It’s difficult to watch your company go through a collective layoff, and it’s especially disheartening for leadership to have to let good employees go. Responsible organizations provide outplacement services to help their soon-to-be former employees work through their career transitions more successfully and to jump-start their job search efforts. While outplacement firms are primarily used to ensure that collective layoffs are performed in an unbiased and professional manner, they also ensure that departing employees have all the tools and information they need to move on to the next step in their careers. Outplacement services can ensure that all these needs are met, typically by connecting employees with experienced career consultants and coaches.
But how do you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your outplacement firm’s offerings? How do you know that your departing employees are getting the benefits they claim to offer? In other words, are you getting a return on investment?
“First, understand that approximately 70 percent of companies offer outplacement benefits in their severance packages to workers impacted by a layoff,” said Doug Mathews, president and CEO of Career Partners International, one of the nation’s largest global outplacement firms. “That means that if you’re offering this critical benefit, you’re with the majority in demonstrating true care and concern for your employees’ well-being and career success once they’re no longer with your company. The disruptive and destabilizing forces impacting the economy likely won’t go away soon, so this benefit becomes all the more significant, especially for executive and professional employees.”
Onsite Notice Support
The first notice that employees receive of a collective layoff is at the notice meeting. Employees are typically informed of the change in one room and then can move on to meet with the outplacement counselors immediately afterwards in an adjoining office. This can help the employee process the separation by offering human contact, support and advice. Insist that your outplacement coaches and advisors are present. Immediate assistance for employees is crucial during a change like this.
“After all, it is one thing to find out that your position’s just been eliminated,” said Chris Bryant, president and CEO of the San Diego Employers Association. “It’s another thing to find someone immediately available who can commit to helping you find work with another company quickly and who has the resources to help you through the transition well.”
While you’re vetting outplacement service providers, you should be able to gather statistics of average placement time, customer satisfaction rating and the percentage of employees that landed in higher level or lateral positions. This data can help you to decide if the provider is the best option for your company.
Facilitating an Easy Connection to Your Employees
Some employees may not get much out of the initial meeting with the outplacement counselor because they’re in shock after learning of their position elimination. Ensure that the initial contact is made whenever possible, but allow workers their own time to come to terms with their changed situation.
If an employee is not emotionally ready to discuss future plans right away, they can at least meet the counselor and get their contact information.
Give your outplacement provider a contact list of those employees who were notified so that—at the employee’s preference—the career transition program can begin. Just be sure to get the employee’s approval to give out their contact information. Most employees will agree to allow their email address or cell phone number to be shared with an outplacement firm if they realize it could mean landing a new job that much faster.
As the sponsoring employer, you have the right to know how the outplacement program is being utilized by your former employees—for example, how many employees have used the program and how many employees are opting to pursue the firm’s specialty programs. These specialty programs should offer former employees something beyond what they would be able to obtain in traditional re-employment services, such as transition into retirement, returning to school and entrepreneurial options. Insist on daily updates for the first five days. Then, ask for updates every week for the first month and monthly reports after that.
Further, you have the right to expect person-by-person feedback. Have your HR team reach out to any workers who haven’t yet responded to the outplacement counselor’s outreach efforts. Gently encourage them to hold at least an initial meeting with a counselor.
“In many cases, workers don’t understand or appreciate the vast resources that the outplacement firm possesses to help them land a new position more quickly than they otherwise could on their own. A light-touch phone call to explain why it’s in their best interests to take advantage of this company-paid benefit may be all it takes to generate an initial meeting with the counselor,” Bryant said.
Outplacement services today offer much more than the traditional resume-writing support and interview role-plays. These specialists can help departing employees to build social media campaigns, especially surrounding LinkedIn, that will statistically garner much stronger job search results. These firms also typically have proprietary tools that can help to develop resumes with built-in social media integration and match a resume to a particular job posting with word cloud technology. And, as a job applicant, telling an interviewer that you took full advantage of your prior company’s outplacement services will help you stand out among your peers because it speaks to the caliber of the company you worked for and your wisdom in approaching your job search in such a healthy and mature way.
It’s not only good ethics to offer outplacement services to your displaced employees; it’s good business. This benefit is cost-effective and, when done correctly through a qualified firm, offers a return on investment. Providing your departing employees with options will help you to maintain good relations with not only them, but your remaining employees. You’ll also have the knowledge that, even though you had to make some tough decisions, you kept people’s needs in mind.