Tech layoffs may have slowed down — but they haven't stopped.
Meta started its latest round of cuts last week, with plans to cut 6,000 positions. The company is not alone: more than 700 employers have laid off nearly 200,000 tech employees this year, according to Layoffs.fyi.
Despite staffing cuts, work must still get done. That includes IT, which enables critical corporate functions. Layoffs impacting IT functions can put companies at risk for everything from security hacks to plunging customer service satisfaction, said John Morgan, president of human resources solutions firm Lee Hecht Harrison.
“If you cut too deep, the quality of whatever you’re providing your customers ends up failing,” Morgan said.
To keep systems running, CIOs have several options, including reskilling workers, adding temporary staff, finding hidden IT talent in non-IT departments, and taking steps to ensure that remaining employees continue to feel motivated to work — and stick around despite job cuts.
All hands on deck
Filling in the gaps might mean looking for in-house talent in less obvious places, said Jose Ramirez, senior principal analyst at Gartner. More than 4 in 5 CIOs and IT leaders are reskilling workers to execute digital strategies, according to the 2023 Gartner Resilient Workforce Model of the Future Survey.
Executives are also looking within the company to find what Gartner calls “business technologists,” or non-IT employees with IT-related skills, like data scientists working in finance; and “untapped technologists,” who are employees with IT-related skills who don’t use them at work.
Nearly 3 in 5 CIOs tap into these skilled workers for IT projects as well, Gartner found.
“This is the time where CIOs need to drop the job description and focus on talent outside of IT and focus on skills-based staffing,” said Ramirez. Executives must deconstruct the work that needs to be completed, then adopt an employment model that lets them fill those critical needs.
This strategy can be carried out by opening an internal opportunity marketplace, where employees can match skills they know they have with internal, part-time, short-term opportunities.
Sun Life Financial took this approach in 2020 according to a Gartner case study, not because of layoffs, but because of a competitive talent market. In an initial pilot, 32 gigs were filled in two weeks across a network of 250 employees. Then, in 2021, 90% of all posted gigs were filled, companywide.
Other gaps can be filled with flexible workers and contractors, which can help a company plug up in whatever gaps — intended or not — exist after a layoff round, said Morgan. Temporary staff can also help “take care of people working full time still,” he added, so they’re not overwhelmed with more work at a time of uncertainty.
Retaining the employees you keep
After a layoff, it’s not unusual for remaining employees — fearing for the health of the company or that they might be next — to feel less productive, or to leave.
According to the 2022 Layoff Aftermath Survey from BizReport, 71% of layoff survivors said their motivation declined after a layoff. The report also found that 65% of layoff survivors say they’ve been overworked after staffing cuts, and 61% are less likely to recommend their company as a great one to work for.
The likelihood of team member resignation goes up nearly 8% after an employee is terminated, according to human resources company Visier.
IT leaders should be working closely with HR to keep an eye on employee feedback on things like burnout, stress and anxiety, Morgan said. If they spike, that’s a sign that employees that remain are not happy, and are at risk of looking for greener pastures.
To combat these feelings, and losses, it’s important for employers to communicate what layoffs mean to remaining workers: how their job might change in the long or short term, or if they’ll be undergoing reskilling or training, he added.
Companies might also consider retention bonuses for critical talent to encourage them to stay, and wellness coaching to help remaining employees work through what they’re feeling after a layoff.
“It’s hard to see a lot of your colleagues leave a company," Morgan said. "Oftentimes, there’s a lot of guilt."