The current economic climate means that, if you are faced with redundancies in your organisation, providing employees with outplacement support is vital, says Denise Taylor.
Outplacement is the process by which a company meets a duty of care to its employees facing redundancy. It helps people to come to terms with the shock of losing their job, to focus on what they want to do next and get them interview ready so they can get a new job, and maintain levels of self confidence through the inevitable rejection they are likely to face.
Some people need to take the time to understand themselves, and to use this as an opportunity to consider career options. Other people may need to take time to talk through their feelings. Ongoing support and motivation is vital in helping people to find a new job, offering people just help with rewriting a CV is insufficient. There is a need to consider options, plan a strategy and get ready to present themselves well through all aspects of the application process.
Why use an outplacement company?
When an employer is going through a redundancy situation morale will be low, and using an outplacement firm demonstrates commitment to all staff – those staying as well as those leaving.
For those leaving it helps to soften the blow and help them to get their next job quicker than if they had done it alone. Treating outplaced staff with respect means they are likely to talk positively on how the company treated them, which will enhance your reputation in the working place.
Outplacement can also help those who stay. ‘Survivors’ can also feel stressed and anxious. When they see colleagues being treated well it can reduce anxiety, knowing that if the same happens to them they will still also be treated well.
Outplacement is not just for those at the top of an organisation. At all levels people need support in coming to terms with the situation and in job search support. Group programmes may be the economic option, but everyone should have time to talk on an individual basis.
Support is required for all sizes of company, not just the largest companies. Provision is available from national companies to individual providers. The former can provide support to large-scale organisations. The latter can often be more flexible and willing to adapt to a smaller budget.
How to make the choice
1. Think about what is important in making the decision – budget, service levels, experience etc? Don’t be convinced by a persuasive sales person, or upmarket offices.
2. People are different and seek different levels of support. To what extent will the outplacement firm adapt their service to meet the needs of the individual?
3. Find out who will provide the service. The best coaches and consultants offering outplacement have experience in both counselling and business so check their credentials.
4. Don’t be too impressed by posh offices. Most people have home offices and would prefer one-to-one coaching rather than desk space.
5. Be clear on your budget. Obviously you get more support for a bigger budget. A one-day programme is not the same as a three-month unlimited contact support programme and will be costed accordingly.
6. Check what is covered by an unlimited contact programme – is there actually a maximum number of hours of contact per week? What is the minimum service provided? Will there be refunds if only minimal contact is taken up?
7. How is payment charged? Some companies will charge up to 20% of the salary of the person, others will charge a flat fee. It’s common to pay upfront. Will you be charged even if an individual doesn’t make use of the service?
8. Seek out feedback on the effectiveness of the programme, talking to other organisations and ideally people who have gone through the outplacement. What do people think of the outplacement provider? Was it helpful? Would they recommend it to others?
9. Ask about the type of clients the outplacement firm works with – a specific industry or organisational level? How long have they been in business? Is career management/coaching the main focus of their business or is this a side project?
10. You may like to ask about the percentage of people who get a new job, and how long it has taken. Bear in mind though that if your budget is limited to six hours, for instance, it’s unlikely a new job will be gained in this period.
How long should you pay for outplacement?
Generally a fixed budget or a three or six-month period is chosen. You always have the option of offering more support if required.
Don’t forget outplacement companies can’t do the impossible
Outplacement firms will offer a quality service but it’s still down to the individual. If they are unmotivated and/or arrogant, they need to make some fundamental personal changes which can be beyond the scope of the outplacement programme.
Should you let an employee choose their own outplacement provider?
This can depend on how they are reacting to the situation. Whilst some people will feel confident to choose, others may be too vulnerable to make an objective decision and opt for the provider with the best sales pitch.
It can often be helpful to make confidential enquiries with an outplacement company before staff are informed. This allows time to discuss options, types of service and budget issues. The outplacement company will also be able to offer support to the HR team, including how to break the news, whether staff should remain in work and to help HR staff deal with the negativity around job loss, particularly if they have not been in this situation before.
Denise Taylor is the founder of Amazing People, which specialises in career counselling, guidance and coaching for individuals, and career management, recruitment and assessments for organisations.