01/27/2014 10:11 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

You're Fired! 4 Optimal Ways to Let Employees Go

By all accounts, you may be a great employer who just wants what's best for your workforce. But when tides change, revenues fall, and things look bleak, it may be time to let some employees go.

Firing dedicated workers isn't easy -- but many have had to do it. According to the latest from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.3 million total separations in November 2013, which includes layoffs and discharges. This means many workers were, or are currently still, out of a job -- even if they were great performers.

While saying "you're fired" to good employees isn't ideal, there are some ways to ease the fall. Here are four optimal ways to let employees go:

Conduct exit interviews

When you fire an employee, they may feel confused or angry. This is why conducting exit interviews are vital in the termination process. It helps displaced workers understand why they had to be let go, as well as some possible next steps.

For example, former workers may be wondering how long their benefits packages will last. They may want to know if they will have access to certain documents or projects. They may even want to know if there is anything they can do to get their jobs back. Wherever the conversation goes, it's important to communicate that you will continue to stay involved in their careers, which includes helping them find a new career opportunity.

Provide outplacement services

If you don't provide outplacement services, it may be time to start! Outplacement is a service that's supplied by a company specializing in assisting an individual's job search following a layoff or job loss. These services can be in addition to traditional services packages or continuation of benefits.

Outplacement services come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Some offer career management advice, such as resume assistance, alumni services, or relocation assistance, while others may contain interview preparation tools or career assessments. Whatever program you choose, outplacement services can help your former employees transition to new opportunities, especially when they aren't prepared for today's job search.

Use referrals

Referrals are a great way to bridge your former workers to new opportunities. They're also one of the top ways employers find new workers. For example, let's say you had to fire part of your advertising department. Instead of throwing them out into a brutal job search, you can ask members of your network if they're looking for talented individuals to join their team.

Since you're probably an industry leader, members of your network are going to trust your judgement. So when you recommend someone for a job, your referral can go a long way. In the end, no one is going to let a good employee go to waste. Your referral can do wonders for a recently displaced worker.

Consider transfer options

If you've had to let employees go in one department, consider the possibility of offering them transfer options to another area in the company. This can even include alternative locations. Either way, you're still keeping employees "in the family," but offering them an opportunity in a different setting.

This is where transferable skills come in. For instance, those advertising employees you had to let go may be able to work in other areas of communications, such as marketing, public relations, or even user experience. This allows your workers to stay in the organization and the industry without having to make a full transition. Plus, since they already understand your mission and values, you can trust they will be able to hit the ground running on day one.

While firing employees is never a walk in the park, easing the blow by providing different solutions can help make a smoother transition. Use these four options as a way to maintain great relationships while assisting former workers to move into new opportunities.

What do you think? What are some other ways to let employees go?