How to get outplacement services right

Written by
Changeboard Team

27 Jul 2010

27 Jul 2010 • by Changeboard Team

The case for outplacement

Outplacement is a visible sign to leavers and non-leavers alike that the organisation is trying to do its best to support staff at a difficult time and heighten its attractiveness as an employer. This builds a good reputation internally and externally and minimises the risk of overt criticism by employees leaving or remaining. So when the time comes to recruit again, potential employees wont be deterred from applying for a role.

Outplacement supports all those making the hard decisions. Its stressful for decision makers to decide who goes; outplacement support softens the blow, assists with union discussions and supports managers as they convey difficult messages while at the same time having to manage disrupted teams and maintain business continuity. As the saying goes, prevention is better than a cure and outplacement costs are often recouped by savings on potential legal fees and the time spent managing any conflicts.

In terms of Results, look to industry figures:

  • 78% of organisations felt that the offer of outplacement improved their reputation
  • 87% believed it eased the pressure on line managers
  • 70% believed it improved staff morale, motivation and productivity to see exiting employees treated with compassion and receiving professional support
  • Outplacement is proven to reduce the time it takes to settle into a new working environment by 60%

So, if outplacement services are evolving from a nice to have to a need to have for organisations, then what are the different options for introducing an outplacement service to your organisation?

Inhouse versus external outplacement

This debate is long-standing; surely it looks better if an organisation takes care of their exiting employees themselves? This question leads me to the heart of the issue, which is value. If an in-house outplacement service offers real value to the exiting employee, then the question above can be answered yes.

However, a recent industry survey reveals that 81% of employers engage help from external consultancies for outplacement and that this is recognised best practice for HR.

So what are cons to offering outplacement in-house? At the simplest level, organisations often don't have the staffing levels to assist employees leaving the organisation effectively and still perform other duties. External outplacement support will free up management and HR during what will also be a difficult time for remaining employees.

From the leaving employees perspective, outplacement support provides a safe place to express and manage anxieties. Independent professional counselling helps people deal with the emotions associated with job loss without any agenda or conflict. It helps them to focus their energies into building a new future rather than being confronted daily with their past.

Say a company insisted on supporting their exiting employees internally out of loyalty and integrity, but were not equipped with the specialist expertise, time and structure to deliver on this. Ultimately, they would be doing their leavers a great disservice. The balance is often found in compromise. Many organisations can host their outplacement service in-house while still benefiting from external expertise from a consultancy that helps design and deliver their support programme.

Blending technology

The use of technology in the provision of outplacement support gives the added benefit of real choice and flexibility for individuals in how, when and where their outplacement services are delivered. With the ability to update information and guidance quickly, the focus on the changing world of work and the different generations in the workplace, more and more people value the flexible options, which provide immediate services alongside the ability to actually talk to a consultant for professional and emotional support and feedback.  

For example, with the ability to invest in developing outplacement services, Right Management has, through a unique partnership with LinkedIn, provided valuable networking opportunities with contacts from the public and private sector; access to the hidden job market; opportunities for peer-to-peer networking as well as using online tools to provide practical interview practice and feedback mechanisms.

How government agencies can help with outplacement

The support that government agencies such as Jobcentre Plus and LSC provide is one piece in the jigsaw for outplacement support. However, outplacement is not only about signposting or having a list of vacancies that are advertised. In providing outplacement, we look to all organisations, including government agencies, where we can not only provide advice and guidance but we can tap into the whole range of services available to meet any specific needs and circumstances.

Outplacement is as much about mind-set, taking stock of your career, assessing what's important to you going forward, reviewing what you have to offer and how you're going to ensure you can access all the potential options and opportunities, as well as having the skills to apply for and be successful in securing a new job.

Putting outplacement in context

When considering the rationale for offering outplacement, it's useful to step back and consider where it sits and how it relates to your wider business context. Outplacement will be one transactional (albeit important) piece in your much wider organisational culture.

Considering what needs to be in place before, during and after restructure will deliver a more successful programme and positive return for your organisation. Alongside outplacement, the considerations usually top of mind are: keeping employees focused on moving the business forward, dealing with change, and engaging and aligning employees within the new structure. This will include having a robust strategic communications plan and interventions that will engage and retain the talent you need for the future such as change, assessment, career development/decision and redeployment initiatives.

Restructuring for efficiency

During times of significant change, our own research indicates that organisations with engaged employees are nearly three times more productive.

Introducing outplacement will almost certainly be part of a programme of changes in your organisation. The productivity and motivation of staff working their notice and those who are remaining has to be maintained.

A well managed programme of restructuring will help with staff attendance, not only just being present but in terms of performance, and help to maintain or increase productivity levels. If handled badly, it runs the risk of creating mistrust within the organisation affecting business relationships and damaging your brand and reputation.