Seize control as tech sector layoffs reshape talent management roadmaps
A POST-PANDEMIC RIGHTSIZING
As we shared last year, none of this comes as a surprise.
Much of the current layoff trend is less dire than it might seem. Rather than clouds gathering on the horizon, it is more akin to a structural realignment as the economy slowly emerges from the pandemic.
As COVID first took hold in March 2020, many tech companies found themselves slammed by spiking demand for services from suddenly homebound customers. Amazon, for example, had to hire hundreds of thousands of new people to handle deliveries, and to staff their warehouses to manage the crush of ecommerce orders.
Web and social media platforms saw user engagement skyrocket, which drove a similar increase in advertising. Alphabet, Meta, and others needed to have people in place to handle the greater infrastructure requirements, as well as the advertisement placement and processing.
Now that we’re transitioning into the far side of the pandemic, that initial crush of demand is easing off, as well. Now Big Tech finds itself resizing teams closer to pre-pandemic levels. In most cases, even after five-digit layoffs, these companies are still bigger than they were in 2018 or 2019.
Bottom line: we know why this is happening, and the smart players are already using this shift to improve their ability to engage their people.
THE TALENT MANAGEMENT OPPORTUNITY
For most organizations, salaries and benefits represent the biggest line item in the budget – meaning your people are your most invaluable asset. Often, when the economy struggles, the first inclination is to cut back not only on direct people-related expenses, but on the softer activities that keep those same people engaged. Cost containment becomes more critical to the bottom line than engagement – which often ends up being a strategic error that costs the organization more in the long run.
With that in mind, now is the ideal time to reframe how the organization treats these mission critical assets – its people. Consider the following:
1. Upskill and reskill
Talent is never static, and proactive talent managers see their people as flexible assets who can be retrained and redeployed as organizational needs change. A properly maintained skills inventory can help the organization understand the full range of competencies available to address shifting business requirements. It also informs the training resources necessary to help employees transition into new roles as external needs continue to evolve.
Beyond strengthening the workforce and driving productivity, this strategic approach to skills management helps keep employees more engaged, which in turn reduces turnover and knowledge loss. It also enhances organizational agility as the market around it continues to shift.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Nothing disengages talent more than silence. Employee morale and trust are especially crucial during periods of organizational change. Failure to communicate openly, frequently, and honestly when colleagues are being laid off will virtually guarantee survivors voluntarily heading for the exits before long.
If the organization is pursuing layoffs, explain in a clear and timely manner why this is the case. Lay out specific steps being taken to help both impacted employees as well as those who remain behind. Articulate the roadmap for the organization – and its talent – as it moves into the next chapter and beyond. Even if layoffs aren’t imminent, proper communication boosts employee loyalty and mitigates turnover.
To recognize the different needs of a diverse workforce, use a broad range of formal and informal communication tools, including updates via email or messaging platforms, town hall meetings, and Q&A sessions. Give them ample opportunity to have their concerns heard, and regularly reinforce the organization’s commitment to support them.
3. Drive internal mobility
Nothing disengages employees more than the feeling that they’re stuck, or otherwise have no options available to them. Internal talent mobility programs can give employees the opportunity to see new career paths within the organization.
This can’t be ad hoc. Actively promote internal job postings, facilitate cross-functional collaborations, and encourage employees to develop new skills and take on different roles. By leveraging existing talent, companies can reduce the impact of layoffs while retaining valuable knowledge, experience, and institutional memory within the organization.
4. Encourage flexible and hybrid work styles
In the post-pandemic work world, top talent will engage more consistently with organizations that offer greater flexibility around remote and hybrid work, flexible hours, and other adapted work arrangements.
According to a recent ASA survey, 40% of adults in the U.S. said flexible work hours ranged among their most important factors when applying for work, while one quarter said the ability to work remotely was important to them.
Resist the urge to force workers back into the office. Instead, take a more holistic approach toward remote work, and work with your employees to strike a proper balance.
5. Don’t ignore recognition
Employee recognition is a crucial HR best practice at any time, of course, but especially so during times of economic uncertainty. This is another talent management tactic that should not be left to chance. Rather, build and communicate a defined framework for actively acknowledging and rewarding employee contributions.
Make regular feedback, coaching, and mentoring – both individually and collectively – a central part of your recognition culture and seek input from the team to ensure they’re getting what they need. Organizations that fail to lead with these approaches are at greater risk of employees silently disengaging – which drives turnover and compromises agility.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The recent spate of mass layoffs is less a sign of the Apocalypse than it is an historic shift that holds ample opportunity for organizations of all shapes and sizes to flourish. And even after the last of the layoffs, most organizations continue to wrestle with critical shortages of appropriately skilled employees.
The smartest businesses have always tended to hit the innovation gas pedal during times of economic difficulty, and this chapter is proving to be no different. Proactive talent management can go a long way toward keeping talent and maximizing their ability to drive the business.
Give us a call if you’d like to learn more about your own talent management journey.