Career transition, as a topic, is one that only seems to be talked about when a reduction event is on the horizon or already in full swing.
This issue is ignored all the more when the economy is doing well. Instead of making sure offboarding and career transition strategies are in place and working to the best of their ability, many organizations decide to focus their efforts on other things like employee engagement, retention, and wellness without considering how poor offboarding practices can impact those areas as well.
Also, while those topics are extremely important, few understand that layoffs still happen when the economy is thriving and if they aren't handled with care, they have the power to seriously disrupt efforts made to retain and attract talent in a tight labor market.
This is where outplacement comes in. In times of prosperity, outplacement acts like employer brand insurance, making sure that if you need to let someone go, they will get the support and tools they need to transition to a new role outside of the organization.
Not only that, by having an outplacement provider at the ready, you ensure that if there is a market correction - something that experts are starting to expect more and more - your people will be in good hands.
Let's take a deeper look.
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 basically what many organizations are doing right now because the economy is in such a good place that it has decreased the unemployment rate and empowered workers to have more choice over where they work.
In other words, companies have made it a priority to be an attractive place to work, which is a great, but still many of them miss a key ingredient - how their offboarding experience works.
Even during these very economically stable times, companies still perform layoffs. They may not be for the same reasons, but they happen all the same.
And, how companies handle layoffs is vital if they want to continue to have a stellar employer brand.
Let's look at an example.
Offboarding Without Outplacement
Let's say that a fictional Company X has a great brand and has attracted some top notch talent even with the low unemployment rate, a feat that is commendable and showcases that many of their outward-facing strategies are working well.
Now, let's say that Company X - because of the economy - wants to try their hand at a new product and pivot away from an old one that is under performing. This is a very real-world example - it happens every day.
When they go to pivot, they will likely need to retain some staff from the product that they used to make. However, depending on the new product, some of those people may need let go.
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).
Those people are not going to be happy. They thought their company was thriving and then, boom, no job and no support. This can ripple through the organization, too, making people wonder about Company X's leadership, finances, and more.
If this is the only event they have, they very well might get away with this poorly constructed offboarding strategy. But let's say that the new product flops and they need to abandon it.
Now they have to layoff even more people just a few short weeks or months later. They may even be letting go relatively new hires.
If they still don't provide outplacement support, they may wind up with a retention problem on their hands because now those stable, talented workers may jump ship to go to a company that handles these issues better. As word spreads, it can become harder for Company X to hire the talent they need. And, in a time where talent is scarce, they may seriously fall behind.
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 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 this economy, many organizations can afford the cost of outplacement services, yet many choose to forego them for some reason. The cost of a tarnished employer brand can have long lasting effects on how an organization runs. Therefore, it makes sense to use outplacement anytime there is a layoff - even for small events or 'one-offs.'
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.
In the example above, if Company X would have provided an expert level of support to those let go because of their business pivot, they would have been able to hold the event without the negative repercussions that could end with them not being able to retain other staff members or attract new talent at all.
Outplacement and Future: An Insurance Plan
Most of this article has been about using outplacement and proper layoff procedure in times of economic prosperity. However, as anyone in the business world knows, recessions and market corrections always seem to loom right around the corner.
Now, for the record, no one really knows when a market correction will take place, though many experts are decent at reading the signs. In any case, the only reasonable way to think about it is that recessions and corrections are just normal events that happen in the market.
The problem is that many organizations seem to not look all that far into the future, worrying instead about the here and now. While this can work out, it also opens up organizations to be blindsided when stocks slide or a market corrects.
When a recession hits, layoffs follow. So, if a company wants to be able to focus on the tasks at hand and still sleep well at night, organizations should consider having a relationship with an outplacement provider in case a correction does, in fact, happen.
The best outplacement firms do not charge a retainer fee. Instead, they are a pay as you go system where organizations are only charged when a person goes through the process. This makes having an outplacement provider on contract a no-brainer.
No one wants to leave their staff members without support during a layoff. Layoffs are one of the most stressful things about the working world. Outplacement providers take the stress out of equation and solely exist to help people find new, meaningful roles.
In summary, during economic prosperity, forward-thinking HR leaders should examine their offboarding practices and seriously consider outplacement providers for two reasons.
The first is that having an outplacement provider on retainer can allow you to take swings at new products and pivot more easily knowing that if a layoff or reduction in force is needed, staff members will have all of the support they need to land a new role.
This protects your employer brand and allows you to continue being an employer of choice because your staff members will understand that you truly do care for them even after they have exited the organization.
The second is the fact that market corrections happen. We cannot predict them - despite what many people say. While the economy is thriving, it makes sense to take the time to examine offboarding and outplacement to ensure that when a correction does happen that your people will be protected.
Outplacement is a great addition to any organization's talent strategy, which helps smooth over one of the most stressful parts of the employee lifecycle: offboarding. If employers are truly concerned about their employer brand, retention rates, and engagement levels, this area needs as much focus and attention as hiring and developing.