Five ways to get outplacement right for employees

After years of economic downturn, redundancy has become part of our business tapestry. Emily Crispin, client manager at the career transition and talent development specialist Lee Hecht Harrison, looks at how good practice in outplacement can improve an employee’s experience during this difficult time.

As HR professionals, outplacement (or career transition as it is also known) is something we are all aware of. Many employers offer it, however, the way it is often organised sets it up to fail, and any potential value to employer and employee is lost.

One of my clients’ biggest challenges was that the team really only reviewed their outplacement offering when there were redundancies to be made. They recognised the value of outplacement but, regardless of seniority within the team, they were not aware of the extent of services they could offer.

This was not down to a lack of want – they are a time-poor team where many hats are worn already. If this sounds familiar, here are a few tips that will help you and your organisation to reap the true benefits of outplacement quickly.

Differentiate

You are already providing outplacement – but how separate from the recruitment industry do you see it? And do you understand that it is not just about finding another job?

Most outplacement programmes will assess multiple career options with people – including consulting routes and starting your own business, and evaluating retirement and portfolio career options, as well as providing external financial advice.

Outplacement support will help your exiting employees stay ahead of the latest market trends and keep on top of the myriad of new technological advances in online brand creation. Making sure you understand the difference will help you to differentiate it for your employees.

Appreciate the value

Everyone – employers and employees alike – should benefit from effective outplacement. It provides space for individuals to acknowledge and share their feelings in a safe environment where they are understood and fully supported.

Through this support, individuals often move on quicker (in many cases up to 50% faster) and many are surprised about the life skills that they obtain during the transition process. For the remaining employees, they benefit from seeing their colleagues leave with dignity and are more likely to speak positively about the organisation.

Do not forget that businesses today are more networked than ever before; experiences and thoughts can be shared at the touch of a button. Supporting employees effectively has a direct impact on your employer brand, both internally and externally.

Provide the right support

UK businesses are behind other countries in their provision of outplacement. From talking to many of my clients, it is clear that budget constraints are often the reason why external outplacement support is not provided to employees. But, when it often amounts to less than 2% of an annual HR budget and has huge ramifications, why would you not provide it?

People are your most important asset, even when they are leaving your business. Giving them the opportunity to move on physically and mentally, with new networks and a positive sense of the company they are leaving, is a no-brainer. Provide support – but consider whether or not the support you are providing in-house is working for your employees.

Advocate and communicate

It is not only the responsibility of the employee relations or HR team working closely to the redundancies to know what outplacement comprises.

Your wider HR and recruitment teams, employees’ line managers and your executive team should also know what outplacement is and be ambassadors for it. If everyone takes responsibility for communicating the services available, you will optimise your success as an employer of choice, and your employees will truly feel the benefit of the support.

Strategic partnerships

How do you know if you are providing the right support for your employees?

One option is to lean on an outplacement provider to support you throughout the process. Use them to consult on the different options that are most appropriate for your affected employees.

Getting the best advice around the communication of the change, logistics, manager training and how to support you and the organisation before, during and after the project is critical to your success. Additionally, outplacement support is most effective when as much information as possible about the employees and the organisation is shared.

This allows your provider to shoulder some of the weight and take the stress out of the process for both you and the employee. An external provider will be able to give your employees the support they really need and empower them to reach out and talk about the services available to them.

As an employer you have a serious responsibility to your employees. And, as an HR professional, it is likely you joined the industry to positively impact the people you work with – and represent them in the best possible way. Applying these best practices around outplacement will make that support truly effective.

2 Responses to Five ways to get outplacement right for employees

  1. Russ 18 Nov 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    Good piece!

    Regarding allowing your provider to take some of the stress could also include coaching for the managers who have to deliver the news. We call that “notification training.”

    Here in the US, one key reason some employers who would otherwise not see the value of outplacement choose to invest in it is risk mitigation. Some reasons include documentation on reasons for terminations aren’t up to par, the employee is in a protected class, or has some other risk factor for potential of filing legal action against the employer. Depending on who you believe, the cost of that legal action – even when settled in favor of the employer – would justify quite a bit of outplacement.

  2. Amanda Polewski 18 Dec 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    For those organisations that are still wary – despite the good points made above regarding percentage of HR budget and multiple branding benefits – here are some further points that might sway your opinion: http://blog.insala.com/2013/10/the-top-6-reasons-why-you-should.html#.VJNkYyvF_PI

    In addition to Russ’ point above regarding risk mitigation, there’s a definite trend toward investing in employee brand advocacy right now. One of the very real benefits of investing in outplacement is that it falls right into your brand advocacy strategy in the long term: your alumni communicating your brand to their widening networks after they leave. Why wouldn’t you want to help them expand that network? And why wouldn’t you want them to leave you with a positive note?