Transparency Is a Must: Learning From Zirtual’s Massive Communication Mistakes / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

One of the Zirtual's biggest mistakes is business communication, especially the part where they announced the "pause" to their clients.

One of the most promising startups in recent years is a company known as Zirtual. You may have heard of them recently, but not because of their success, but quite the opposite.

Due to some financial complications and other issues, the company "paused" operations, effective immediately. Their email to clients citing a pause was quite different than that to their employees, who were notified that they were all let go, also effective immediately. With no explanation and no severance, employees were left scrambling and angry. The story as told by the CEO can be read here.  

Zirtual was a company that provided virtual staffing or online staffing. Because of the virtual nature of the company, communication between management and employees was not as fluid as compared to a company in which the employees are working under one roof. One of the Zirtual's biggest mistakes was the very basic concept of communication, but this is unsurprisingly an issue at most companies.

zirtual homescreen

Talks are in progress to "unpause" Zirtual's operations. However, employees are not so interested in returning to the company. Most employees were shocked and felt betrayed about the abrupt changes as there was no proper communication notifying them of  the company's decision. Unless you count on email which they then could not respond to as their email accounts were shut down.

Every mistake is a lesson. For people with businesses, you can learn a lot from Zirtual's mistake, especially in the field of company communication. This article is going to uncover some helpful tips about communication and employee layoffs.

How To Build Trust With Virtual Employees

Having a virtual staff poses challenges in terms of building trusts. This is because people are still used to the idea of a company with a physical building. However, there are a few key elements that you can weave into your corporate culture that will promote trust-building despite the nature of having a virtual staff. Below are of them:


Despite the term "online staffing," people still prefer to work with someone they can build a relationship with. One good way to build trust with your employees is to let them know that they have a certain degree of stability. Let them know that you are trying to build a lasting relationship and not simply ditch them once the contract is over.

Launch Meetings

It's important to have a launch meeting with your new virtual employees. Launch meetings are a good way of encouraging relationship-building and communication within the company. Let everyone introduce himself or herself, and perhaps a little bit of their story.  

Be Human

Your virtual staff may live in different countries, but we are all still humans and share the same issues and problems. Make sure that you open the floor for teams to discuss issues and complications. The open communication can help immensely in the development of trust within the company.

Personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14 percent, and conversion rates by 10 percent. 

Because of the information above make sure that you are not just sending out a blanket email when you are giving bad news. Take the time to personalize it and show that you actually care. Also, remember that people have many different emails so make you send your message to all the email addresses that you have.

Twelve percent of people use separate work and personal inboxes.  

Related Article: 11 Tools for Tracking Your Remote Staff's Productivity


After each team or employee has given their responsibilities or roles, make sure that you clearly define the goals of each team or member. This is to ensure that all your employees are working towards a same goal. Goals can help in uniting your employees for a single cause.

Give It Time

Authentic and real trust grows with time. Give your employees the time they need. Just make sure that everyone is confident with his or her tasks or project, they feel confident and comfortable with team member and they are backed with a good leader. The trust will naturally strengthen with time.

Related Article: Why Trust is Key for Entrepreneurial Success

How To Regain Trust After You Have Lost It

The trust within your company is like oil in a car engine. It allows everything to run smoothly. Yet, for some reason, you may have broken that trust with one or several employees and things get stuck. How do you rebuild that trust?


This is the first task. You must apologize for any mishaps or lapse in judgment that lead to the unfortunate situation. If you lied or gave partial truth, you must apologize for that also. Make sure that you mean what you say and that message is conveyed not only in what you say but your actions as well.

Keep Your Word

Your employees need to know that they can count on you. Therefore, if you commit to something, do everything you can to keep it. Also, be on time for everything. Tardiness is a habit that erodes trust.

96 percent of Americans admit to lying.

Tell The Truth: This is easier said than done. Most people would simply tell half-truths or provide hashed information that benefits them. Do not do this.

Tell the entire truth.

Your employees won't expect perfection from you. However, it is unacceptable to not own any mistake you have made. Owning up and being up front means that people can help you and maybe come up with solutions that you had not thought about.

Image via Digital Bloggers

Being Formal

Being casual has its time and place. However, if you are disseminating critical information with your employees, then don't be casual about it.

Make sure that you notify your employees the gravity of the information handed to them. Write in big and bold letters if you have to. It's then your employee's job to keep the sensitive information in their end. You should also follow up in person with a Skype or phone call to make sure people got the message. This also gives them an opportunity to ask questions.

Over 50% of respondents say they read most of their emails.

How To Help Employees Once They Are Laid Off

By Finding Them New Jobs

The day that will come that you have to lay off an employee. This may be a terrible news for the employee, but you can help smoothen everything by helping find new jobs. There are many ways your company can help.

Related Article: Dear Boss, You’re Fired: High Profile Sackings

Resume Coaching

Resume is very important when applying. Hence, provide coaching for your employees in terms of making their resumes better. You have a unique position as you are on the other side of the table. You know what you were looking for in a resume. Help your employees by providing that kind of information.

Reciprocal Job Searching

Try to work with a reciprocal job search with other local businesses. The idea here is to allow other businesses to communicate that they are hiring. Then you can provide them with information of employees that you may have laid off. When the time comes that you are the one that needs to hire, the companies you have worked with will mostly reciprocate.

Time Off

Getting a new job takes time in terms of interviews and "getting yourself out there." Therefore, allow your employees to have a few hours for job searching or meeting with interviews each day.

Remember, for every mistake, there is a hidden gem. This gem is a lesson that could be worth millions to you down the road.

Do what you can to learn from other people’s mistakes so you can avoid them and benefit from them. In the case of Zirtual, learn from the communication mistakes they made with their employees so you will never be in that position. Of course, there is more that went wrong with Zirtual than communication but that would be a very very long article.

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