When it comes to layoffs and reductions in force, offboarding employees can be a challenge for even the most seasoned HR professional. It’s a stressful event for everyone involved. The good news is that outplacement assistance services can make this delicate process a whole lot easier for both the HR leader responsible for holding the event and those being let go.
But what is an outplacement program exactly? How does outplacement work? Where did it come from, and how are you supposed to know which provider to go with?
These are all fantastic questions that deserve in-depth answers so that HR can make the right decision and help their staff members make a transition into a new, meaningful role without all of the stress that can come with a job search.
In this guide, we will go over everything you could ever want to know about outplacement programs, starting with the very basics and working our way to the nitty-gritty.
Let’s dive right in.
What Is Outplacement?
In short, outplacement is a service offered to outbound employees who are impacted by a layoff or reduction in force (RIF) that helps them navigate their transition to a new role outside of the original company.
Outplacement, in other words, helps take the stress out of layoff events for employees that are impacted, giving them the tools they need to find new work in a role that they will love. Not only does this help them get back to work quicker than if they were go perform the job search alone, it also helps employers ensure that their staff members are set up to succeed whenever they are let go.
We’ll look into what makes a great outplacement provider in a minute, but in summary, outplacement providers in today’s world utilize the powers of technology to deliver service to workers anywhere and at any time. They pair this technologically-driven approach with expert coaching, which - when combined - provides a holistic experience to participants that ensures that they fully explore their options and makes the right decision.
As you can probably guess, outplacement providers come in all shapes and sizes from huge firms to boutique shops. Many companies often go with providers who are flexible like a boutique but powerful enough to handle large amounts of employees if needed. In other words, if you are shopping for outplacement, you should aim to get the best of both worlds.
Outplacement is typically offered with severance during the layoff process. By making outplacement a part of the severance package (alongside a strong payment), organizations can better protect their corporate and employer brand from being tarnished if they should need to reduce the size of their workforce via layoffs or permanent RIFs.
The Importance of Outplacement
Since outplacement is always offered to folks leaving a company due to a layoff, some organizations fail to see the point. After all, these individuals are leaving the company, right? Why is it important to spend additional funds on them even though they were laid off due to budgetary issues in the first place?
This line of thinking is antiquated in today’s business world. Outplacement does a few powerful things that companies simple cannot ignore.
First of all, outplacement is a way to show that you still care about the success of your employees even though they have went through an involuntary termination. It’s not the fault of your employees that they have been let go, which means it’s also not their fault that they now have to find a new job before their severance payment runs out or that they have to take on a smaller job that is just meant to pay the bills and not further their careers.
With all that said, outplacement provides a pathway to a new, meaningful role, allowing workers to get back to work faster and in a role that they truly want to be in. It’s one of the best things a company can give their staff members during a layoff or RIF.
Sure, a strong severance package is a great start, but providing outplacement services alongside the payment really rounds out the package and allows employees to flourish instead of flounder.
These are obviously the impacts outplacement can have on employees, but you still may be wondering how this impacts the organization. Let’s explore that now.
Outplacement ROI: Employer Branding, Retention, and More
There are few key factors that make outplacement a sensible business decision for employers. The first is employer brand protection.
Let’s look at an example.
Say that a person who works for a company is let go due to budget cuts. They are laid off following typical layoff procedure and have been given a severance agreement and payment that is based on the length of time they were employed.
However, they are now struggling to find new work. Their payment is running out. Their life has been turned upside down. All of that leads to strong negative feelings about the organization that let them go.
What do people do when they feel that strongly in today’s world? They tell people about it. Word of mouth is super powerful (when it’s positive or negative). This means that scorned ex-employees can start to tarnish your employer brand by telling other people to not work for your company or telling their friends and family to not buy your products.
In today’s world, word of mouth is amplified by the internet. Sites like Glassdoor and other employer review sites make it simple to report bad practices at businesses that they’ve worked at. This can be disastrous for a company.
As a refresher, employer branding is what people say about working for your business. Companies like Google have a fantastic employer brand because a ton of people want to work for them for various reasons. So, for Google, employer branding helps them attract and retain key talent for a long time
Other companies have trouble doing this, making talent acquisition incredibly challenging. Not to mention, layoffs are just about always viewed in a negative light from people outside of the company (and inside, too, if we’re being completely honest). No one likes layoffs. Even if a layoff is an action taken because of a business pivot that has nothing to do with the financial state of the company, people view them negatively. This negativity, more often than not, stems from the fact that many organizations do not properly offboard impacted staff members.
Poor offboarding practices can cause a lot of damage. For example, if a company seemingly layoffs an entire team out of the blue, people will talk about this, especially if those let go were given no severance and no outplacement to help them. Treating employees poorly during an offboarding event (of any kind!) can be detrimental to employer branding because it leaves a bad taste in the employee’s mouth.
Even more troubling is that poor layoff practices can cause talent to actively flee your organization because they do not want to go through the stress of job loss without any support system to back them up. Now you have a retention issue followed by a struggling employer brand that doesn’t allow you to acquire the talent you need to meet your goals.
As you can see, this is now a whole can of worms.
But, outplacement is a simple solution that helps negate the possibility of a tarnished employer brand. Basically, you need to roll out the red carpet for those being let go. Treat them like friends and family by helping them with their transition as much as possible. The best way to help is by offering outplacement alongside a strong severance package. With that, they will have the tools they need to succeed and a lump payment to help smooth out the job search process.
All of this adds up to the fact that employer branding is vital for overall business success, especially when it comes to retaining talent and attracting new talent in the future. Poorly executed layoff and RIF practices can drastically decrease an employer’s brand. However, great offboarding practices can protect it.
This is the business guideline for outplacement. It helps protect the bottom line even if it can cost a bit more to offboard employees.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to what outplacement actually does.
What Makes a Successful Outplacement Provider?
Like we mentioned above, there are a ton of different flavors of outplacement providers to choose from. However, they all have the same end goal: to help laid off workers get back to work in a new, meaningful role.
The approach taken to achieve this end result can differ quite a bit, though. For example, traditional outplacement providers typically onboard participants by having them visit their offices or attend a webinar (usually as a large group). While there, a coaching staff helps them start their job search by looking over resumes, LinkedIn accounts, and things like that.
After this initial meeting, outplacement providers typically work with clients for a set period of time. This is called a term limit. Traditional, old-school providers usually work with participants for a few weeks up to a few months, providing them in-person support. Once that time-frame has elapsed, the participant must navigate the job search alone.
That’s the way things used to be done.
The good news is that modern outplacement providers have discovered that this doesn’t make a lot of sense. For instance, if a rural company has to layoff an entire manufacturing plant, it doesn’t add up that those workers have to travel to the nearest large city to receive outplacement support. This is how the internet has changed the game.
Nowadays, outplacement providers worth their salt utilize the powers of modern technology to provide support to workers across the country and even the world.
The very best providers have options, though, that allow participants to choose if they want in-person meetings or to meet virtually. The vast majority of participants prefer virtual, because they are free to use outplacement services from the comfort of their own home anything they want to. Some participants may take up a part-time role, for example, to help ease the transition, meaning that they need/want support in the evening. Virtual delivery makes that possible.
Modern outplacement providers also understand how the current job market works. Gone are the days of ‘hitting the pavement’ to find a role. Everything is online now. This means that outplacement providers have to understand how to get resumes past filtering Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) before they even land on the desk of a real human.
They also have to understand how to optimize LinkedIn profiles and perform other tasks that can help participants stand out among the crowd.
At the same time, modern outplacement providers also understand the importance forgoing term limits. Term limits are exactly what they sound like: limiting. By having a participant receive outplacement support for a mere three months, outplacement providers significantly reduce their success rate because they cannot work with employees of all experience levels.
Let’s take a look at another example. Say an entry level employee that was laid off wants to find a new role at the same experience level. This job search may be successful under the three month term limit. However, imagine a person that has a lot of experience in a specific role and wants to actually move up a level. This job search can take quite a bit longer. The same can be said for C-level executives who want another C-level role.
All of these experiences require different amounts of support and have to be given the right amount of time if they are to be a success. This is why forward-thinking outplacement providers have done away with pesky term limits. "Until placement" support enables workers to get back to work in a new role that they will love while term limits, more often than not, just help people find a job so that they have a job.
These are two of the biggest concerns that modern outplacement companies consider when crafting their programs.
Now let’s take a look at how the process actually works.
The Outplacement Process, Explained
Obviously, the outplacement process changes from provider to provider. Here we will go over what modern, forward-thinking outplacement providers do when a participant is onboarded.
After a person is laid off and offered outplacement support, a coach generally reaches out to onboard them to whatever systems and platforms the outplacement company uses. They also meet with their coach to go over a ‘needs assessment’ that helps the coach better understand how much support the individual needs.
Once that assessment is complete, expert resume writers craft and optimize a new resume for the participant, ensuring that it is keyword optimized to beat ATS. At the same time, LinkedIn profiles are updated and optimized as well.
From there, the coach provides a flexible arrangement that allows the participant to meet with them on their own terms. Does the participant want to meet in person? Do they prefer virtual meetings? These details will all be worked out.
While all of this is happening, participants are also given access to e-learning tools that can help them better understand and, therefore, navigate their job search. This is a continuous process that is available to the participant if they should want it.
When everything is set up and the participant is ready, they start to apply for jobs and lean on their dedicated coach to help with any issues that should arise. For example, coaches can help with networking and interview prep with the participant to ensure that they have everything covered.
This process repeats until the person lands a new job.
As you can see, outplacement doesn’t specifically place a person in a new role. They are not headhunters or recruiters, they help empower participants to take on their job search, allowing them to control where they land and when but with all of the tools they will ever need at their disposal.
After the person lands a job, outplacement providers typically give reports back to the organization that bought the outplacement service. Reporting is important because it shows the organization that their money went to finding the participant a new job and if those efforts panned out. Transparency and reporting is vital when shopping for an outplacement provider.
And on that note, let’s dig into what you should look for in an outplacement provider in the first place.
Finding an Outplacement Provider: Key Tips
We’ve already covered a lot of things that you should keep in mind when looking at outplacement providers, but it can seriously help to put it all in one spot so that you really know what to look for.
After all, shopping for a rather sensitive product that directly impacts the lives of your workers can be a daunting task, especially with so much content to decipher online. So, to make it all a bit easier, let’s break it down into some key points:
1. Outplacement and Technology: A Perfect Combination
As technology marches ever-forward into the future, outplacement services should be marching along beside it. So, the first thing you need to look at when evaluating outplacement providers is to look at whether or not they are using all of the technology they can to get your employees back to work in a timely manner.
This means offering virtual outplacement to those who cannot meet in major cities. Some traditional firms still do outplacement the old fashioned way (like we mentioned above) where clients meet with coaches in person to get them back in the job market.
While some clients may prefer that approach, the fact of the matter is that the job hunt is now online and outplacement should operate in the same space. If the market has changed, why wouldn’t an outplacement service provider change alongside it? After all, if they are unable to navigate the virtual world to bring their services to your employees wherever they happen to be, how can you know they are using all of the relevant technologies to get your employee back to work?
2. Outplacement Should Be Ultra Flexible
When it comes to finding work, there are a lot of variables at play that change from person to person. For that reason, your outplacement provider should offer to change their process based on what the client needs.
This often times blends into the need for a strong technological backbone. For example, say a client lives in a rural area and cannot travel for outplacement services because it’s too far, or because they have obligations that limit their time away from their home/town.
The outplacement firm should be willing and able to accommodate that employee by harnessing the powers of the internet and other systems to ensure that the client gets the same outplacement service as someone in a major city.
The same can be said for job type. Outplacement shouldn’t exist solely to get someone back to work in any job. Outplacement support should strive to get the employee into a job that they want, are good at, and one that they find meaningful.
To do so, outplacement processes need to be flexible and forgiving.
3. Outplacement Services Should Be Easy to Use
This sounds obvious but it’s often overlooked. The outplacement process - whether it involves online platforms, digital conference calls or what have you - should be easy for the client to use.
Someone who just went through a layoff should not find outplacement, which is meant to help them get back to work in as close to a stress free environment as possible, disheartening because it’s challenging to use.
Through coaching, e-learning tools, and online platforms, outplacement should feel natural to use and every time a client has a session they should come out of it feeling like they are closer to landing a job than when they arrived.
Gauging how well your current outplacement provider operates (or how a potential new outplacement partner will operate) requires you to question their overall process. You can find a complete list of important questions here. If you find that your outplacement provider is lacking in many of the areas, it’s probably time to switch them out (or go with a different provider if you are shopping around).
4. Top Outplacement Firms Shouldn’t Have Term Limits
Okay, this is the biggest issue with modern outplacement: term limits.
Like many services, traditional outplacement firms love term limits because it’s a sure-fire way for them to not lose money. However, this puts your employees at a greater risk of continued unemployment.
Think about it: term limits basically state that every client is the same and should take the same amount of time to find a new job. This is simply not the case. In fact, as we mentioned above, the outplacement process should be flexible. If a client takes longer to find the right job, they should be free to take that time and outplacement firms should continue to work with them through this process.
The use of term limits shows that providers are unwilling to offer continued support to their clients out of fear that they will never be placed. That should be a red flag because it highlights that the outplacement firm doesn’t stand behind their service enough to put their money where their mouth is.
"Until placement" is always the right way to go because it, in and of itself, is flexible. It allows outplacement providers to literally work with all participants regardless of their job title, experience level, or career path. Outplacement should provide support at every stage and for everyone. Term limits make this nearly impossible.
5. Outplacement Firms Should Be Strategic Partners
The end goal of shopping for an outplacement provider is to make them a strategic partner for your business. Layoffs and other downsizing events can spring up from time to time, leading many businesses to have a top outplacement firm on retainer.
However, just because an outplacement firm ticked all of the important boxes a few years ago doesn’t mean that they still do today. This is where evaluation comes into play.
You need to ensure that as the job market changes, your outplacement partnership changes along with it. If you picked a strategic outplacement partner 5 years ago, chances are that you should double back and see how well they have adapted to the current market at large.
Are they still using term limits? Do they offer virtual assistance? Are they flexible enough to ensure that your client will get placed in a new, meaningful job in a timely fashion?
In other words, an outplacement provider isn’t like a cable provider. Their services should change over time to reflect how the job market is. You need to ensure that they are cutting-edge so that you can continue your business practices without being over burdened with the thought that your employees aren’t in good hands when they are offboarded because of a layoff or RIF.
The Key to Evaluating Outplacement Providers Is a Demo
As you can clearly see, there are ton of different factors that go into deciding which outplacement provider is right for your specific business.
You should definitely do your homework to see which will work out the best. This is where we have a few other key tips. The biggest is to look on their site and read their blog.
Nowadays, company blogs are vital to understand their values. A blog should provide a plethora of information about their services but also helpful things that you may have not considered. For example, let’s say a business provides fundraising help. There are tons of different guides and articles that they can craft to help people interested in fundraising.
This content is offered for free so that people can lean on them even if they aren’t customers. For outplacement firms, this means providing a bunch of thought leadership surrounding the offboarding process and other, more general HR topics.
How to write a layoff letter, for instance. Or, how to craft a severance agreement. Both of these are great topics that can help HR leaders with the stressful task of layoffs, which go hand-in-hand with outplacement.
So, we recommend that you spend some time reading what the company has to say and also going through their main site to get a sense of how their product works.
Once that is done, you definitely want to get on a demo. We know that demos are hard to fit into already tight schedules and that many people forgo a demo because they don’t want to be sold to. But, a great provider will help you better understand what outplacement services you need and are willing to make changes to their offering so that the plan will work for you at every turn.
Outplacement, and a lot of other services like it, are best explored when talking to a real-life person because they can help you understand just how much of a strategic partner the firm will be in the future. They will also explain their process, which you can compare to the list of things above.
Other things you should pay close attention are their case studies. Just about every company offering to sell a service has a caste study around that can show you how the service worked in practice.
Case studies, product FAQs, and other materials can help you make an educated decision as to whether or not the provider is the right fit.
You should also do some Googling to see what others have said about the company. Glassdoor and similar sites are great to help see what the company’s culture is like as well.
Are you in procurement? If you are researching an RPF, check out our link below on Preserving Employer Brand, or take a look at our comprehensive FAQ page here!
What we’re basically saying here is that you need to really do your due diligence because outplacement support is given to people who have just went through a major life change. You don’t want just any company helping you with this delicate matter.
With all of that out of the way, you should have a better picture of how to shop for outplacement services. Now, to aid you even further, let’s look at where outplacement comes in and how you can apply it as a service at your company.
To do this, we’ll start by explaining how to introduce your staff members to outplacement during a RIF or layoff notification meeting.
How to Use Outplacement
Alright, now on to the most actionable part of the guide: how to actually use outplacement inside your RIF or layoff strategy.
Outplacement, like we mentioned above, should be offered alongside your severance package. So, in order to make sure you have all of the tools and knowledge you need to deliver the benefit to your staff members, we’ll go over how to write a severance agreement followed by what to say in a layoff meeting.
This should provide you with a well-rounded layoff process that leads up the offering outplacement to your staff members. Once that is done, we’ll talk about how outplacement will work while you move on to handling other aspects of your role.
Let’s dive right in.
How to Write a Severance Agreement in 4 Easy Steps
First off, what is a severance agreement?
A severance agreement - also known as a “separation agreement” or “severance payment agreement” - is a legal document between you, the employer, and the outgoing employee that details all of the specific terms of the employee’s termination.
Basically, a severance agreement is a waiver or release of liability that the outgoing employee signs, protecting the business from lawsuits. These agreements usually include compensation, outplacement services, and other benefits in exchange for the employee’s signature. You can read more about this in the severance agreement SHRM provides here.
Your severance agreement should be offered to the employee during the notification meeting by your HR manager who will go over the details of document with the employee. This can be a tricky conversation to have, which is why we suggest you have a layoff script on file. If you already have a script and a severance agreement, you can check out our improvement guide to make sure it covers all of the bases:
Now, let’s move into the four steps:
Step One: Provide Time For Consideration
“How long do I have to sign a severance agreement?” is typically the first thing someone Googles after meeting with with their HR manager. This is because signing a severance agreement is a big deal and no one wants to rush and sign something they haven’t fully read.
Employees should be given at least 21 days to review the severance agreement. Make sure you advise the employee to have the severance agreement and general release reviewed by an attorney.
Do not pressure the employee to sign early or rush back to the office, even if you offer the 21 days. An employee's decision to sign a release must also be voluntary, or courts will not enforce the release. Once signed, you must provide 7 days revocation period to change their mind.
Step Two: Provide a List of Competitors for the Non-Compete Agreement
This step depends on whether or not you are going to incorporate a non-compete inside your severance agreement.
If so, it’s helpful to jot down a list of your competitors to make sure this section will hold up in court if it should come to that.
It’s important to point out that this approach isn’t always used and, if you decide to do so, you are telling your employee that they cannot work in the same industry. If someone has dedicated their career to a certain industry, this can ruin the agreement in a heartbeat.
The best advice is to talk with your legal team about whether or not a non-compete is needed or should be implemented.
Step Three: The Release of Waiver
Listen up because this is the most important part of the whole thing. You cannot - repeat, cannot - prohibit your employee from filing a claim with the EEOC.
That means that you should (read: must) have a separate paragraph inside your severance agreement that goes over the rights the employee has, specifically that they can contest their termination by filing a claim. This is an important section to go over with your legal team.
Step Four: Understand the Special Rules
If the outgoing employee is over 40 years old, special things must be included in the severance agreement.
Among other things, you must give these employees a longer period of time to review the severance agreement, allow them to revoke the agreement or change their minds for a limited time after they sign, and advise them in writing to consult with an attorney. Make sure to modify your document for these situations or keep a “severance agreement over 40” file on hand.
Severance Agreements and Outplacement
If you follow those four steps above, you’ll be well on your way to having a great severance agreement in general. Outplacement comes in as part of the “consideration.”
Consideration is legal jargon that usually means a payment in exchange for a signature. For severance agreements, the lump sum of money that is offered to individuals isn’t there to help with their job hunt (at least on paper). It’s there in exchange for them waiving their rights.
Most of the time, consideration does, in fact, take the form of a lump sum of cash because - well, let’s face it - it’s easier. However, lumping outplacement alongside that lump of cash does two things: it makes the considering stand out more and it also shows that you care about the employee and want to help them move on to their next role.
Combining outplacement with severance also pretty much guarantees that your brand is protected. The severance agreement should negate the possibility that you’ll be sued by the employees you let go (if you make sure to follow all local, state, and federal laws - always speak with your lawyers about things like this). Outplacement, on the other hand, helps you negate the possibility that you will have your brand tarnished online and by word of mouth.
Also, providing outplacement in severance packages is the right thing to do for your staffers. No one in HR wants to lay people off. It’s the worst. If you can help those being let go, you probably should.
Announcing Outplacement to Your Staff Member
Outplacement, as a concept, is pretty well-known in HR circles. However, you have to realize that your staff members will likely have no clue what you’re talking about, especially because they are receiving word about outplacement at the same time they are being laid off. It’s simply too much for them to process in the moment.
To help with this, we will go over how you can conduct a layoff meeting that will bring up outplacement towards the end. The best way, especially if you are having a big event, is to have your outplacement provider on site during these notification meetings so that they can help people as soon as the news is broken to them.
We’ll get to that in a little bit. First, let’s dive into the world of layoff notification meetings. The best way to do this is to have a well-crafted layoff script ready in the wings in case you should ever need it.
Wait, What Is a Layoff Script?
A layoff script is a pre-written document that an HR manager can follow during the notification meeting that will keep the meeting on track to hit specific talking points, such as when the employee's last day of work will be, what their severance package includes, and what benefits they will receive all while giving respect to the affected staff member.
Now that that’s out of the way, let's dig into the individual parts:
Part One - The Meeting Starts
The focus of this section is how to deliver the bad news.
Get to the point. Have your HR manager state what is happening and why as soon as possible. Don’t get into small talk about baseball games or the weather. This is a tough meeting and no amount of ‘warming up’ will make it any easier on you or your employee. In fact, it might make it even harder to deliver.
Here’s an example of what you can include in your own layoff script:
HR Manager: “As announced in [date], the division is adjusting our overall operation costs in response to the weakening demand for specialty products and this includes reducing staffing levels.”
“As a result, a number of positions at this facility are being eliminated and your position is one being affected.”
One of the main things to hit in this dialogue is the reason why the position has been eliminated. Put yourself in the employee’s position. What’s the first question you’d have? It’s, “why?” followed, most likely, by “what did I do?” It’s important to explain the reason in detail to minimize these hard-to-swallow thoughts.
Don’t take our word for it, either. Researchers from Columbia University found that departing employees took the news better when the reason was explained clearly. The full details of the study can be read here.
Part Two - The Middle
There are two stages to the middle of the meeting. We know that sounds like quite a bit, but hear us out because this is arguably the toughest part.
The first stage focuses on listening.
Yes, even though we said earlier that it’s important to stay on track and cut as much small talk as possible, it’s vital to give your exiting employee the time to respond to the news.
Make sure you note this in your layoff script so you don’t steamroll through the entire meeting leaving your now former employee in shock.
This means letting your employee vent (within reason, of course) and say what they need to say. Don’t interrupt them if you can. This section obviously changes based on the person you’re letting go. Some will want to speak while others will try to get out of there as fast as possible, which is understandable.
Next, guide the meeting to outplacement services and severance packages. A layoff script is a good thing to have on hand for this transition because - regardless of how the employee reacts - you need a way to keep pushing forward no matter what. Having something written down or rehearsed helps you hit these reduction in force talking points at the appropriate times.
Outplacement and Severance Agreements
Any severance agreement worth its salt should come with an outplacement package. Here is a list of things you should look for in a provider.
Why is this important? As a recap from earlier, like severance pay, outplacement shows that your company cares about where the displaced staff member will end up. You’re don’t want to throw them out on the street.
They gave a large portion of time and energy to your business and now, more than ever, is a good time to show your support for their future. Not only does this help out your staff incredibly and make the task of letting them go easier, it also keeps your reputation intact.
Here’s an example of how this section can go in your layoff script:
HR Manager: “We prepared a Severance Agreement for you to review, which will explain the benefits being extended to you.” Review the key points of the agreement.
“Your last day physically at work will be [October 10]. Your last day of employment will be [January 8]. You have 45 days to decide if you want to sign. If you choose to sign the severance agreement, you will be placed on a paid leave of absence for a period of 90 days.”
“After the 90 days, you will receive severance pay according to the company severance schedule based on your years of service. You are also eligible for outplacement assistance that will begin immediately.”
“Normal tax withholding will be done for the severance pay to insure compliance with federal and state laws. We recommend you share the agreement with an attorney before signing as it is a legal document.”
Once that is over with, note in your layoff script to reiterate the outplacement services and other benefits that the outgoing employee will receive, such as their 401K, pensions, and stock options. This reaffirms that you want to help them through this troubling time.
Part Three - Transition of Power
At this stage in your layoff script, you and your HR manager (if this isn't you already) need to figure out how to transition the outgoing employee’s workload. This usually involves making an agreement for them to finish their tasks and projects or finding out if your current team can absorb the loss, communicating layoffs to remaining staff will smooth this part over.
If you treat your employee with the respect they deserve, following the steps above, the transition of work should go over without a hitch. Pre-planning for the workload shift is definitely a good idea, too.
Part Four - The Exit
Once all of the above is said, note in your layoff script to collect any belongings that are company property, such as badges and keys.
This stage sounds simple, but it’s really based off how the employee is handling the news. It’s common advice not to let the employee back to their desks, mainly because emotions are high, it's awkward for everyone involved, and, of course, it’s good to protect company property. (Note: This stage is heavily based on your company’s culture. You want to do the most respectable thing possible.)
Bonus Tip: If there is a large scale layoff, it’s a good idea to have support, such as outplacement services or an employee assistance program (EAP), on hand to help outgoing employees emotionally cope and move on efficiently.
If you have a solid job elimination script and these supportive systems in place, this unfortunate meeting will be a lot easier to handle and execute. It’s important to note, though, that a layoff script isn’t one size fits all.
Using the rules above, you can craft a meaningful, easy-to-follow document to deliver the news effectively and tactfully, leaving you and your outgoing employee on the best terms possible.
When all is said and done, your employee will understand what benefits are being extended to them and how they will work.
The layoff meeting will provide clarity into the event and will, hopefully, set your employees mind at ease.
Layoff Meetings, Outplacement, and Retention
Layoff meetings are great for the employees going through the event. Well, not great, but at least transparent so that they know what’s going on. It can be far worse if layoffs are handled in the dark.
One of the best things outplacement does for your organization is protect you from a runaway retention issues.
Consider this: one of your coworkers was just pulled away from their desk, taken to a room, and laid off. They never come back to the desk. Later on, you call them on their phone and they explained what happened. The company let them go and basically kicked them to the curb.
If you were in this position, you’d immediately start to consider what would happen if you were the one being let go. You’d immediately think about the bills that would go unpaid, how you would find a job, and how your company could do such a thing to an employee.
In other words, your staff members will pay attention to how you offboard their coworkers. If you do so in a horrible way, they will likely start to look for jobs at a company that is more stable or at least has better offboarding practices.
This can all be avoid if you offer a strong severance package with outplacement built in. Having an outplacement provider on-site also helps quell these emotions because the person being let go can get started looking for their next job immediately without any gaps.
With all of this out of the way, we can safely move on to how outplacement works after you have implemented it.
How Outplacement Works (From Your End)
The good news about outplacement is that once you implement it, you can sit back and be reassured that your provider will take care of your workers.
Here’s how it typically goes: you find your outplacement provider, sign the documents that they require, send them a list of impacted staff members and their contact information (make sure this is accurate!), and then encourage your staff members to make sure they take up the offer.
Outplacement companies typically only charge once someone has signed up for the program. For example, if you have 20 people going through the outplacement process, but only 5 sign up to the program and are onboarded, you are charged for the 5 people (not the full 20).
Now, sure, that’s great for your pocketbook, but why offer outplacement to your staff members in the first place? The goal is to help them on their job hunt and ensure that they are able to transition into a new role. If they do not take up the offer, they will be forced to go it alone.
It’s completely possible that you will have staff members who do not need outplacement because they can find a new role on their own. That’s great news! However, make sure that you are providing enough push to get those that do need outplacement to take up the offer.
Once that step is done, it’s a waiting game. The employees will go through the process, which we outlined above. Depending on what the employee wants out of their next move, they could land a job quickly or they could need a bit more time. Regardless, you, as the manager who set up the outplacement provider, don’t have to do a thing during this process.
Typical outplacement providers will provide a lot of transparency to their process. Basically, this means that you can see how the process is working in a continuous fashion. You can typically set this up any way you want. Do you want monthly reports? Yearly? It’s your call.
Either way, you will be able to see how many employees signed up and how many are eventually placed. Outplacement providers with unlimited support will typically have an extremely high placement rate, which means that the one variable you need to help with is how many people sign up.
Already Have Outplacement? Here’s How to Evaluate Their Performance
Alright, so we’ve covered a ton of information about how to find a great outplacement provider. Now, we need to look at what happens if you have an outplacement provider and how to evaluate them to see if you should keep their services or not. Like any service, you should constantly check in to make sure that they are providing the very best service they can.
To perform an evaluation, we recommend that you start by looking at how many of your employees have landed new roles while under contract with your current provider.
If an outplacement company isn’t completely transparent with you about their landing rate, it’s a big red flag. After all, why would you pay for a service that isn’t doing the one thing that it’s supposed to accomplish.
Once you have this data, you should also check in to see how long it took for employees to land that new role (if they did at all). If the firm is using term limits, some employees may have had their service cancelled on them, leading them to remain unemployed.
As we’ve said multiple times, term limits have no place in modern outplacement because people require different levels and lengths of support throughout the process.
You should also check out how many employees actually used the service. This rate shows how well the outplacement provider reaches out and enrolls your employees once outplacement is extended to them. For this specific stat, you can also see how you, the HR leader, can help boost enrollment, too.
Again, you want as many as your staff members to go through the outplacement process as possible to ensure that you are protecting your employer brand and setting your exiting staff members up for a successful future.
For this tip, the real takeaway is that you should be constantly monitoring how well your outplacement provider is performing. To do this, lean on their reports to find accurate stats and also read the interviews they have conducted with your previous staff members to show how much the process has helped them.
If you find yourself unable to get reports or are unhappy with their results, fear not because switching outplacement providers doesn’t have to be a huge challenge-- even though many organizations think it is.
Is It Really Easy to Switch Providers?
Switching outplacement providers is as easy as signing a new contract.
You just need to sign a contract and then provide information to your outbound staff. If you are already in a contract, many times providers do not keep you from cancelling them.
If you do happen to be on a contract for a certain amount of time, make sure you check back before resigning so you can see how the market has changed. (Hint: it’s always changing! Even if you aren’t paying attention.)
Switching outplacement providers doesn’t require much action from you, the HR or business leader who handles the account. Really, it’s just a matter of paperwork and then when someone comes through the program, everything is handled by the provider.
For example, when someone gets signed on to the program after a layoff or RIF, they will get an email asking them to participate. If they agree to participate, coaches will reach out to them to start the process.
The best outplacement providers only charge when someone uses the program instead of charging retainer fees and other upfront costs. That way, you only pay what you need to pay and your staff are better off for it.
Outplacement Consultancy: How to Find a Great Partner
This section of the guide is all about how outplacement consultants can find a great provider to work with for referrals. As you probably know, outplacement consultants work to get people back to work but usually on a freelance basis.
So, this typically means that a consultant needs to work with a larger firm who works as a strategic partner, allowing the consultant to help with the overall RIF or layoff process while also providing them a stellar third-party service.
Here’s what you should look for in a provider if you happen to be an outplacement consultant:
Step 1: Initial Assessment
When outplacement consultants first meet with a displaced employee, their task is to assess the individual’s circumstance in order to understand where the person is now and where they should be headed.
A great career coach knows that the initial meeting is crucial in establishing a trusting relationship. Therefore, the career coach should make every minute count and ask the terminated employee a number of relevant questions.
Do they want to find the same or similar role? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Do they qualify for early retirement? Do they want to start their own business? Every answer is a step forward in the outplacement process.
Step 2: Tailored Approach
After the initial career assessment stage, outplacement consultants need to create a tailored outplacement program for the individual. This is because a one-size-fits-all type of outplacement program can do more harm than good.
For instance, someone might need more help tweaking their resume while someone else needs more time preparing for interviews. Therefore, good career coaches should pay attention to what the employee needs to ensure a smooth career transition and a positive outplacement experience.
Step 3: Personal Branding
One of the biggest problems newly laid off employees have is presenting themselves to potential new employers.
This is where outplacement coaches come in. Following the initial assessment and outplacement development stage it’s time for personal branding. It’s up to the career coach to help displaced employees get noticed by potential employers and influential people in their industry. Outplacement consultants are responsible for tweaking the employee’s resume, updating their LinkedIn account and introducing them to various networking events.
All with the purpose of gaining social awareness. Essentially, personal branding is all about mastering the art of ‘selling’ yourself. So it’s a good idea to work with an outplacement firm that has expertise in personal branding.
Step 4: Online Tools
Access to online job searching tools and learning resources helps outgoing employees take charge of the outplacement process. Generally, online outplacement tools and resources include seminars, webcasts, in-depth papers, and job search tools.
Some outplacement firms like Careerminds kick it up a notch and offer virtual outplacement services to ease the whole outplacement process and maximize client engagement.
Employees can use virtual outplacement services to access online tools and resources, measure their progress and schedule meetings with career coaches as needed. It’s up to them to set the terms.
Step 5: Interview Preparation
For some terminated employees it’s been a while since their last job interview. That’s why interview preparation is an important feature of outplacement services. It prepares displaced individuals for the real deal.
Additionally, it will give them a boost of confidence and they’ll know what to expect once they head into a real interview. Nevertheless, the time dedicated to interview preparation should be determined case-by-case.
Step 6: Successful Placement
You know your outplacement process has been a success once an employee has transitioned into a new role.
After all, it’s what everyone is aiming for when using outplacement services. But keep in mind that amateur outplacement firms like to implement time limits and retainer fees to charge a higher outplacement cost.
Careerminds is the only outplacement firm whose career coaches work with individuals until they are placed in a new role.
Learn to Recognize Great Outplacement Consultants
When choosing outplacement consultants to work with, formal qualifications are not enough to base your decision on.
There’s more to outplacement consultants than the degree they hold. They need to have other personal and professional qualities as well. Here are the key characteristics that all outplacement consultants must possess:
- Empathy – Job hunting can be described as anything but easy, which is why the individual in an outplacement program needs all the support they can get. Therefore, the ability to empathize with clients is a quality every career coach should possess.
- Insight – Displaying a deep understanding of the outplacement process helps outplacement consultants take outplacement services a step further. Career coaches should listen to their gut feeling and read between the lines every now and then. Having insight and intuition helps outplacement consultants understand their client’s strengths and weaknesses and come up with the most suitable outplacement program for them.
- Communication – Every person reacts differently to outplacement processes. As a result, outplacement consultants should know how to establish effective communication, including all types of communication methods - verbal, nonverbal, and written communication. This will help build a formidable relationship that will ensure effective outplacement services and bring in positive results.
- Flexibility – No two individuals are the same so it’s important for the career coach to be flexible and be able to easily adapt to every situation. Outplacement firms should tailor their outplacement services to meet the needs of their clients. If the displaced employee needs guidance after hours, over the phone or in person, it’s up to the outplacement firm to fulfill these expectations.
- Tolerance - Outplacement consultants should inspire individuals to aim beyond their current job description. This means the career counselor should keep an open mind at all times and support the employee even when it might not be the smartest move.
- Confidence – In order for displaced employees to believe in themselves, outplacement consultants should first believe in themselves and their expertise. Signs of confidence will help assure the employees that they are in good hands.
- Persistence – Outplacement consultants should have a can-do attitude so they can deal with all the obstacles that may arise during the outplacement process. Failure is never an option, and it’s up to the outplacement consultants to prove it.
With all of this information, you will be well on your way to better understanding outplacement consultancy on a high level.
Now, on to the last section of our enormous guide: RFPs.
What to Look For in an Outplacement RFP
RFP (requests for proposals) are a great way to have outplacement service providers come to you. Instead of hunting them down, you basically have an open call for pitches so that you can see what services are out there and how impactful they will be for your organization.
We’ve put together a list of 6 things to look for during the RFP process to help you get started. A lot of these you will recognize from the points made above, but here they all are in one place:
6 Things to Look for During an Outplacement RFP
When writing your outplacement RFP, include the following information:
- Organization description. What does your organization do?
- Project description. What kind of services do you need for this project?
- Project value. What does this project mean for your organization?
- Project timeline. How long do you need these services?
- Allocated budget. What is your budget for this project?
- Selection process. How will you evaluate RFP responses?
If your organization is looking for an outplacement provider to manage their outplacement programs, here are six things you should look for in your outplacement RFP:
1. Scope of Outplacement Services
Different outplacement providers offer different outplacement services. Therefore, in your outplacement RFP you should clearly list the scope of outplacement services you expect to receive. Then it’s up to the outplacement providers that are responding to your outplacement RFP to provide you with a brief of their outplacement programs so you can see whether they align with your own expectations and needs.
Here are some possible outplacement services to solicit in your outplacement RFP:
- Onsite and online outplacement assistance
- Counseling and career support for outgoing employees
- Resume, cover letter, and interview preparation
- Access to job search tools, strategies and trends
- Individual and group workshops
- Reports on outplacement success
- Personalized outplacement programs
2. Outplacement Process
When looking for an outplacement company, look for one that has a comprehensive outplacement program that aims to deliver effective outplacement services. And by effective outplacement services we mean those that provide continuous support to employees from the moment of termination to the moment of placement. For this reason, you should look for a detail-oriented outplacement process in your outplacement RFP.
The best way to find the right outplacement provider is through comparison. In order to do this, come up with a list of outplacement firms and invite them to bid on your outplacement RFP.
Once you receive their proposal, you can assess their outplacement process and whether it’s something your organization will benefit from. Consequently, when you’re going through responses to your outplacement RFP, look for outplacement providers who can define a clear timeline and set milestones to reach outplacement goals.
3. Technological Efficiency
You may be wondering what technology has to do with quality outplacement services. Well, the answer is – a lot.
Technology plays a key role in outplacement programs. In fact, 75% of recruiters use some form of recruiting or applicant tracking software. Furthermore, most outplacement companies use outplacement technology and online resources to help displaced employees get their careers back on track.
Careerminds, for one, is an outplacement provider that built their own web-based outplacement technology. It’s fully customizable, configurable, and scalable. It goes to show that technology can simplify the whole outplacement process.
Other online outplacement resources you should look out for include the following:
- Online career consultations and workshops
- Job search tools
- Tracking and reporting tools
- Video guides and webinars
- Social media networking tools
Additionally, while you’re evaluating the technological proficiency of an outplacement firm you should also take a look at their website. Is the website easy to navigate through, do they have an established social media presence, and do they offer any free resources or case studies that you can review? This will help you learn more about the outplacement firm and choose the right one for you.
4. Outplacement Goals
Define your outplacement goals before you issue your outplacement RFP. Do a quick brainstorm with your HR department. What do you hope to achieve by implementing an outplacement program?
Once you’ve answered this question it’s time to look for an outplacement firm that can come up with a suitable outplacement program to achieve this goal.
Communicate your aim in the outplacement RFP to ensure you only get responses by outplacement companies who can fulfill these outplacement goals with scalable solutions.
5. Outplacement Cost
Outplacement costs vary depending on the types of services, number of employees, level of support, and other outplacement specifications. Prior to issuing your outplacement RFP, allocate a budget and stick to it.
Often companies can be a bit reluctant about disclosing their outplacement budget. However, if you want to get the best possible outplacement services, then you should share your budget with potential outplacement companies.
Why should you disclose your budget?
Well, if you don’t, it’s up to the outplacement companies to guess how much you’re willing to pay for outplacement services. As a result, they may offer you additional outplacement services or more expensive features than your budget allows. In order to receive a tailored proposal that is based on your financial circumstances, make sure you specify your budget.
Also, don’t let cost be the deciding factor when choosing the winning bid. Yes, seeing a low bid may be appealing but here’s some food for thought - how does this low price reflect on the outplacement services you receive in return? Will you miss out on some important features and jeopardize reaching your outplacement goals just to save a few extra dollars? Discuss your budget within your department and base your final decision on price AND quality.
6. Strong References
Ask the outplacement companies to provide references upon submitting a bid for your outplacement RFP. Make this a requirement for a bid to be taken into consideration. This way you know you that the outplacement firm has the necessary experience to plan and apply outplacement programs for your laid off employees.
According to global recruitment trends 2017, the majority of employers find their quality employees via referrals.
Therefore, in order to find an outplacement firm that offers quality outplacement packages, don’t forget to request references in your outplacement RFP. This will help you find the right outplacement company and reach your outplacement goals.
Outplacement: The Final Say
In this complete guide, we’ve gone over everything you could ever want or need to know about outplacement.
In summary, outplacement is a great way to get your staff members back to work after a RIF or layoff. By using a great provider (which you will find if you take our tips from above to heart), you will be able to protect your brand during these delicate times while also ensuring that you do the best you can for those let go.
Finding a great outplacement provider doesn’t have to be super hard. As you know from all of the information covered here, there are a few key differences between how providers perform their outplacement process. Make sure the provider you go with follows these guidelines.
As the end of the day, outplacement shouldn’t be stressful for you or your employees. The provider should be a strong strategic partner that empowers you to perform the needed reduction without all of the stress. This works for both you, the HR leader, and your staff.
The best way to package outplacement is inside a severance package (alongside a strong severance payment, too). This way, the offboarding process is complete and well rounded, giving your staff members the biggest boost you can.
If you want to learn more about outplacement or have questions about the overall process, we’d love to chat with you about your needs. Careerminds is dedicated to getting people back to work in their dream job.
You can schedule time to chat with us here: