Should You Notify Employees of Staff Cuts in Advance?

  • CNN told staff on Wednesday that the layoffs had begun. Affected employees will be notified on Thursday.
  • Some HR experts say giving advance notice is helpful, but one said it can cause unnecessary anxiety.
  • A company’s approach to layoffs can affect its ability to attract and retain talent.

CNN employees on Wednesday received a note from the CEO stating that the company has begun making layoffs. Anyone who lost their job would be notified the next day.

In the past few months, layoffs have come in waves across multiple industries. Employers have taken different approaches. Elon Musk cut off half of his Twitter employees by locking them into their work laptops. The founders of payments platform Stripe have released a detailed memo outlining how they will support their layoffs.

As for Licht’s decision to pre-announce the layoffs, two human resources experts told Insider that advance notice showed compassion and transparency. Another expert said the announcement was a cause for unnecessary concern. Their differing reactions suggest that maybe it’s not a great way to let employees know you’re getting rid of them. Above all, the approach you take should take into account that you are dealing with people and their livelihoods, even if it is a business issue.

Advance notice of layoffs gives employees time to prepare emotionally

CNN employs 3,000 people in the US and has let hundreds of staff go in the past few months, Insider’s Claire Atkinson reports. The layoffs resulted in CNN parent company Warner Bros. It’s part of Discovery’s efforts to cut costs.

In the memo, CEO Chris Licht described the firing process as a “punch from the inside”. He said he would follow up with more details after informing the employees who lost their jobs. Dismissed employees will receive information on severance pay, and anyone who is eligible for a bonus in 2022 will still receive a bonus.

“I think employees are happy to have advance notice that layoffs are approaching,” said Jaime Klein, CEO of human resources consulting firm Inspire HR. It gives them a chance to “emotionally prepare” for the possibility of losing their jobs, and “if they haven’t been personally laid off, they may be aware to be extra responsive and supportive to affected employees.”

Jason Averbook, CEO of HR consulting firm Leapgen, said the statement “give people an opportunity to let things work their way out and think about how the layoff will affect them.” “This is really important,” he added, because it shows that leadership is relatively transparent and has some empathy for employees.

On the other hand, the note did not specify which areas of the organization would be affected, only stating that “a limited number of people” would be released. That was a mistake, said Ayesha Whyte, an HR executive and employment attorney at Virginia law firm Dixon Whyte. “Just shrink it down so some people can breathe,” he said. “This is really worrying,” he added.

Employers should consider how their approach to layoffs will affect their reputation

Whyte said that suspending everyone for a day could backfire for CNN.

Even people who eventually kept their job “will now remember this feeling that everyone else has,” he said. Whyte added that when these people are approached by another employer, they’ll think about the stress that CNN’s announcement has put on them, and think: “I see, when it really comes down to it, you’re going to look out for CNN. So maybe I should start looking after myself.”

Averbook disagreed, describing Licht’s note as “too empathetic”. And when you handle layoffs with empathy, “healing is much, much easier,” he said. If you want to rehire some of your laid-off employees, this will help you make a good impression. (Averbook said companies that make mass layoffs typically request a return of 25 to 50 percent within a year.) So how the layoff is handled can affect whether they come back.

Layoffs done right, Averbook added, are “truly a combination of empathy and economics.”

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