by catharsis, it’s about letting go of emotion, right? It’s about validating people’s feelings so that you can move them into a state of readiness. Right. By pretending that those feelings aren’t there, you’re actually driving a wedge between you and your people, and it’s greatly reducing trust. Catharsis, by the way, can be exemplified in the release of a strong emotion. Like in a movie… Like when Rocky, you know, goes running up the stairs when he couldn’t go up before, you know, there’s a sense of catharsis or something being released. So it can be so powerful. Acknowledging how your people feel is really key. So let me see if I can dive into a role play here. You know, obviously. things are looking different now that we face some cuts. And I’m just wondering, you know, how are you experiencing that? How are you feeling about that?

Sean: I feel scared. If you’re asking me to be honest, like I don’t know what’s going to happen. Am I… Is my job at risk? I’m really concerned about the workload and honestly, the morale around here. It’s going to plummet now that people are getting excised and eliminated from their positions. I’m really concerned that people are going to feel like really a poor spirit.

Henry: No, I get it. And I’m not just giving you lip service here. I get it. So let’s take some time, you and I, get some time on the calendar and we’ll talk through this. We’ll figure it out together. But my commitment to you is as follows: I’ll do anything and everything that I can to smooth over this transition and to, you know, work together with you. So these are four ways that we can reduce or eliminate or prevent attrition, even with layoffs.

Sean: It’s really our pleasure to be able to offer the support to organizations so that they can bring their people together and make talent their hero.

Henry: Yeah, humans first. Well, thank you so much for listening, everybody.

Sean: See you next time.

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