In our rapidly changing world, CEOs of companies need to adapt quickly to stay in business.  Most of the time this only involves procedural or operational changes, but in tough economic times, companies face the decision to restructure or retrench their workforce. Leaders struggle with how to best manage their most valuable resource – their human resource – while staying a viable business.

There are quite a few pieces written about the business retrenchment strategies and at Geared2Solve we can help you with this process too. Our 7-step retrenchment action plan will guide you through the Human Resources and Internal Communication aspects of the downsizing process.

But today we want to focus on those employees that made the cut, the ‘’survivors’’.

A RiseSmart study looked at the impact of retrenchments on employees who remain in their positions and found that 43% of companies do not have a formalised plan or initiative in place to support these employees. Why is that important?

Christine Breet Strategic Stakeholder Solution Specialist at Geared2Solve says that: “The surviving employee might suffer from anxiety or a drop in morale. Employees wonder what’s going to happen next. They’re also worried about their former co-workers who are leaving the company, wondering if they’ll land on their feet. These are intense emotions of survivors guilt and can have a great impact on your company’s productivity, reputation, bottom-line goals and brand status.”

The study supports this by stating that that 49% of survivors take up to three months to be fully productive again because there is no motivation; they are afraid to be proactive and have severe anxiety over what will happen next.

“Employers are not prepared for this loss in productivity, decreased employee satisfaction and additional cuts but they can minimise the impact through a change management communication plan,”

– Christine Breet


in their communication plans to minimise the impact on survivors and the company.

1. Understand your employee audience

When writing the communication strategy make sure you understand your employee audience and how they are affected. Know what channels work best, what message style to use and look at the tone of your messages.  Knowing the details of the changes happening to each audience will help you write the plan to address the need. See the template to help you.


2. Be transparent in your messages

Start the communication by being transparent and sharing as much information about the retrenchment with the management team, affected employees and survivors as soon as possible. This will dispel rumours and help to get the correct message across. Explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the change to all audiences.

3. Create buy-in for the future

Explain their role in the adopted business plan. They want to know what the impact will be for them and what do they need going forward.  Not delivering the right message or even ignoring it all together can have a sizeable impact on a company. 70% can experience a negative impact on future talent acquisition efforts, and 81% reported a negative impact on the brand, according to the RiseSmart study.

4. Prepare managers for crucial conversations

Make sure you prepare the remaining managers for crucial conversations.  They are the role models and leaders for new behaviour and change. They need to be sure of their position and empowered with the correct messaging templates and tools that will ensure the process is as effortless as possible and minimize legal liability. In your communication strategy identify which manager delivers crucial messages and prepare them for that.

5. Develop different types of Communication Channels

Ensuring that various communication channels are ready to convey and reinforce the developed messages is important. These channels or touchpoints can be anything from water cooler chat, structured meetings with managers, coffee meetings or information that is accessible on the company’s intranet.   

6. Extended Rollout Timeline

Plan an extended timeline linked to the rollout of the communication strategy to ensure sufficient time for engagement with leaders. This is important for change to take effect. The RiseSmart study showed that usually, the staff has three months of negative impact on production. Only thereafter will change start to take effect. 

7. Re-evaluate the culture

Once the affected employees left, this is also the perfect time to evaluate your employee wellness, organisational culture, and values and through the communication process instil positive changes to these elements.