Outplacement — A Three Part Story (Part 1)
Stories involving outplacement have racked up a good amount of screen time in recent history. Films like Up in the Air and Office Space explore both the humour and humanity of outplacement. TV shows like The Office have plenty of scenes where a bumbling supervisor struggles to manage an employee’s departure. It’s a human situation, and it can be uncomfortable. That must be why audiences are fascinated by it.
Of course, the success or failure of real-life outplacement scenarios isn’t decided by punch lines or dramatic tension. It’s decided by real-world results — both for the outgoing employee and for the company.
If we tell the story of outplacement in three parts (i.e. employers, employees, and workplace survivors), we can develop a deeper understanding of the whole process. We can also assess the value of comprehensive, proven outplacement programs that work for all stakeholders in a given situation.
Part 1: Employers
Limiting the period of unemployment for people being outplaced, and helping to facilitate productive job or career transitions, is a primal concern for employers. Everyone who is outplaced was a new hire once. These are people you’ve gotten to know and have relied on. Whatever the specifics of the situation, basic rules of empathy and respect are enough to justify a professional approach to outplacement. As it turns out, there are also deeper strategic reasons to think about.
Make no mistake: When a team member goes through outplacement, unaffected staff are watching. They notice how outgoing people are treated, and their perception of the company and/or its leadership is shaped accordingly. If the outgoing person is not well-taken care of, other employees will develop negative impressions — and productivity can take a real dip.
Another common narrative is when outgoing people lean on internal staff for support and venting. When employees are outplaced without good support, they might have nowhere else to turn but their soon-to-be-former colleagues. This can be stressful, time-consuming, and demoralising to the workforce. Introducing a third party — one that knows outplacement backwards and forwards — goes a long way to relieve this pressure.
Maintaining brand integrity
In a business landscape that is increasingly connected by digital channels and global networking, outplacement has a heightened effect on brand integrity. There was a time when employers could take a minimalist approach to outplacement and get away unscathed, but that time is past. When outplaced staff are carefully looked after on their way out the door, the PR machine will have far less reputation damage to control. In fact, quality outplacement can go a long way to elevate a company’s brand integrity, including their image in the employment marketplace.
Building healthy narratives
It’s surprising how many companies and managers think they can outplace an employee without anyone noticing. Let’s not kid ourselves: Impacted employees (and people who know them) are likely to spread the word both inside and outside the company. Your current workforce knows that it happened, and even how it happened. As business leaders, we need to get ahead of the story that lives on the street and online. We need to make it a story that works for us, which means it has to work for the outplaced individual — there are no shortcuts here.
Protecting against lawsuits
When outplacement goes bad, a disgruntled former employee might blame the employer for ongoing struggles. They might even go to the courts — and whether or not there is a legal case, situations like these only create unwanted problems and costs.
A third-party outplacement provider takes proven steps to avoid all of these pitfalls, and serves as an advocate for your business. Should the unthinkable happen and a lawsuit commence, outplacement services provide a layer of proof that the employee was treated with respect and dignity, and was offered not cursory but comprehensive outplacement support. The more successful your outplaced employees are, the less likely they are to view their outplacement as negative or unlawful.
Success on a regional scale
With regional employment on the rise for the foreseeable future, outplacement needs should be carefully tailored to markets, individuals, and geographical areas. People who are outplaced in regional areas need the right kind of support — including well-networked regional coaches who can offer contacts that will open doors in specific locations. The right outplacement provider can do exactly this.
Choose your provider wisely for optimal results
Professional outplacement is not a silver bullet. It’s important to be careful about who you choose to bring in. The cheapest, most minimal program is often a waste of money. It signals for former employees — and to your current workforce, for that matter — that you are ticking the outplacement box with no vested interest in the outcome. On the other hand, an outplacement program that is rich in personalised attention and job search resources will pay dividends across all of the levels discussed here.
If you are interested in discussing an outplacement program for your business, please feel free to get in touch with Lyn Cole. Lyn@reddingroup.com.au