As the global economy continues to find itself drowning under the weight of the COVID-19 health crisis, Silicon Valley tech giants have had to massively downsize their companies. Millions of employees have been laid off by firms ranging from Airbnb to Uber in last-ditch efforts to cut costs in the context of plummeting revenues. But what sets apart heartless CEOs from Airbnb’s CEO and Cofounder Brian Chesky is the heartfelt and truly human way in which he executed their layoff process.
Give your employees a humane warning
In early May, Chesky announced that Airbnb would be laying off 1,900 of the company’s 7,200 employees, or 25% of its entire workforce. Very often when firms are faced with the daunting task of letting go of such a huge portion of their staff, they tend to do it in the quickest, most robotic way possible. Take, for example, scooter-sharing startup Bird, who caught its unsuspecting employees on a one-way Zoom call and read out a script giving them their firing notice.
Chesky, on the other hand, opted for a more honest and personal approach. He sent out a touching notice to all his employees, making them aware of the oncoming layoffs. He outlined the entire process and even made it clear what the email titles would be for the employees who would find their roles redundant or altered at the company. Chesky viewed it as essential that each departing employee gets to have a one-on-one, personal conversation with a senior leader at the firm, and promised that wherever it was legally feasible to do so, it would be done.
He didn’t try to provide a superficial apology speech drafted by an insensitive marketing department; instead, he wrote a highly emotional and moving message to his employees showing the pain the company would experience at losing its invaluable staff.
Provide clarity into the process of the reductions
We have all, at some point in our lives, found ourselves staring down the barrel of yet another rejection letter, confused and frustrated about what we had said or done wrong. In insignificant situations, you’ll find yourself shaking it off; in a more impactful one, you’ll be left questioning the worth of yourself and your skills. This spiral of self-doubt amidst already declining rates of mental health is what Chesky saved his employees from.
He didn’t pretend to have all the answers or know how travel would be changed in the post-pandemic era. Instead, he chose to explain that as the company struggles to recover, it will be forced to adopt a more focused business model. He outlined the considerations that drove his team towards the selection of employees to be laid off in line with this altered model. And most importantly, he made sure that the redundant staff knew that they had been let go due to no fault of their own.
Help your departed staff recover from the loss of their livelihood
Especially in these unprecedented times, leaving your staff high and dry is not going to earn you a good rep. Instead, go the path of Brian Chesky. Airbnb provided their departed employees with a fair severance package, which included health insurance coverage for the next 12 months. They also set up a public-facing website where their redundant staff could post their resumes, work samples, and profiles to help with their job search.
Moreover, they turned a portion of their recruitment team towards assisting these laid-off employees with finding new jobs and even gave them their company laptops to support this search. Lastly, Chesky ensured goodwill and loyalty of the redundant staff by asserting that each departing employee would be a shareholder in the firm!
Chesky ended his sincere and unique letter by telling his employees that he was truly sorry for the decision he was being forced to make. He extended to them his heartfelt gratitude for the skill and expertise they had contributed to Airbnb and how they helped build it from the ground up. I truly believe that all business owners can benefit from borrowing Chesky’s layoff model because, as unusual as it may be, I believe that he meant every word of that letter.
Treating your employees right, even after they cease to be so, will render your company highly in demand for accomplished job seekers. Being more human and less pretentiously superior will truly benefit your firm in the long-run, both economically and socially.
Have you been laid off during the pandemic? How do you feel your CEO handled it? Let us know in the comments!
This article originally published on GREY Journal.