A recent e-mail exchange about employee-customer care with fellow blogger Susan Cartier Liebel inspired this post. Susan wrote: “If you don’t take care of employees, it’s a bad mistake. I wonder how that will apply in today’s economy given what is going on?”
During this economic meltdown, I believe most companies need to take extra special care of their employees if the business wants to hang on to its customers. Unfortunately, some firms will follow a “slash & burn” approach to human resources, especially those who view their employees as dispensable commodities.
“Breaking Up is Hard to Do”
For those who have to downsize, the difference is in how gently they let their people go – with appropriate closure (such as severance and outplacement support) vs. the “don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out” dismissal.
What’s frightening to me is that even successful companies aren’t immune to downsizing – including Zappos.com, the company I recently showcased in this blog. Describing this difficult decision, CEO Tony Hsieh acknowledged, “Given our family culture, our layoffs are much tougher emotionally than they would be at many other companies.”
Zappos offered severance (which not all companies do) in addition to assistance with health care coverage to those affected. According to Hsieh, “By doing all of this to take care of laid-off employees, we expect that it will actually increase, not decrease, our costs for 2008, but we feel this is the right thing to do for our employees.”
Letting people go is never easy. But executives in this position need to keep in mind that everyone affected by the decision to downsize – including those laid-off, the surviving employees, AND the customers – will remember how well or how poorly the situation was handled.