Nokia is attempting to take the sting out of its redundancy programme by introducing an ambitious employee outplacement scheme.
Changes to the mobile phone company’s strategy led it to announce the closure of some UK sites during Easter 2011.
The move meant that hundreds of people across all sections of the business from product development to finance and HR would lose their jobs as well as a number of personnel in other countries.
But the company has a strong sense of social responsibility and so wanted to do as much as possible to help staff find new positions. As a result, it set up the ‘Bridge’ programme, which is headed in the UK by Andrew Cooper.
So far, the initiative has helped about 250 people find new jobs and there are about 150 others still currently using the scheme. The aim is to offer leavers a range of help and support, from providing them with a simple CV brush-up to a £20,000 grant to start their own business.
Cooper equates the choices that they face to a motorway with five lanes. If Bridge participants travel down the first lane, they are likely to find a new job within Nokia, either in the UK or abroad. This has so far happened for 13% of the total.
The second lane represents those who intend to find a new post outside of the company (22%).
To help people here, Nokia has set up a range of supporting activities such as providing career workshops, offering sessions on how to write an effective CV and build up an effective LinkedIn profile and giving training on interview techniques and job search strategies.
Providing suitable support
It has also arranged for third party organisations to provide former workers with internships that will hopefully lead to permanent employment.
Those in third lane, meanwhile, are keen to start their own business (39%). “I thought at the beginning that we’d have 5% of people interested, but we’ve been overwhelmed,” Cooper says.
Would-be entrepreneurs are given access to an Enterprise Cafe where they can share ideas and receive mentoring and training.
Since last summer, Nokia has backed a total of 35 business plans, which range from software applications and internet businesses to people wanting to turn their hobby into a business. Successful candidates are typically given between £10,000 and £20,000 in seed funding.
“It’s given people confidence,” Cooper explains. “We’re not doing a ‘Dragon’s Den’. We’re not expecting anything back. But sometimes, we give them quite a big investment.”
The fourth lane of the motorway is for those who want to reskill. Nokia commits to fund training up to the value of about £1,000 to help former workers take a new career path and turn a negative situation into something positive.
The last lane of the motorway, however, represents individuals who are keen to take their own path. About 17% of all scheme users total have chosen to do something else such as take a sabbatical or move into education, but 9% are still looking for work.
Whichever route they chose though, ex-employees are given two months after the termination of their employment contract to access services. An area is provided for them to meet, there is a jobs board and training is delivered by both internal and external providers. The programme will run until the end of the year.
Cooper’s top tips for creating your own Bridge-style programme:
- Foster teamwork: Get volunteers from the business units involved in the process to create a real sense of teamwork
- Provide a meeting place: Create an online space, but also a physical area that is away from the workplace but on site, where people can meet. “This is about people, so having somewhere where people can meet face-to-face is important,” notes Cooper
- Ensure people take responsibility: The strapline for Bridge was “Own your own future”, which makes it clear that the initiative is all about helping people to help themselves rather than expecting to have everything done for them
- Give them time: Make sure that people are given additional time to take advantage of the outplacement scheme after they leave your employment. Or if that is not possible, don’t overload them while they work out their notice so that they can concentrate on finding new opportunities
- Ask for help: Finally, involve outside expertise. As Cooper says: “We talked to all kinds of people to ask them for help.”