Outplacement and Career Transition has been around for a number of years. It is thought that outplacement had its genesis in the 1960’s with the Standard Oil Company, Jersey, being the first organisation to “accept responsibility for providing a type of outplacement support for separated employees” and grew rapidly in the 1980’s with the plethora of mergers and acquisitions.
Outplacement service provision made its way to Australia in the early 1990’s and thrived for much of that decade as many large organisations, including utilities, embarked on mass downsizing. These events almost singlehandedly changed employees’ psychological contract forever as employees came to understand that the long held notion of ‘jobs for life’ had evaporated and was replaced by one characterised by loyalty to one’s self. The “War for Talent”, first coined by McKinsey, arose late that decade and this together with the new employment contract, where loyalty switched from organisations to individuals, changed conventional thinking about the merits of downsizing. This effectively refocused organisational endeavours on a wide range of retention initiatives. This has since matured into what we now know as, enterprise Talent Management, which incorporates outplacement as an integral component of restructuring and change programs for best of breed organisations.
Generally, outplacement takes the form of an employer-assisted program that supports affected employees to take the next step in their career, whether that be another job, self employment, retirement or perhaps voluntary work.
Today, well managed outplacement has found its place in most organisations as a key component of their employee value proposition (EVP). Organisations have found that offering effective outplacement is an essential part of their attraction strategy for new employees who want to be sure, in the event their role is made redundant, that they will be cared for appropriately. Equally, smart employers have also identified that surviving employees of restructuring programs want to know their departing colleagues are treated with respect and care which speaks directly to their motivation and engagement.
Research has consistently highlighted that outplacement participants value the practical elements of their programs. Our study of over 684 participants from across Australia who experienced outplacement services over 3 years, together with the results of other similar studies, consistently found outplacement participants either derived or believed they would derive benefits from engaging in structured outplacement programs that:
- Focused on activities that can be directly connected with regaining employment or their end goal,
- Are characterised by a ‘hands-on’, pragmatic approach (for example, resume preparation, interview skills and one-on-one career counselling),
- Provided a personalised, flexible and tailored approach with a high degree of human intervention,
- Leveraged knowledge of the ‘world of work’,
- Demonstrated respect and care for the dignity, needs and wellbeing of the individual,
- Recognised the importance of contextual and environmental factors relating to the participants’ life and career satisfaction.
Specifically, our study revealed the top three outplacement program components selected by outplacement participants as most beneficial were:
- Resume preparation (86%)
- Consultant support (60%)
- Interview techniques (57%)
In contrast, program components least selected by outplacement participants as beneficial were:
- Workshops / information sessions (16%)
- Internet based Career Management Program (12%)
This underlines that outplacement needs have changed considerably over the years. For instance, the need to access hard copy libraries and private offices equipped with computers that characterised so many outplacement office suites in days gone past has been replaced by home offices equipped with access to Internet research resources. As the research clearly shows, participants value their face to face time with their career consultant and practical support provided to help them quickly and efficiently take the next step in their career.
This is important information for employers motivated to provide outplacement support to affected employees as it is a service where, in most cases, the buyer is not the user of the service. This is highlighted in a study of US outplacement purchasers and participants, involving 450 survey responses, that pointed to key differences between purchasers’ and participants’ perception of value with regard to various outplacement program elements. This study also reinforced the importance of the human element of outplacement programs despite the wide array of technology and online tools now available. Interestingly, the study found that “while individuals rated the personal coach as the most valuable aspect; purchasers of outplacement thought resume development and interview techniques would be rated more highly than the personal coach”. The study revealed 63% of outplacement purchaser responses reported that emotional support would be valuable to participants contrasting with only 17% of participant responses.
The report also indicated the importance of outplacement to an organisation’s employment branding with 85% of employers stating that their goal of outplacement was to send a positive message to employees remaining with the organisation. The report concluded “there is harmony in opinion in regard to the human element – but purchasers may find it difficult to provide this quality of outplacement when under pressure to save money. In the end, the organisation and the individual both lose out if the human element is removed”.
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deliberatepractice are experts in outplacement – for more information, please contact us on 1300 deliberate (1300 335 423).