There's nothing more jarring than having a change imposed on us: something we didn't plan for, anticipate, or even want. When the imposed change involves workforce reduction, managers have much at stake. Not only do they need to take care of their own needs, but they also must consider the risks facing their organization, including the loss of talent due to disengaged employees. Several profiled companies in a research study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council agreed that workforce reductions have a lasting impact on employee motivation, loyalty, and engagement.

This can lead to one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Employees might leave, which could cost up to 200 percent of an annual employee salary.
  • Employees may stay, but remain disengaged; this population costs roughly 11 percent in payroll costs.
  • Employees could choose to stay, find ways to recover from the loss, re-engage, and get back to generating as much as 33 percent higher profits and operate at 50 percent higher productivity.

According to the Gallup organization, only 26 percent of today's workforce is engaged after downsizing efforts. The employees who remain at the company have experienced great loss. This can impact their psychological contract with their employer and damage trust. Furthermore, these employees may struggle to see the connection between workplace changes and the potential for continued workplace satisfaction.

A focused, holistic approach toward developing employee resilience is paramount to maintaining employee engagement. Here are a number of tips and actions that can help employees develop resilience:

Maintain a constructive outlook. Resilient people are realistic; they also believe they can control their situation and the choices they make. Facilitate the development of your employees' positive outlook through communication. Communicate good and bad news often; be realistic, tell the truth, and don't over promise. Communicating well will pave the way toward restoring a relationship with employees based on mutual trust and respect and helping them gain their own constructive outlook.

Leverage resources. Ask employees what has helped them deal with change in the past. Offer your own resources.

Get proactive. Encourage proactive thinking by exploring the future of the organization with employees and discussing how their skills, interests, and motivations can be incorporated into the new direction. Provide time for employees to focus on their career goals, continued learning, and development.

Practice flexibility. Employees with resilience compromise when necessary. Help employees increase their flexibility by offering ways to explore the change and its implications. By shifting employees' attention from what has happened to them, to what they are going to do as a result of the change, you can guide employees to manage their own transition.

Maintain focus. Keep your eye on the intended objective of the change. Short-term changes need not derail you from the big picture. Support your employees' ability to maintain focus and perspective by describing and sharing your vision of the future and how employees fit into that picture.

Focusing on developing employee resilience during times of change and workforce reduction enables employees to become more adaptable to change. It can help employees make informed decisions and reduces the likelihood that employees will leave the company or become disengaged.