After the Layoffs: Keeping the Team Engaged

There’s no way to sugar coat it:  Layoffs suck.

American unemployment is rocketing toward a record high. That means, in all likelihood, someone you know was recently let go from their job.

You might even have cut staff yourself. If that’s the case, you’ve got a responsibility for the well-being of the team members who are still with you. Their confidence is probably shaky, at best. 

Often layoffs are taken as a sign that no one is safe, and that the business is on the verge of collapse. The employees who remain need as much security, reassurance, and investment in employee engagement as possible.

In an effort to provide helpful resources, we researched ways to maintain positive levels of employee engagement during layoffs. Here are excerpts from, and links to, 5 articles we found that may help, along with an additional bonus from our own experience:

(1) Motivating Employees Who Remain After Layoffs – Susan M. Heathfield

Demonstrate That You Value the Survivors 

“It is most important to reassure the people who report to you of their value to you and the organization. Employees need to be reassured about their security and their future, and need to be told why the people who were let go were chosen.”

Link to full article:

(2) Keeping Your Remaining Employees After Layoffs

Communicate Early and Often 

“When people have been laid off (or if employees expect them to be), many of your employees will be fearful. To counter this, you need to honestly communicate how the business is doing, whether the news is good or bad. Also give them the context that will let them understand exactly how your business is coping with the downturn, and tell them everything you are doing to increase sales.”

Appreciate Your Employees 

“Employees strive to do better when they know their hard work and creative contributions are noticed. This is even more important when business is grim and you are asking everyone for a little extra. In this context, those employees whose good work isn’t acknowledged are likely to conclude that there is no point in busting their butts.

Link to full article:

(3) After Layoffs, Help Survivors Be More Effective – Anthony J. Nyberg & Charlie O. Trevor


“Pay special attention to high performers. Research by one of us (Trevor) shows that those with the most training, education, and ability are the most likely to quit if dissatisfied. Provide support and encouragement, and help them see that downsizing opens new opportunities and channels for promotion.”

Link to full article:

(4) Five Ways to Keep Employees Focused Before, During, and After a Layoff – Emily Elder

Be proactive 

“During a layoff, communicate, communicate, communicate. In the absence of communication, people will make up their own reality – and that reality is rarely positive. Every step of the way– before, during, and after a layoff– communication is key. Failing to communicate in a timely fashion, or avoiding sharing pertinent details with employees will derail attempts at a return to normalcy and productivity.”

Link to full article:

(5) How To Help Your Employees Overcome Survivor Guilt After A Layoff – Mark Murphy

Focus On Controllable Issues

It’s not uncommon during discussions for employees to get stuck in a cycle of rumination about their own feelings of loss. Try to engage your folks in conversations that focus on issues over which they have control, and try to avoid topics they can’t impact. For example, instead of ruminating about the company’s stock price, talk about how you’re improving a process to deliver a better customer experience while saving money.  

Link to full article:

(Bonus) Some ideas of our own

It’s been incredible to see how many of our clients are taking this time to specially recognize the employees who are going strong in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants, retail, shipping, healthcare… many of them are requesting customized and specialty awards for their crew.

Crisis-centered recognition

If that is something you want for your team, too, use the web chat on this page (if we’re not live for any reason, you can leave a message), or reach out to your Engagement Coach directly.

What ideas do you have?

What does this look like in your business? How are you keeping your staff focused and engaged during these uneasy times? Send us an email to with your experience. We would love to hear from you, and to find out more about how you take care of your team.

If you liked that, you may also like…

3 Reasons It’s a Smart Idea to Start an Employee Recognition Program During a Pandemic

When others are telling you that this is a time to cut expenses and minimize, don’t overlook your hard-working team members. Read more HERE.

How to Show Employee Appreciation in Times of Crisis

They need to hear “thank you” now more than ever. Here are a few ways a great leader can show employee appreciation in times of crisis. Read the full post HERE.

What COVID-19 Teaches Us About Employee Appreciation

The people at work to help us and serve us, especially during this time, deserve a great amount of appreciation. To read the full post click HERE.

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