I wrote this article based on the years of questioning I get from clients.
How did it get its name?
If you are like me, you probably think that outplacement is an odd term.
The origin of the term is in fact the opposite of the word for placement. So if placement means the act of employing someone, then outplacement is the act of moving someone from being employed.
Outplacement as a profession is only several decades old. It commenced in USA in the 1980s and spread around the world, with a number of firms gaining market-leading positions in the USA and abroad.
It’s fair to say that the outplacement industry has served many people who have successfully regained employment.
However, there have been a number of movies that shed some dubious light on the outplacement industry: two of which were Up In the Air with George Clooney; and The Company Men with Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Affleck.
Negatives about outplacement
There are common and well-founded criticisms of the outplacement industry:
- 40 percent of people who were offered traditional office-based outplacement don’t even show up to the office where the outplacement service is provided;
- A further 25 percent of people who commence outplacement do not complete it;
- The services provided to the participant are often token;
- Service provided is often office-based;
- Outplacement services are often at the behest of the availability of the consultant;
- The bulk of outplacement services are often offered for 30 days, with restricted times with consultants;
- The costs of providing outplacement to departing employees can be high, which means that many employees are often precluded from receiving outplacement support;
- There is often little accountability;
- The content covered is often outmoded and less relevant in a modern social media connected world;
- Despite the content being helpful to most people seeking an improvement in their careers, participants can often only access the content upon losing their jobs;
- Commuting distances and costs mean that the payback and relevance to the participant has to be high to warrant returning or attending;
- Embarrassment of being in an office with other people and possibly vying for similar roles causes people to drop out;
- Outplacement does not assist people who live in remote or regional areas.
So why should you provide outplacement to your departing employees?
There are several motivations for providing outplacement support to employees you are letting go.
1. Providing outplacement expresses the right values:
It’s the right thing to do. If you treat your people as well on the way out as you do on their way in and during their stay with you, then that’s appropriately decent and humanistic of you.
2. Providing outplacement creates a reputation of employer of choice:
Although business is in a constant state of flux, there will be times that the employer will need to hire and re-hire people for capacity and competitive advantage reasons. The more you are perceived as an employer of choice, the better is the chance of attracting the right talent.
3. Providing outplacement contributes to wellness:
There is a strong correlation between hope and well-being. Those people without hope have higher rates of mental illness, which creates untold damage to themselves, their family and friends, and to broader society. If we can give people hope about their future, then we are doing a fine thing, aren’t we?
4. Providing outplacement mitigates risks to employer brand and reputation:
Treating employees with dignity, regardless of their position in the organisation, is not only morally and ethically right, but it makes sound business sense. Anyone — regardless of their former role — has the potential to have a loud voice on the internet.
Career365 Employer Brand cycle
The 10 questions you should ask any outplacement firm
1. How contemporary is the content?
Check if the outplacement company offers content that has been recently updated for this century, let alone this decade! This means recognising that business operates in social media and smartphone times.
At the very least, ask whether the programs have been updated to reflect how the participant learns how to establish a strong LinkedIn presence – their own 24/7 resume/bio.
2. How is the outplacement program delivered?
Many outplacement firms deliver face to face or in physical classrooms/workshops . This is fine for some. Remember the earlier point: about 40 percent of people never turn up to the place where the outplacement service is delivered.
Instead, ask about delivery. What is convenient to the participant? Can the participant get the same learning within the comfort of their own home or a more convenient location?
3. Given that 40 percent don’t even show up to the outplacement firm, how do you get participants to start?
What is important here is that the participants start.
It’s important that there is a relationship that commences with the provider and the participant. This comes from meeting or speaking with a representative of the outplacement firm within 24- 48 hours of the notice event. Not just once but, a few times.
Ask what communication programs can be arranged to prompt engagement with the outplacement program to commence and then to continue with the program.
4. What happens on the announcement day?
Whilst there is a general feeling that outplacement firms should be represented on the day of the announcement, the reality is that the vast majority of people are in no emotional state to see anyone from an outplacement firm.
What is important is that the employee is communicated with and introduced within a 24 – 48 hour window. This can be done face to face or via phone call.
Ask to check out the procedures involved with this and the costs to have a representative from the outplacement firm on-premises.
5. Incentives to complete?
Beyond the 40 per cent of the people who don’t turn up to the outplacement firm, another 25 per cent of participants drop out before completing the service. This is because the content might be dull, irrelevant, and unhelpful in today’s circumstances or no accountability.
If there is a program to communicate with participants and encourage them to complete their course work, there are greater chances of completion.
Ask what incentives are in place for participants to complete? Expect that participants are communicated with at least once per week and find out how this is done.
6. When can participants commence their outplacement program?
With many outplacement programs, the participant is at the beck and call of the availability of the resources of the provider and the consultant, rather than the other way around.
Ask how much flexibility the participant has in commencing their course?
7. How long do participants have access to their course?
The rule of thumb with outplacement is that the more expensive the program is, the longer its duration — typically about 30 to 90 days in duration. The higher the price, the longer the support.
Ask for how long is the outplacement support provided to the participant?
8. What support do you have for your regional, remote or non- urban employees?
Support for non-urban employees comes down to where and how the outplacement service is delivered. Traditional models of outplacement require the participant to present to an outplacement office.
However, with many people in non-urban locations, this is not possible. It even discriminates against location.
It’s no surprise that people who live in remote or smaller population locations who have lost their jobs, have higher depression rates as they often cannot access any real form of career support via an outplacement program.
Ask how easy it is to support your regional and remote based employees? An online option could be the solution.
9. What LinkedIn expertise they help with?
LinkedIn is the way most recruiters and employers identify potential staff. With no LinkedIn profile, the participant is invisible. With an underperforming LinkedIn profile, the impact can be devastating as recruiters and hiring managers form positive or negative impressions in the first few seconds they look at a LinkedIn profile.
Ask what emphasis they place on teaching the secrets and foundations of creating a LinkedIn profile that is attractive to recruiters and employers. How up-to-date is the outplacement firm’s LinkedIn expertise?
10. What’s the price of your services and how long does the participant get to access the outplacement service?
Ask the outplacement provider the cost per participant and the duration of the outplacement program. When does it start? How much flexibility does the participant have in commencing? What about the career coaches who are accessible to the participant?