Photo: Flickr Taylor McKnight
After months of speculation, it’s official.Cisco will lay off 6,500 employees—about nine per cent of its workforce—and transfer another 5,000 as part of the sale of its set-top box business to a Taiwanese company.
Pink slips will go out to those affected in early August.
Thankfully, the tech industry is having a good year, and hopefully those affected will land new jobs relatively soon.
But what about those who don’t get cut? What about the 60,500 Cisco employees who remain in the company? How do they continue to be productive and valuable contributors? How do they help Cisco regain its glory?
Telling employees that they are being let go is the hardest thing a manager has to do. Unfortunately I’ve had to do it a couple times myself, most notably in 2000 after the dot com bust when I had to cut 20 per cent of my division with very little notice. It’s also tough to re-engage the remaining employees who are sad to see their friends go, confused about what went wrong, and afraid that their own career might be in jeopardy if things don’t turn around.
Typically, after mass layoffs, management is faced with a steep drop in productivity and quite often, a second wave of departures as people respond to the siren call of recruiters.
If you are one of Cisco’s 600 managers who have to lead, coach, and motivate after the cut, this should be your action plan:
1. Be visible. Closed doors and unexplained absences fuel the rumour mill. Reduce travel and delay unnecessary days off so you can spend more time in the office. Walk the halls, eat lunch in the cafeteria and invite people to chat over coffee.
2. Communicate with authenticity and clarity. Ambiguity is difficult for employees, even in good times. You should strive to over-communicate and be as transparent as possible. If you hold information back, people’s imaginations will come up with something far worse. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Quickly restructure responsibilities so people know who’s handling the work of those who were let go.
3. Rebuild confidence in the future. The leading driver of engagement is confidence in leadership and their future vision. Revisit Cisco’s mission and the company’s strategic priorities and make sure your team members know how they fit in with them. Reinforce John Chambers’ message around re-structuring. Cisco will make a comeback (just as IBM once did) because the “new” Cisco has fewer layers which will speed decision making, has a $3.5 billion dollar R&D and innovation budget (which is double Hewlett Packard’s) and is refocusing on the core areas that will enable the company to “lead the future of networking.”
4. Re-recruit your stars. Most companies have informal leaders—bellwether employees who are respected regardless of their title or position on the org chart. Many will say something to the effect, “I’m OK now, but if Jane goes, I’m going too.” It is vitally important to re-recruit your star employees. If they are truly stars, they should have the confidence to know that they can get a job anytime they want; there is no need for them to “jump ship” or make rash decisions. Get them to commit to the “new” Cisco for the next 12 months. When others see and hear that they are fully committed to giving it a try, they’ll follow suit.
As goes company leadership, so goes the rest of the organisation. First and foremost, you must re-commit to Cisco and to the new, focused strategy. Only then can you re-engage your team through presence, clarity, future vision and partnering with your star performers.
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