Forced to Downsize? Here’s a Checklist: Phase One
Is downsizing in this season unavoidable? If so, what do you do? How do you tackle the uneasy reality of layoffs that will impact both people and the organization?
Here’s a grounded, go-to checklist for wise decision-making when people and their lives are on the line. Consider this a preliminary “Phase One” list if you are considering downsizing. We are completing a detailed Toolkit titled Stewarding Talent and Ministry in a Downturn: A 4-Step Toolkit to Position for Recovery.
1. Once you’re sure, don’t delay. You walk a fine line – not knowing what’s going to happen while stewarding the Lord’s resources. In some cases, financial solvency can be at stake. When you have prayerfully, and with counsel, reached the conclusion, act and move forward. If you don’t you could actually lose some of your most gifted people who may sense they need to find something more secure.
2. Recognize that you are a steward and that every steward has to make hard decisions for the good of the whole. You are making these choices because the organization needs them to be made. Come as a steward.
3. View downsizing as an opportunity to retain your highest contributing staff. Where you can, complete an “MVP” rating of your team and think through ways to retain your healthiest and most valuable talent.
4. Never, ever, be flippant or casual about how you communicate the decision to an employee. In each conversation, explain the process as if you’re speaking to the person in their own home.
5. Prepare to respond to the question, “Is this permanent, or will you try to bring some staff back?” Be open, even though it may not be wise to promise anything. Have a plan and overcommunicate during this period of transition. Process the possibility that you may lose the person you hope to bring back. The most talented ones are the most likely to find something else…
6. Err on the side of extra fairness, even if it doesn’t seem to be appreciated.
7. Overcommunicate. It will feel odd. You’ll sense that you’re being misunderstood. See the conversation through and say what you need to say.
8. Make the organization’s mission your drumbeat every day at work. Help the team that remains adjust to do the work that’s before them. Eliminate some non-essential tasks so that the smaller team has time to breathe, pray, and be grateful, moving forward as a unified team.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
— Jesus, John 15:5 ESV
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