Covid-19 Series, Part 3: Tips for Staying in Touch with Furloughed Staff
Summary: How you treat employees while they’re furloughed or laid off can help you quickly rehire when the market returns.
Yesterday we covered how hoteliers are gearing up to put proactive plans in place for when the travel industry regains momentum. An important part of this is staying in touch with furloughed or laid off staff.
The hardest part of the coronavirus crisis, for most hoteliers, has been laying off or furloughing employees and the emotions that come from having to let people go. Hotels are like family and saying goodbye to great talent feels terrible, both personally and professionally. Aside from feeling like you’re disappointing friends that trusted you, these folks have been trained, understand your operations and speak your voice. It’s a shame to see them go. But, if you follow some best practices, hopefully they will return when you are able to hire again.
Here are our six tips for engaging with past and present employees during a crisis:
1) Keep the lines of communication open but don’t overpromise
Communicate as transparently and compassionately as possible with staff you had to furlough or lay off. Consider sending a monthly email with information that you can share with the group about what you’re working on and what you’re hearing about the market. As timelines change, or as you have more information, reach out with updates. While it’s OK to be positive and optimistic, don’t make any promises or get people’s hopes up about when and how you will be rehiring, unless you have definitive information to share.
2) Encourage your employees to stay in touch
Let existing employees play a role in keeping the proverbial band together by creating ‘groups’ on social media to share personal updates and hotel news. Many schools and companies have ‘alumni’ groups. Create one for your pre-covid staff. Engage regularly and encourage your staff to do the same. Continue making them feel part of something special. Schedule virtual happy hours or watch parties to bring everyone together again.
3) Make it personal
As much as group engagement is good, you should also be reaching out regularly by phone or email to check in on laid off/furloughed employees to see how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can do to help. Offer to be a connector and remind them that you’re always available for a reference or to make an introduction to someone in your network. Even if they’re an A player that you would want back on your team, celebrate when they get new jobs, even if it’s with the competition.
4) Surprise and delight
If you have a small budget, pick one or two laid-off employees a week to surprise and delight. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant but kind gestures go far these days. Consider a gift certificate for delivered food or flowers to brighten the day. Or, just send a hand-written note letting them know what you liked about working with them. This personal gesture will keep their spirits up for days.
5) Don’t forget about the ‘survivors’
Survivors’ guilt is real for employees that are able to keep their jobs. Empathy is critical now and it’s important for leaders to listen and engage with employees. Employees might be walking on eggshells now, afraid of being ‘next’ if more cuts are needed. Be as transparent as possible about the state of the business and what is expected of them during this time. Understand that they’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty and be there as a friend and as a leader.
6) Show you care
It’s also important to let existing employees know how you are taking care of employees that were laid off or furloughed. Share details about the services that were offered to them and let them know that you are writing recommendations and serving as a reference for them. If a laid off employee gets a placement elsewhere, create a quick congratulatory video in which you and your current staff offer congratulatory messages. These acts of kindness are not only the right thing to do, they drive trust among current employees.
All of these practices basically boil down to treating others as you would like to be treated — but with a little boost because this is hospitality and we’re a little *extra*. The way you treat people during hard times will mean all the difference when the market returns, guns blazing, and you’re once again focused on recruiting great talent. Will they want to work for the guy/gal that went radio silent on their staff or the hero/ine that held the team together with cement-like bonds? You know the answer.
Coming up next, we will share resources for your furloughed or laid off staff. Stay tuned!
In case you missed the previous posts in this series, here they are:
Navigating the COVID-19 crisis: Five challenges hoteliers must overcome
Making the transition from putting out fires to planning ahead