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Our team consists of about 15 developers, we basically act as in house dev ops and think tank for our company. Our performance was fine until recently, but slowly it started to decline, and so did our creative resources.

Whoever had potential to get promoted or refresh their skills did so a long time ago, when management warned team about our lack of a future. Our team is comprised of senior developers who specialize in technology that is no longer used actively by our company.

In other words, this team is no longer required and I've been tasked with laying off the team, this is the first time I got tasked with handling a layoff.

How do I prepare the team for lay off?

Additional details:

  • Team is not fired because of age, it is just that there is correlation that older devs were more likely to refuse retraining and were less enthusiastic to pursue promotion.
  • Technologies listed are obsolete in company context, our c/c++ and java codebase became so small that it is not worth to maintain in house team.
  • These people are already de-facto fired, "preparing for layoff" is in context of cushioning backlash and negative publicity for company. And also making fired employees less dissatisfied.
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My hypothesis: your company can afford paying your team for a few days or weeks before termination of work contract and loss of pay. During that time, developers can use company computers and browse the world wide web.

So, in addition to that answer

Your company has (country and work contract specific) legal obligations. Be aware of them.

Our team is comprised of senior developers who specialize in technology that is no longer used actively by our company.

suggest also your developers to contribute to some existing open source project on github or gitlab

(if possible, even from the current workplace, for a few days), and tell them that this could be positive for future jobs. Also let them read and post on StackOverflow and suggest them to use their real name and provide some contact information (outside of your company).

At least let them install some GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. Debian) on company computers, if they never used Linux. Invite them to read online documentation (e.g. of GNU software).

Perhaps ask each of them to make a talk about some recent open source software they did read about.

For example, if you have a database admin or developer specialized in MySQL, tell him to prepare a 10 minutes technical talk on MongoDB. If your programmer always coded in Java, suggest him to prepare a talk on Scala or Ocaml. If your web developer always coded in PHP, suggest him to prepare a talk on Ocsigen or Haxe. For a C++ programmer, ask him/her a short talk about Rust or Go. If they never heard of Tensorflow, give them a few hours to read about it.

Give a day to prepare the talk, and another day to present and listen to talks to fellow members.

Suggest also each of them to polish their LinkedIn profile.

Let each of them put the talk slides (in PowerPoint, LaTeX, etc...) on the company website or technical blog - or on their own website -, with their name.

A reasonable person would then guess that a layout becomes possible. If they ask a question, answer honestly.

And for a future job, contributing to some existing open source project is a positive thing. Or at least being able to name fancy technologies/languages is valuable.

Also, being able to talk about some fancy technology is an asset for future jobs.

Remember, your teammates are as human as you are.

prepare yourself for the next layoff.

You probably are on the company list also. You should expect to be fired yourself in a few months or weeks.

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    "Remember, your teammates are as human as you are." The irony of telling this to HR – Gurevich - SE Mods Censored Me Aug 25 at 20:42
  • Yes, I am aware of the irony. I am French and have read Libre d'obéir - literally "free to obey". A fascinating book making a parallel between Nazi management and current managerial practices, written by a university professor. – Basile Starynkevitch Aug 25 at 20:44
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    While there's a few tiny nuggets of possibly useful advice in this answer it's unfortunately buried in a midden heap of bizarre, almost incoherent assumptions, add in some random shilling for your own project and it overall leaves a nasty aftertaste. – motosubatsu Aug 26 at 9:11
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    The theme of getting developers to install new OS's, platforms, engage in open-source projects, and give talks on those subjects in their last days of employment is (1) infeasible, (2) patronizing, and (3) likely not something the OP's company would approve spending time on. – Daniel R. Collins Aug 27 at 5:39
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Be prepared for an emotional situation. While these people may no longer have value at your company, they do have value -- remember that.

I would suggest that you do not go into the specifics as to why they are being laid off -- it simply doesn't matter at this point. I would suggest that you state something like:

Sadly your services are not longer required here. We will do whatever we can to make your transition into the next phase of your career as painless as possible.

Also, be sure to have the following prepared for them:

  1. Unemployment benefits
  2. Letter of Recommendation
  3. Details of their severance package ( if they get one )
  4. Resources for them to get training
  5. Appropriate employment resources ( job boards, etc. )

Again, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be compassionate about this situation. Besides family, a career is typically the most important thing in a person's life.

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    To expand on this, particularly in North America, your career is a massive part of your identity and you're ripping that away from each individual that gets laid off. Beyond the general "emotional" aspect, there is great shame in losing your work, and therefore a huge part of yourself. – Malisbad Aug 25 at 23:09
  • Good answer, however given the emotional aspect (pointed out by @Malisbad) it would be helpful to provide a reason in the case that it removes blame from the individuals. Even a white lie may help here. For example: "The company is eliminating your position. It has nothing to do with your performance, which has been excellent/good/satisfactory over the past X years." – Chris Aug 27 at 2:14
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But also – "if you have spent any time at all in this business, you have been laid-off before." (And, you have learned to "bounce.")

Me? "Thirty-five years, eight layoffs (so far)." Never a serious problem. ("Hey, it's business ... too bad for you that you screwed-up yours!")

"But seriously ..." although there's nothing pleasant about informing someone that, as of today, they no longer have a job due to no fault of their own, the best thing to do is to "cling to professionalism." The circumstances that now face both of you are entirely external(!) to both of you. Try to remember that.

And – most likely – "this won't be the first time." For either of you.

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There's really no way to prepare them that hasn't already been done from the sound of it.

Key things are to communicate as quickly as possible and to emphasise this is due to the technology they are working on.

Are there still opportunities to retrain, if so you can remind them of that.

Check out company policy on recommendations whether formally or informally e.g. "We're letting you go, the Company will give you a reference and i'll be happy to recommend you on Linked In".

Finally give them time and space - don't make the announcement at 0900 and expect a days work from them, even if expected it's still a shock - let them go home once you've told them (and offer them a cab paid by the company!).

Good luck!

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    It is cheaper to hire clean slates than to retrain older folks, also newcomers will work for peanuts. This is brutal, untold reality of tech. – ImmortanJoe is censored and mu Aug 25 at 19:55

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