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what is outplacement? everything you need to know about outplacement services.

Here's everything you know about choosing the right outplacement services provider.

No organization wants to let go of its valued employees and top employers understand the importance of supporting a successful career transition for impacted individuals following a layoff. Empathetic employers that are committed to embracing their corporate values offer outplacement services to help departing employees land their next role. Following a layoff or workforce restructuring, outplacement services are provided at no cost to employees and through these services, an individual can receive a freshly written, targeted and optimized resume and social profile, personalized career coaching and access to highly targeted job leads.

In addition to helping employees land their next role, offering outplacement support can help organizations reduce costs, protect their employer brand, retain employees and drive productivity among remaining staff, along with other benefits. Outplacement is offered through a third-party provider in most cases, and while there are many options and partners available to employers, it’s important to know what to look for in an effective outplacement program.

how does outplacement work?

Employers have offered outplacement services to employees in one form or another since the mid-1960s and outplacement solutions continue to evolve to meet the needs of the changing world of work. In this piece, we’ll share an overview of everything you need to know about outplacement and its benefits to your organization and employees. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • the origins of outplacement
  • how work is evolving
  • the modern job search
  • contemporary outplacement
  • what outplacement looks like from the perspective of both HR and employees
  • the cost and business value of outplacement
  • how outplacement compares to other career transition options

the origins of outplacement

To understand how outplacement has evolved, it’s helpful to learn about its history. Following World War II, Bernard Haldane designed and delivered a counseling service to help veterans find jobs and return to the workforce after a long absence. The structure of how this service was delivered didn’t change much by the time the term ‘outplacement’ was first coined in the 1960s. Around this time, an increasing number of businesses were laying off workers and outplacement programs were developed to minimize the impact on former employees. Prior to the 1960s, individuals often joined companies with an unspoken agreement – once hired, the employees remained with the same company for their entire career and, in turn, organizations supported them through retirement.

When the world of work began to change in the 1960s, the career counseling service that was conceived post-WWII was expanded to include consulting with management about layoff best practices in addition to the traditional counseling services for individuals in transition. Workforce reductions were a new concept in the US and as a result, there was a stigma associated with being laid off. In response, outplacement services were designed to help individuals mask their lack of employment by providing an office for them to report to every day. Once at the office, these individuals had the opportunity to attend career training workshops or simply use the telephone, typewriters and other office equipment necessary for conducting a job search. Since many of these individuals had only looked for a job one other time in their lives, coaching centered around finding a similar position in the same industry at another company.

Since outplacement was initially introduced, the world of work, how and when people find work and what individuals are looking for in their next career move has changed dramatically. While some outplacement providers have adapted their services and solutions to meet the needs of the modern workforce, the basic structure of traditional, outdated outplacement models still exists among some of the largest outplacement providers today.

how work is evolving

Over the past decade or so, outplacement services have significantly advanced. The entrance of a new kind of provider started an evolution that is still taking place today. Understanding how and why innovations began to take hold in outplacement begins by looking at the changing world of work. While some people still follow a traditional nine to five, Monday through Friday work week, this business model has changed dramatically for many employees, especially with the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and the expectation that many people will follow a hybrid model of in-office and remote work in the near future. Employees today also have more flexibility with the hours they work, with some starting the workday earlier, ending later or blocking time during the day to handle personal and family obligations.

Behind the changes in how we work are the advances in technology that have eased communication, laid the foundation for virtual work and eliminated the need for physical presence in the office. The advent of video chat and other online communication platforms have made it easier to conduct business anywhere and at any time. Formal business letters have been replaced with email and chat messaging.

Shifts in why we work have been transforming the workplace and given way to shorter periods of employment at one company, as well as trends such as the gig economy and boomerang employees. No longer are individuals looking to simply collect a paycheck. Now, purpose, alignment with personal values and the need to see how individual effort contributes to overall corporate and societal goals have driven people to question the types of work they do and for whom. Instead of accepting that their work life activities are separate from their personal identity, people are looking for opportunities to make their work a reflection of themselves and their values.

related content: prioritizing career wellness in 2021.

Given widespread changes in the world of work, in recent years, new providers in the outplacement space have emerged to support the modern workforce through contemporary outplacement.

adapting to the modern job search

Just as the world of work has undergone dramatic change, so has the way we find and land jobs. Mirroring the changes in how we work, looking for a job is no longer a nine to five endeavor that must be conducted from an office. Online job listings and application processes have opened the door to less structured job searches. Now, individuals are looking at job listings on their mobile device while sitting in a café or on a train. They may decide to submit resumes after dinner or on the weekends. Even interviewing has evolved to include video interviews and phone pre-screens, which can be taken from home or other locations.

It's no longer necessary to go to a physical location to use office equipment during the job search. Mobile devices have brought the world to our fingertips. Not only can we search for jobs, but we can also apply online, conduct phone interviews and complete video chats from any location we choose. Meetings don’t have to be scheduled around travel time and individuals don’t have to spend time driving from location to location. As a result, career coaching and job search activities can now be conducted in the comfort of your own home, at times convenient to you and delivered on an individual basis. However, in many instances, the outplacement services offered today still do not reflect this job search evolution and require individuals to conform to the constraints of time and location.

contemporary outplacement

Rather than being tied down to an office, contemporary outplacement services leverage technology to provide virtual support, enabling all career transition services to be offered by phone, email, video conferencing and online resources. The contemporary outplacement model has taken the outdated prototype of the 1960s and transformed services to meet the needs of today’s job seekers, organizations and HR departments.

Contemporary outplacement provides technology solutions, personalized support and expert advice to organizations and the executives and HR leaders within these organizations who are concerned about the implications of workforce transformation on employer brand, employee retention and overall business success. Unlike older models, contemporary outplacement seamlessly delivers a combination of high-touch services and high-tech solutions to transitioning employees who are moving into, through and out of organizations.

To learn more about this shift from in-person to virtual services, let’s take a deeper look at the specifics of contemporary outplacement for both employers and employees. While consulting for organizations undergoing change has traditionally been a part of the outplacement model, contemporary outplacement solutions enable HR and business leaders to gain better transparency into overall program success.

technology and expert advice for HR

While many of today’s outplacement providers offer technology-based solutions and career coaching, it's important to have a full understanding of the scope and quality of services offered. The most effective outplacement services are consistent, high-quality and scalable, and provide a truly seamless, easy experience for both participants and HR.

Contemporary outplacement technology such as Randstad RiseSmart Insight™ provides HR teams with access to a complete system of record for real-time outplacement performance tracking and analysis, making it possible to securely transmit data, manage and edit impacted employee lists and receive live updates and notifications. In addition, alumni sentiment ratings and access to alumni employee comments enable today’s HR departments to proactively protect and maintain a positive employer brand image. In this contemporary outplacement model, HR leaders can get the current, actionable data they need to make better business decisions and ensure their outplacement program is driving the desired results. Some metrics that can be tracked include:

  • program utilization and engagement
  • satisfaction rates
  • job landing rates within the timeframe outplacement is offered
  • percentage of outplacement participants who find new jobs with equal or better pay
  • brand sentiment

No matter the size of the organization, it can be complicated and time consuming for HR departments to manage times of change on their own. With contemporary outplacement, there is no need. The right outplacement provider offers a dedicated team of experts that acts as a true business partner to help HR plan, execute and recover from layoff and restructuring events. Through manager notification and resiliency training for both managers and remaining employees, contemporary outplacement firms assume much of the burden of these often stressful events.

related content: why your organization needs to be prepared for a layoff.

how contemporary outplacement benefits employees

While contemporary outplacement services focus on virtual solutions rather than in-person meetings, impacted employees still need connection and personalized service. In fact, after a layoff or involuntary separation from a company, individuals often feel more vulnerable and emotional and can benefit from added support and guidance.

Understanding that impacted employees often go through a grieving process and need time and resources to discover the options open to them and their personal desires, contemporary outplacement models offer one-on-one career coaching models instead of group workshops. Mirroring the way work is done today, transition coaching is delivered at the convenience of the job seeker via phone or video chat – providing the most responsive coaching model available in outplacement today. Individuals can easily schedule meetings with their career coach via a technology platform and at a time that’s convenient for them.

Through Randstad RiseSmart’s contemporary career transition support, everyone that has been referred to us by their former employer is armed with a team of three dedicated career professionals and supported by innovative, award-winning technology that has been built from the ground up to provide an integrated and easily scaled solution.

Here is an overview of the high-touch support available:

  • Personal coaching: Each transitioning employee is partnered with an expert career transition coach based on functional and industry experience, not on geographic location. These coaches help individuals assess their skills, navigate the job search, prepare for job interviews, and more.
  • Professional branding: A professional brand expert partners with each job seeker to create a customized resume and cover letter. This includes optimizing resumes and profiles for the keywords recruiters and applicant tracking software (ATS) systems are searching for. Branding experts have functional and industry expertise and work closely with career coaches and participants to make sure branding materials are compelling and accurate.
  • Expert job concierge: Looking through job leads is time consuming and transitioning employees aren’t necessarily aware of all the job opportunities available to them. As a contemporary outplacement provider, we match impacted employees with a personal career concierge who sources and delivers relevant job leads based on the individual’s experience, skills and personal preferences.
  • Access to recruiters: As a part of Randstad, one of the leading HR services companies globally and through our public-facing talent directories, we provide job seekers with access to recruiters around the world.

To support these services, modern outplacement now includes access to technology that creates a connection between the job seeker and the resources and support required to land a job in today’s market. Benefits of a robust high-tech solution, such as RiseSmart Spotlight™, which was developed specifically for transitioning employees, include:

  • Semantically-matched and ranked job opportunities: Intelligently-ranked job leads are delivered on-demand to job seekers through a proprietary algorithm that narrows the results to match the individual’s intent and context.
  • Contact discovery engine: Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job especially given that may jobs are never advertised but are part of the hidden job market. Through a contact discovery engine, job seekers find the people they know with whom they should initiate conversations as well as those people that they don’t already know but should. RiseSmart’s networking capabilities allow participants to grow their networks by connecting with other job seekers and alumni who’ve been through our outplacement program. Job seekers receive suggestions for whom they can network with based on their profile
  • Resources: Preparing for interviews, negotiating salaries, and standing out from the competition means participants have all the tools and best practices at their fingertips. In addition to expert one-on-one coaching, individuals in a contemporary outplacement program have access to content, webinars, workshops, assessments, and research and market analysis information to assist with their job search.
  • Reskilling and upskilling: The right outplacement services provider will offer program participants a skills gap analysis to provide them with a strategic roadmap to upskill and reskill efficiently, as well as access to courses and other experiential learning opportunities and assistance in developing a learning plan and staying on track.

cost of outplacement

The cost of outplacement services varies depending on the needs of the company and the professional level of the impacted employees. Some variables that determine the cost include the number of impacted employees and the level of services offered to employees – such as amount of coaching time, resume critique versus resume writing and length of time services are available. Other factors to consider are any additional services and programs – such as career development and related programs for remaining employees – and discounts offered by outplacement firms, often based on volume. The right outplacement services provider will offer flexibility and customization based on a company’s needs.

related content: how much do outplacement services cost?

value of outplacement

It might seem counterintuitive for an organization looking to reduce costs through a reduction in force to invest in outplacement services, but in many cases, the business benefits far outweigh the costs. To name a few, some business values of offering outplacement services include:

  • Decrease costs associated with layoffs: Supporting employees through outplacement services can speed up the job search, reducing costs associated with severance and unemployment taxes, among other expenses.
  • Drive a positive experience for impacted employees: The absence of outplacement services and other means of supporting exiting employees can lead to unexpected costs for your organization. If impacted employees have a negative experience, they might share this experience on social media or employee review sites like Glassdoor, which will place your organization in a negative light and make it more difficult – and costly – to recruit qualified employees down the road.
  • Improve productivity and morale among remaining employees: By maintaining transparency in all communications, making it clear to remaining employees that their colleagues were let go through no fault of their own and highlighting how your organization is assisting exiting employees through outplacement services, you can maintain morale and productivity at a time when many employees are feeling added stress.
  • Protect your employer and corporate brand: Assisting employees during a layoff reflects well on a company’s employer brand and overall brand. Organizations that build a reputation for treating their employees right during challenging times will be employers of choice when business and hiring pick back up, making it easier to acquire qualified talent. A positive brand reputation can also help organizations attract new business from customers who want to partner with a company that lives up to its values.

related content: what are the business values and benefits of outplacement services?

how outplacement compares to other career transition options

When employees make career moves – whether within or outside your organization – there are many options available to support a smooth transition. Below, we’ve highlighted how outplacement services differ from some other common career transition options.

outplacement vs severance

There is a wide range of what constitutes severance and outplacement from company-to-company and industry-to-industry. Severance pay is often granted to employees upon termination of employment and eligibility is usually based on length of employment. Severance pay and outplacement are among the list of benefits that can be offered to departing employees, which might also include continued healthcare coverage, retirement benefits, payment of bonuses and life insurance.   

Top employers understand that there is both an immediate and longer-term benefit to providing the means for a smooth career transition for their former employees – whether this is through severance, outplacement or other benefits offered as part of an exit package.

related content: how severance policies can help you attract, retain and redeploy employees.

outplacement vs redeployment

Layoffs are often one of the last steps organizations take when they need to restructure their workforce or reduce personnel-related costs. Agile organizations understand the benefits of tapping into redeployment to retain employees while adapting the workforce to evolving business needs.

Redeployment enables companies to move current employees to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business need. By tapping into redeployment, in the short term, organizations can benefit from moving employees from low-demand work to busier, high-demand areas of the business, while also broadening the skills of their workforce and promoting a growth mindset that is critical to agility.

In the long-term, redeploying employees to other areas of the business can help organizations preserve jobs, maintain institutional knowledge and save time and substantial costs. These include expenditures and time spent onboarding new employees, providing benefits packages and getting new employees up to speed and full productivity once hiring picks back up. Redeployment can also help employees find new career paths within an organization that might better align with their skills and passions, ultimately boosting retention and engagement and helping the organization grow its workforce capabilities for greater business agility

related content: how rapid redeployment can help companies avoid layoffs and reduce costs.

outplacement vs career development

Like redeployment, career development can help organizations retain employees and drive engagement, while evolving their skill sets and capabilities to meet changing business needs. Organizations invest significantly in recruiting, onboarding and training their employees. Once on board, if these employees don’t see an opportunity for continued growth and development, they will become disengaged and might even seek employment elsewhere. If organizations don’t have a strategy in place to develop their talent on an ongoing basis, employees’ skills will become outdated, which will negatively impact their long-term employability and readiness to drive results for your business as it evolves.

Through effective career development, all employees can have access to a career development platform and the option to participate in workshops, complete career assessments, receive 1:1 coaching, and gain access to strategic reskilling and upskilling resources, along with other benefits. An integrated and scalable technology platform enables organizations to cost-effectively provide these services to all employees for maximum impact. When career development and skilling is available to all employees, companies can discover the hidden gems in their workforce and build an equitable and inclusive workforce.

related content: how HR can empower managers to support career development.

the future of outplacement

The world of work is changing faster than ever before, as are the needs of organizations and employees. Contemporary outplacement solutions providers are poised on the leading edge of these changes with innovative solutions to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Instead of only taking into consideration what worked in the past, these service providers are in touch with what HR leaders and the employees they represent need to navigate organizational change with confidence, ease and positive results. To learn more, read our white paper, ‘why does your enterprise need outplacement?

Submitted by:

Beth Kempton

experience the randstad risesmart difference.

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