No Secrets

After seeing what happened to her co-workers when her then employer started to lose money, Toronto-based Michelle, 24, (who didn’t want her last name used) decided not to stay at her e-purchasing job for long.

“They [the employees] were told to go home immediately and they got one week’s salary and they kept their stock options,” said Michelle, who found work three days later as a learning and development analyst. “It’s like we were in mourning for the people and for the loss, and it was like they were telling us ‘Let’s not speak of that day again.'”

What Michelle describes is exactly what a struggling company shouldn’t do if it wants to keep skilled staff after a layoff, said Mary-anne Kampouris, director of human resources and associate management at Human Resource Systems Group Ltd., which provides consulting, training and research services.

However, what most company executives don’t realize is that damage control during layoffs has to begin far before the announcements. “The rumours fly,” she said. “No matter how much the management thinks no one knows, somebody always knows”

The next thing that happens, she said, is that the most skilled and marketable employees – like Michelle – start looking for work. To prevent that, she added, executives need to communicate with staff. “If you involve your employees all along, they have more reason to stay with you as a company,” she said.

If a company treats those leaving well, it is more likely to retain remaining employees, said Kam-pouris. “The best companies are the ones who let employees self select out, but with enough understanding of the future of the company to let the ones who want to stay know what’s going on,” she said.