As a former HR professional, now Outplacement Guru, I often get asked to be present on-site for RIF notifications to help ease the transition of displaced employees. Having a Psychology, HR, and outplacement background really serves me well because I am able to handle practically any situation that comes my way when a RIF’d employee is escorted to me after being terminated, but what type of support makes the most sense at that time?
It’s a very emotional time, to be sure. During the termination meeting, the manager is generally responsible for delivering “the bad news” and the HR professional typically reviews the severance package, benefits, outplacement program, and discusses the logistics of clearing out the desk and leaving the building.
So, what happens after the reduction in force meeting, who should assist after notification? For a reduction in force type event, typically the dismissed employee is given the option of meeting with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor or an outplacement ‘specialist’ who are usually sitting separately in a room next door.
Organizations often have some formal EAP program already in place and may arrange ahead of time to have someone available to meet employees one on one after being notified. You can never predict every situation and the emotional response the employee may evoke. Having an EAP counselor present is an excellent strategy to help employees manage their emotions and deal with the shock of losing their jobs. This also eases the exit.
Beyond EAP are outplacement services, which are company-sponsored programs that are part of the employee’s severance package and are available to the employee for some period of time after the point of separation. I think if a company doesn’t have a formal EAP program or doesn’t have the budget to have EAP present, an outplacement representative is the next best solution. Most outplacement firms will provide the rep at no charge, but you want to make sure the outplacement rep is qualified to address the emotional needs of your employees, not just provide career transition support.
If you decide not to have anyone present at all, then consider having a trained outplacement consultant reach out to the displaced employee after 2-3 days of being notified to check in to make sure they are ok and assess if they are ready to begin their outplacement services program. You’ll also want to make sure you review with the displaced employee the following five points of the outplacement program so they are prepared when someone from the firm calls:
1. Provide the name of the outplacement service provider
2. Briefly review brochure and scope of the program
3. Point out how to get started with the program, when they’re ready
4. Ask if there are questions or concerns
5. Explain how the outplacement firm will follow up
Remember, the focus should always be on helping the employee deal with his or her emotions first, career transition second.