While the thousands of layoffs at major tech companies have dominated this year's headlines, layoffs at small businesses have also been increasing. While tough circumstances may force companies to let workers go, there are some things that business owners can do to make sure layoffs don't derail the employees that remain.
Gubbe, a Finnish elderly-care startup that connects young and old people for companionship, hired aggressively as it focused on fast growth. But it soon realized that its number of full-time employees wasn't sustainable – in the first half of 2022, it laid off 20 people (35% of its workforce). But what it did next helped the business continue to grow, though now at a more sustainable pace – the company just launched in the UK and is hiring again. Julia Ben Khalifa, Gubbe's head of people, shares what the brand did to stay on track after layoffs.
1. Figure out your focus. Because the company had a big drop in full-time employees, the first task was to make sure that the remaining workers were clear on their responsibilities. ‘We took a really close look together with employees at their work assignments and what they were focusing on, and then we made new goals together,’ says Julia. ‘For example, we redesigned our sales funnel – how we sell our product and how our sales funnel works internally. Together with our employees, we built a new sales process and divided responsibilities.’
2. Be open. A big workforce reduction can lead to distrust and questions about what's going on behind the scenes. For Julia, bringing conversations out from behind closed doors was crucial. ‘We focused on creating more transparent communication: less Slack channels, less DMs and more transparent and open messages and threads,’ she says. ‘We also started having the whole company meet once a week for important topics, open discussions and info sharing.’
3. Define your values. Beyond the day-to-day changes, Gubbe also held an off-site values workshop to hone the company's mission with input from all employees. This exercise continued in smaller workshops and open Slack discussions until there was a consensus. ‘We used warm-up themes for discussion, like: “Why do we work at Gubbe?”, “What is culture?”, “What is organizational culture?” and “How are vision, mission and values connected?’ she says. ‘Our second step was to identify important topics. We divided into groups and then groups identified what's essential for them at Gubbe. In that first [workshop], we got the first version of [our] new values.’