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Microsoft’s First Misstep in Layoffs: Not Quite the Whole Truth on Numbers

Microsoft recently announced impending layoffs of 18,000 employees, but they failed to mention a related fact. According to Forbes, their headcount reduction will also impact the many temporary workers routinely used by the company. In 2009, the Seattle Times estimated this number at 80,000.

Temporary workers at Microsoft, typically placed by agencies, will be limited to 18-month stints. After that, they’ll be locked out of Microsoft buildings and the network for six months. According to an internal memo obtained by GeekWire, Microsoft claims the restrictions on temporary workers are “to better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information.”

In times of change, employees are watching closely to see if they can trust what management tells them. In Tribe’s research with employees of large companies nationwide, honesty is the aspect of change management that most concerns employees. Comments ranged from “Tell us the truth, even if it’s bad news,” to “Stop embargoing critical information and be truthful to employees,” to the straightforward “Cut the B.S.”

Although 84 percent of employees in Tribe research say change management communications are handled poorly in their organizations, we’d expect better of a technology company. In industries where employees are easier to replace, like manufacturing or retail, a ham-fisted approach might be less detrimental.

But in technology, when companies are competing fiercely for talent, this first stumble does not bode well for Microsoft. The Tribe post yesterday on Good Company, titled “How to Prevent Chaos During Massive Company Change,” offered a few recommendations for Microsoft, courtesy of public radio’s Marketplace. They were good recommendations, all based on basic respect for the people working for the company.

Apparently the roles of these Microsoft temps range from programming and testing code to mowing lawns. According to the Microsoft internal memo, this will not affect those temporary workers without access to the buildings or network. So the good news, perhaps, is that the lawn mowing will carry on without interruption.

 

 

 

How to Prevent Chaos During Massive Company Change

Microsoft announced this morning that they would be cutting almost 18,000 jobs over the next year. And that was the first smart thing they did in regards to the layoffs that account for more than 14% of their global workforce. They were upfront about their goals and reasons behind the change. It’s still a shock for many, especially considering the company’s notorious aversion to layoffs , but change on this scale is necessary for companies from time to time. In the words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, “Business does not respect tradition. It only respects innovation.”

But business is made up of people. Employees will feel an impact from these layoffs that goes beyond the numbers. Microsoft has a responsibility to make this transition as smooth as possible for the sake of their employees and the business, and there are a few things they can do during this coming year to help.

Sara Grant, adjunct associate professor at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU and Robert Sutton, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business recently shared their take on the situation with NPR’s Marketplace, and much of what they revealed aligns with Tribe’s employee research on Change Management. It’s always great to see best practices take center stage amidst such a crisis, so we decided to pass these tips along. Kudos to you guys. Hopefully Microsoft listens. 

Set clear boundaries.

“Companies need to be clear about how many jobs are getting cut, when people will know and how they will know. Rumors run rampant in times of uncertainty and it’s important for companies to get out in front of the panic as much as they can. It’s essential that companies honor these timetables, if they don’t, there can be a feeling that the layoffs are never-ending.”

Answer the question, “Why?”

“Companies need to explain why the layoffs are happening and try to help people make sense of the situation.”

Give people some control over the process.

“Employees need to have some kind of say in the process and feel like their voices are being heard. Voluntary buyouts are one way to achieve this.”

Treat departing workers with respect.

“This is crucial. People in management needs to be in the office physically when layoffs are happening. They should be compassionate and present Hiding in their office during this time is not a good idea.”

Provide laid off workers with support.

“Companies should provide résumé help, with other advice and support to employees who are leaving. Most importantly, they need to give workers a fair severance package.”

Listen to dissenters.

“There’s often a temptation for companies to punish people who speak out during times of turmoil, but those conversations should be encouraged. Employees need to feel like they’re part of the process.”

Let people mourn.

“Workers are saying goodbye to friends, lunch buddies and supervisors. They’re often taking on more work. Be sensitive that the workers who stay will have mixed emotions and need support and time to process a big layoff.”

Provide a clear vision for the future.

“Employees need to feel like the company has direction. Do this by providing a clear vision to workers about where they are headed and where the company itself is headed.”

Originally posted on Marketplace.org