The outbreak of COVID-19 and the economic repercussions that followed forced many businesses to make tough business decisions.
Furloughs, salary reductions, reduced work hours, and layoffs are all on the rise across the entire globe.
While these moves were necessary to keep organizations intact for the future, how these delicate moves are handled will impact what those futures will look like.
Offboarding is always a difficult undertaking. Emotions run high. Stress levels increase across the board. And uncertainty can spread like wildfire.
Following proper layoff, RIF, and furlough procedures is important now more than ever if organizations hope to retain key employees after the pandemic subsides and businesses reopen.
This involves protecting employer branding even during times of crisis. One of the best tools to maintain a strong employer brand is to provide outplacement services to displaced workers who are being fully laid off.
In this article, we will go over how outplacement can future-proof your organization by providing a high level of support to exiting employees and showing survivors that they would also be taken care of if they were to be let go.
Outplacement and Employer Brand
First, let's look at how outplacement can impact employer brand.
We've gone over this topic in the past, but this is a good place for a brief refresher.
For starters, your employer brand is what separates you from all of the other companies out there. What makes you unique? What makes people want to work for your organization instead of your competitor? How robust and thriving is your workplace culture?
All of these questions strike at your employer brand. A good example of this is Google. Google has a great employer brand because they are doing innovative things and have established a culture that fits with who they want working there. This has, obviously, worked for them in the past, attracting some of the top tech executives, coders, and creatives to their organization.
We're not saying that you have to be Google - far from it. Instead, you should look at your brand like an outsider would and make strides to improve it when you can.
This is typically what many organizations worry about when the economy is doing well. In fact, just a few months ago, while the unemployment rate was at an all-time low, ‘employer branding’ was one of HR’s hottest topics.
Once the economy revives from the closures caused by COVID-19, branding will once again be king. The problem is that the current situation can make or break a company’s employer brand because reduction events (furloughs, pay reductions, layoffs, etc) are so present.
Offboarding, in all of its forms, can drastically impact employer branding even at the best of times. In our current situation, it’s important to know that reduction actions taken right now will come back to either haunt or elevate the companies performing them based on how they structure the experience.
In other words, it’s important to protect your brand now for the future and still be able to hold reduction events. How? By giving your displaced workers everything they could possibly need to succeed. And the biggest tool in your arsenal should be outplacement.
Reductions Without Outplacement
To better understand how all of this works, here’s an example.
Let's say that a fictional Company X has a great brand and has attracted some top-notch talent, a feat that is commendable and showcases that many of their outward-facing strategies are working well.
Now, let’s say that Company X is one of the thousands of companies that had to let people go because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Under normal circumstances, a reduction could be triggered by numerous things, including M&A, a pivot to a new product, a hiccup in the market, and much, much more.
When they start to hold their reduction event, they will likely need to retain some key staff to ensure that when things start to come back online that they will be able to hit the ground running.
Because they haven't needed to have layoffs in such a long time, the company forgoes having an outplacement provider and simply calls a meeting on a Friday and informs those being let go that they no longer have a place at the company (don't do this, read our guide about announcing layoffs here and our complete guide to virtual layoffs here).
These people are rightfully stressed, uncertain, and feel blindsided. With the reductions happening from COVID-19, employees are also concerned about the long term future of their company, their financial well-being, and many other things that typically do not occur when a normal layoff is held during normal economic conditions.
The amount of stress these workers feel is even more immense, meaning that the company should do everything in their power to make the reduction as stress-free as possible.
If workers are blind-sided by their reduction, confused whether or not they are furloughed or laid off, unsure about unemployment benefits, and generally scared and anxious, they are going to become upset with the company, have a higher likelihood of not coming back (if recalls are possible), will likely share their bad experience on social media and Glassdoor, and the event could even trigger retained staff members to exit after all of this is said and done.
Wait, So How Does Outplacement Help?
Outplacement is a service that helps the layoff process run smoothly for both the company and those being let go.
As a refresher, outplacement works by providing offboarding support to your staff members in the form of expert coaching, resume writing, and more. Top tier outplacement firms use cutting-edge career transition technology and learning centers that enable people to get back to work in a new role quicker than going it alone.
In other words, it provides a simple, less stressful pathway for workers to transition from one role to the other.
Now, layoffs are a multifaceted event. Organizations need to follow the proper procedure from start to finish. You can learn more about this procedure here.
Outplacement comes in at the end of this procedure where HR offers the service to support those let go in finding a new role.
In terms of employer brand, this sends a great signal to those let go by showing that the organization cares enough about their future to provide them support even though they are leaving the company.
In our current situation, outplacement can be used to help workers find new, remote jobs, pivot to a new role that they always wanted, help them network online instead of in-person, and many other things. Though it may seem like everything is paused right now, numerous companies are still hiring and displaced workers can benefit from experts helping them locate these jobs and eventually land a new role.
This is essentially why it's always a good idea for top-notch organizations to have an outplacement provider on retainer to help when a reduction is needed.
If Company X would have provided their staff members will a strong severance package coupled with outplacement services, they would have mitigated the risk of their employees turning against them and tarnishing their hard-earned employer brand.
Outplacement, in short, helps workers land their next job while simultaneously helping organizations remain an employer of choice even during extremely stressful times.
In summary, we are living in some uncertain times. We cannot predict the future of the economy. COVID-19 has forced many businesses to make tough decisions, resulting in them letting go a large number of their employees either by placing them on a temporary furlough or by laying them off.
Businesses need to consider what impact these moves have on their employer brand going forward. Workers will remember how they are treated and will carry those feelings after the pandemic has subsided.
To that end, organizations need to do everything in their power to protect their brands by protecting their workers as best they can.
Organizations can do this by following proper layoff procedures (even if the company is working virtually), offer a severance package to those being let go, and providing them support through outplacement. A severance package typically protects an employer from being taken to court while outplacement helps a company in the court of public opinion.
Besides the business case, outplacement is a great way to help your employees during a RIF or layoff. No matter what is happening in the larger world, layoffs will always be extremely stressful. COVID-19 has amplified that stress.
Employers that do everything in their power to help their workers through these times will be remembered when it is all over. Those who do not will, too, but for the opposite reasons.
To learn more about outplacement and how it can help your workers while protecting your employer brand, click here.