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. In this piece, we’ll share an overview of everything you need to know about outplacement and its benefits to organizations and employees.
What is outplacement?
Outplacement can be defined as professional care about dismissed employees, employees remaining in an organisation and managers responsible for dismissals. However, it primarily includes programmes aiming at making forced leave easier for the affected employees and helping them gain success in the labour market.
The main objective of outplacement is to reduce negative effects:
Concerning the fact that dismissals are perceived as negative not only from the viewpoint of those dismissed but also from the viewpoint of remaining employees and the public, as they primarily evoke a negative state of a company, frequently even it's winding up, there are many reasons for outplacement to happen in an organization:
Internal, towards leaving employees:
- A positive signal to leaving employees (that we have done something more for them than e.g. an acknowledgement of their work for us);
- Help to the most vulnerable group of dismissed employees falling under the 50+ group;
- An increased chance of possible employment renewal (in case of changed conditions in an organisation, resulting in enlarging the number of employees);
- Customer retention (dismissed employees become clients, as they know the quality of products and services of their organisation);
- Maintaining positive contacts in case an employee leaves to a different company
Internal, towards remaining employees:
- Motivation and stabilisation of remaining employees (dismissals significantly affect performance and work ethics, and it is, therefore, necessary to focus on stabilising the working atmosphere, as well as it is a form of a clear message of an organisation on how it views its employees.
- The organisation thus clearly declares that it appreciates its employees and does not only get rid of them); reduced concerns of managers about undealt dismissals (the outplacement process must prepare managers for a demanding task – how to handle notice deliveries).
External, towards all stakeholders:
- Retention of customers and suppliers; part of organisation´s public relations; part of the social pillar of socially responsible entrepreneurship. All the aforementioned reasons have something in common – the positive future of an organisation.
To focus on all outplacement requirements, it is necessary to focus on it comprehensively and perceive it as a process. The outplacement process has been defined by several authors, while they divide it into various steps. They most frequently include four-step to eight-step processes, while most outplacement processes are only focused on the leaving employees, which is not sufficient. We identify in the greatest extent with Hroník (2013), who comprehended the outplacement process comprehensively and divided it into four steps:
Step 1: Creation of outplacement project (who manages; what form it will have; specification of quality, speed and price levels; retention plan; specification of selection criteria)
Step 2: Creation of outplacement communication plan (procedure and content of both internal and external communications, preparation of managers for a change, i.e., understanding, acceptance, adoption)
Step 3: Outplacement execution (programme for key employees, programmes for those dismissed)
Step 4: Evaluation of executed outplacement (outplacement costs and effectiveness, proposals, modifications and changes).
The first task of employees responsible for managing the outplacement process is to define what positions will be cancelled and replaced, and subsequently to define particular employees to be dismissed. Key positions following an organisational strategy are defined first, with a subsequent definition of positions to be cancelled and activities and knowledge, which will be necessary to transfer to other positions.
Subsequently, after it has been clearly specified which employees will be affected by changes, it is necessary to select criteria on the grounds of which employees are to be selected. Based on such criteria, organisations should be able to clearly define employees they are interested in and want to include in a retention programme, as well as employees who have to leave.
It is also necessary within the first step of outplacement to specify its form, which typically directly depends on several dismissed employees and their position and financial resources reserved for outplacement. A group form of outplacement is rather applied for managers at lower levels and regular employees especially when an organisation is dismissing a greater number of employees and it would be financially unbearable for it to ensure individual outplacement for such employees. Individual outplacement is primarily intended for senior management. Based on the aforementioned findings, it is also necessary for the first step to determine a time interval of outplacement, i.e. to specify a time within which organisations will provide outplacement.
Short-term outplacement (up to three months, is normally applied for junior positions. This interval is typically prolonged to a maximum of six months for middle positions, and long-term outplacement is primarily provided for nine and more months to top management and positions applicable with difficulties. Last but not least, it is necessary within the first step of outplacement to define educational methods and their content. Educational methods most frequently applied for this purpose include personal assessment, lectures, roleplaying and e-learning. Personal SWOT analysis is most frequently carried out and a development plan is most frequently specified within the personal assessment.
It is necessary within all variables to focus on a so-called Magic triangle, while the quality of outplacement is most important and should not be at the expense of price or time. Outplacement quality should always be in the first place. The final price of outplacement significantly depends on who will carry it out.
In the second step, it is necessary to focus on the creation of an outplacement communication plan. Crucial elements of communication within outplacement include its openness and timeliness, i.e. telling the truth openly and not concealing anything unless it is necessary for other strategic reasons and speak on time. It is the only way how to prevent rumours, half-truths and disinformation both in organisations and outside them. Internal communication, which needs to precede external communication, is most important within communication inwards. It requires a clear definition of strategic objectives of an organisation, communication of dismissals as a fact as well as presenting to employees how not dismissing now would threaten employees and organisation in the future. It is also necessary within internal communication to prepare managers for communication with the dismissed and remaining employees, as they have to motivate the remaining employees to cope with their uncertainty and divide new responsibilities and tasks among them. Individual communication and approach also have to be properly focused on key employees.
Communication outwards with other stakeholders is also important, as they need to be informed for them to be aware of a new organisational strategy and not to feel under a threat, respectively to be able to quantify their threat and declare their values and importance for the given organisation.
Outplacement execution itself is included in the third step of an outplacement project. It is a phase in which organisations should have prepared everything and can announce and initiate a change. It is important to announce that a change is being initiated, objectives of such a change and that it also includes dismissals. This step can be divided into two basic areas – programme initiation for key employees and a programme for dismissed employees. As the aforementioned implies, outplacement does not need to be focused on all employees in an organisation, however, it necessarily needs to be focused on two groups most threatened during dismissals, which are key and dismissed employees.
The last step of the outplacement process should be an evaluation of executed outplacement. Concerning the fact that the main objective of outplacement is a return of costs exerted by an organisation, outplacement´s economic return needs to be measured. It is given by the fact that the organisation´s image will not be tarnished and the image of a responsible employer will be built. Inwards, the economic return is measured about remaining employees so that it does not disturb relationships in any direction but a fair approach is evaluated and appreciated. The given facts can be analysed through different organisational climate researches.
The fourth step of outplacement should result in proposals of its modification concerning the fact that on the grounds of found effectiveness and costs, we can incorporate changes which can be reflected in the future. Outplacement is in fact only hardly graspable by company managements primarily since what we have not lost due to outplacement and what we could have lost applying a different procedure is only measurable with difficulties. Values declared and applied by top managers are often the abstract line of focusing or not focusing on outplacement.