Improving your organisation’s employment brand and increasing your chances of employee engagement and business outcomes is influenced by the entire employee lifecycle experience, including when people exit. Many of us will experience these career transitions in our lifetimes, through a career change, a personal crisis, having a baby, relocating, voluntary redundancy, forced redundancy, dismissal or retiring from the workforce altogether.
Now, workforce trends such as the gig economy, portfolio careers and self-directed career changes, indicate a significantly increasing number of career transitions across one’s lifespan, influenced by job satisfaction, wanting to align work with values or life circumstances, new interests, changes to health or functional capacity, or a desire for growth.
However, the impacts of career transitions are felt not just by the individual but by the broader workplace. When someone leaves, it can have rippling effects on workflow, working relationships, allocation of work, morale, and potential job redesign. While some have a positive impact, sometimes the ‘uncoupling’ is not bursting with goodwill and a job loss may occur at a very low point in that person’s life. While it may seem counter intuitive, it’s even more reason to display understanding and empathy, even with threats of legal action, negative exchanges, and heightened emotions. In these instances, there can be significant upside in the attention given to the ‘exit’ experience and while not every relationship can be saved or is worth saving, it can help an employee feel better about their tenure.
Ultimately an organisations’ leaders should support employees to flourish in future careers, beyond the organisational borders. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the smart thing to do. Providing a career transition service including outplacement has benefits for both sides. As Sandy Hutchison, Founder and CEO of Career Money Life put it, “Supporting people through redundancy and career-change transitions is an important extension of the employee experience and impacts your employer brand advocacy in a very tangible way.”.
How an organisation treats an ‘exiting’ employee, influences all the bystanders who remain at the organisation. When layoffs are poorly executed, the organisation can suffer significant consequences, negative impacts on culture and reputational dents and remaining employees can experience feelings of guilt, job insecurity, decreased motivation, and distrust. When an organisation actively supports their exiting employees, it will likely benefit from less absenteeism and decreased turnover, and employees are also more likely to maintain favourable opinions of the organisation due to how they have seen their colleagues being treated on exit.
- Wellness, Mental Health and Outplacement
A successful transitioning protocol requires commitment. Preservation of relationships on all sides is key through striking the balance of being direct and compassionate and putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. A dignified and cordial transition is in the interests of both the employee and their employer. The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) reported that “Organisations that actively support exiting employees with their transition help mitigate against risks including potential lawsuits and mental health related issues.…. ensuring exiting employees maintain a positive association with the employer brand in the market.”.
The NMHC also say that ‘’Psychosocial factors such as loss of social connections, changes to routines and a sense of purpose, and stigma associated with unemployment also contribute to poor mental health following redundancy”. Most of us who have faced an involuntary job loss, will have had some experience of the impact of your psychological and physical wellbeing, a loss of social connections, changes to routines and sense of purpose and self-worth. We can often feel a loss of control and struggle to re-engage in new career pathways without career advice and support to guide us. Think about the last person who left your organisation? Did they depart on good terms – and did they have a good exit experience? Most people report that their exit wasn’t ideal. At the same time for the impacted individual, even if your time at your previous organisation didn’t end the way you would have liked, it is important to try to keep those channels of communication open for the sake of networking and preserving relationships.
- Forward thinking practices for career transitions
Forward thinking organisations proactively support career transitions. There is a culture where their workplace leaders and individuals have been educated about the importance of supporting career transitions or change. This helps promote and sustain mental health for those leaving and those remaining behind. When done well, exit programs can be one of the most important ways you express your organisation’s culture and there are many things that can be facilitated which will have lasting impacts. Here are some:
- Mobility Strategy: Commit to helping your workforce to become more agile, by supporting internal career moves with talent mobility strategies. For example, creative restructuring, redeployment, secondments, upskilling, reskilling, creating strategic skilling roadmaps. Beyond internal career moves, the mobility strategy should include solutions to help employees transition to new job opportunities outside the organisation, like career transition support.
- Promotion of wellness beyond employees’ tenure: This can help remaining employees to maintain a more favourable opinion of the organisation due to how they have witnessed their colleagues being treated on exit, also playing a role in their own psychological health. Simple reassurances include a taxi trip home post an exit meeting, check in calls made; onsite presence from an outplacement consultant; access to EAP; celebration of the persons contribution at an agreeable time; and additional health services if required.
- Choice provides control: Allow some choice over how the transition is conducted including the employee’s involvement in messaging and departure arrangements. This allows them to control and to make choices that can positively affect their exit. The key is to lessen the impact of feeling like they are on the scrap heap. Try to avoid further trauma from facilitating a demeaning escort from the building, flanked by an unknown manager; or demanding immediate hand over of property such as a mobile device which could be extremely inconvenient; disallowing retrieval of personal items; not being allowed to say goodbye. Despite any organisational protocols it’s important to ask the individual to guide you on the best wellbeing options for themselves. I have seen too many people ‘leave the building’ agitated, alone, worthless, vulnerable and confused.
- Alumni and outreach: Facilitating a tight-knit network from within the organisation can help the person feel socially connected with former employees and provide an avenue of support. Apart from building goodwill and helping ensure that former employees speak highly of your employee support and company culture, this works on the fundamental level of human connection and reducing isolation. Even though an individual’s time at their organisation may not have ended the way they or you would have liked, it’s important to try and keep channels of communication open and preserve any cultivated relationships.
- Exit Interviews: You can show how you value your people by making their opinions count and asking them about the best part of working at the organisation and what could have been better. You can recognise them for contributing to the mission, values and business objectives of the organisation. And you can demonstrate to coworkers that even through the discomfort of an exit interview, departing employees will be treated with care.
- Separation and outplacement
Inevitably, involuntary separations occur. When they do, outplacement reinforces the importance of former employees’ career transitions and helps with the engagement of those left behind, proving career support to an employee leaving the business. It is invaluable for helping someone find their pathway, through one of life’s most challenging and stressful events. Those who have separation forced upon them, can often feel a loss of control and struggle to re-engage in new career pathways without career advice and support to guide them. Those observing see the impact of how people have been helped as well.
However, it’s one thing to offer outplacement, it’s another to bring it to life through the art of careful planning, messaging, timing, being honest, direct, compassionate, and empathetic. Outplacement helps an individual accomplish more than they would on their own. Having a transition coach and outplacement partner supports the individual to manage their hopes and expectations and continues to play a role in ensuring their wellness on the way out and beyond. It is important though, that those managing the redundancy process are well informed on both the art and the science of an effective process.
- Set your organisation up for long term success
At deliberatepractice, our Outplacement team have been fortunate to work with some amazing organisations, who want to help their people succeed in their next endeavours in much the same way that they have contributed to their organisation’s success. Equally I feel privileged to lead a team who inspire me every day with their passion, creativity and problem solving when helping your former employees find success and a way forward.
Ensuring employee health and safety follows one of the most basic of universally accepted ethical principles, “do no harm.” There is a moral imperative to create healthy workplaces that do not harm the mental or physical health, safety, or well-being of its employees. There is a wealth of data demonstrating that in the long term, businesses that protect and promote employee health tend to be the most successful and this clearly relates to all phases of the employee life cycle including when an employee exits the organisation.
In today’s world, in our interconnected age, leaders should know how a negative exit experience can erode your employer brand, your ability to hire top talent, internal team morale and even your reputation with customers. Most importantly, a genuinely, well thought through exit helps people find their pathway through stressful events, with dignity and respect. In simple terms, the employee experience does not end when the employee leaves your organisation.
For more information about how we can support you with either outplacement or your broader mobility strategy, please contact Diane Kane, Practice Director Careers, deliberatepractice.
M: 0418 119 975 or email at email@example.com