Outplacement used to be a service offered by employers to smooth the exit of key employees from the business. But now many organisations are using it in a more strategic way to ensure they develop the right talent and that employees emerge stronger from major changes.
Today’s businesses operate in a more challenging, competitive and fast-paced environment than ever before. In an increasingly global and digital marketplace, rivals can come from anywhere and emerge before incumbents have had time to respond.
At a World Economic Forum panel in Dalian, China in June, business leaders further highlighted that digital transformation has forced every company, regardless of sector, to reconsider their existing business model.
We now use Netflix instead of Blockbuster; Uber instead of hailing a black cab. The ability for businesses to evolve has never been more important.
Despite all of the technological change going on around us, the key to business growth still lies in a company’s people – and specifically, the ability to be agile, upskill and change its workforce to meet new and more diverse business dynamics.
Strategic leadership recognises that building the right team based on strengths and skills is crucial if businesses are to enhance productivity. However, this often relies on the need to restructure, prioritise skills and, consequently introduce redundancies that will create competitive differentiation.
Right people, right place
Restructuring is not just about redundancies. It is about keeping the right people in the right place and upskilling the workforce to support the business road map.
It’s a complex and delicate process that if not handled correctly, can do irreparable damage not only to a company’s culture, but also its brand and reputation.
So how do businesses adapt their workforce using redundancy and restructures, while also balancing the impact of brand reputation and employee relationships? And, critically how do they ensure that they retain the knowledge and skills that can provide competitive differentiation?
At the peak of the financial crisis, restructuring saw thousands of financial services employees made redundant, in some cases so spontaneously that they were left with no additional skills support and no job prospects.
The reputation of the financial services sector took a serious hit and banks were left with a workforce where morale, productivity and loyalty were at an all-time low.
Furthermore, once the crisis had passed and businesses started to rehire, the perception of instability and threat of lay-off weighed heavy on the minds of future employees and prevented many businesses hiring the best talent.
In 2017, redundancy is still common, but outplacement and career transition management is rightly understood as being more than ethical responsibility – it is a critical factor in protecting a company’s brand, performance and profitability.
In fact, four out of five companies worldwide rely on outplacement services during restructuring, merger, or leadership change, according to Right Management’s research.
There is no denying that redundancy is an unpleasant reality to face. However, used in a structured and strategic manner, outplacement services can do much to soften the blow – not only helping those impacted reorientate themselves for the next role, but helping the business and its remaining people adjust to a new working environment.
Crucially, it is an opportunity for a company to take responsibility for its employees and provide development, advice and career opportunities for those individuals and retain the knowledge, network and skills that has been invested.
In doing so, it can ensure that both businesses and employees come out stronger from the restructure process.
The needs of the business
Outplacement is a complex process and can be adapted to suit a business’ needs and the workforce dynamic.
Starting with assessments to determine interests and skills, companies can then create a programme to introduce sessions such as career coaching, professional resources, and structured guidance to speed the employee’s transition to new career opportunities.
Furthermore, by truly understanding the skills of the outgoing individual, it can lead to opportunities in other departments and the retention of expertise that has been invested in by the business.
Supplementing this, services such as pre-decision counselling can help affected employees make an informed decision about remaining with the organisation or accepting a voluntary separation package.
In turn, employers can then provide further career support and make a difficult process more positive for the employee and workforce alike.
Indeed, our research has also revealed that employees in career transition value one-on-one coaching more than targeted job leads.
Critically, by implementing a strategic outplacement programme, an organisation sends a message to employees (and potentially customers) that it cares about and is invested in what happens to its people.
In turn, this makes it easier to recruit good talent and maintains a strong company reputation.
As digitisation takes hold and businesses are faced with more pressure to adapt their workforce, outplacement is a powerful indicator of an organisation that believes in looking after its employees in the present as well as those from the past and future.
As well as positively impacting employer brand, use of outplacement also aligns with the far more transparent, collaborative and cooperative environment in which modern businesses are expected to operate.
By prioritising outplacement and providing career conversations and support, companies can seamlessly transition employees to new roles and avoid the loss of productivity, engagement, and loyalty that can have a real impact on the remaining workforce.
Avoiding these pitfalls and learning from past failure, we can ensure that businesses continue to remain competitive, drive innovation and retain staff that will build a profitable future.