Many companies are faced with the prospect of laying off or retrenching staff due to restructuring, relocating parts of its operations, automation, cost saving initiatives, etc. Not only is this a shock for those affected – those who will lose their jobs, but it is also a rather uncomfortable time for those involved in the administration of the retrenchment, such as HR staff and those managing the affected department. They have to go through the uncomfortable experience of informing the affected staff in both a group meeting and in one-on-one meetings to explain what is to happen, why, when and how.
For the HR staff involved, this is a very sensitive time – they are dealing with people who are experiencing a wide range of emotions and feelings such as fear or anxiety about the future, possible financial worries, anger, depression, betrayal of loyalty, and many other possibilities. The range of emotional reactions is as wide as the people involved.
Companies in the person of HR and senior managers are aware of the effect the downsizing or outplacement will have on affected staff and try to minimise its impact on them. One way of doing this is to engage a career advisory or career management company to provide what is called ‘outplacement support’.
The cynical say that outplacement support is the company’s way of salving its conscience, but the reality is that the company, having made the decision to lay off staff, is trying to help the affected staff transition to another job as quickly and as easily as possible. Most staff who are retrenched haven’t updated their resume in years – nor have they attended a job interview since they secured their current position some years previously. They are ‘out-of-practice’ with crafting an impactful resume or making an impression at interview. Furthermore, few people know how to go about the three approaches to searching for a job. Companies therefore usually engage a professional to help with these essential job hunting tools.
Outplacement support doesn’t just offer help with resume crafting, LinkedIn profile, interview preparation and job search strategy, it also helps affected staff take stock of where they are in their careers. In ‘career choice and change’ programmes, individuals are brought through a process of discovery. This discovery includes identifying careers and jobs suited to their personality type, core interests, strengths (those skills they are both good at and enjoy doing) and work values. It also identifies the type of work environments and work tasks that would suit them and those that won’t – manager’s and leadership styles, risk tolerance, team orientation (whether they prefer to work alone or in a team or a mix of both), and learning style preference.
This process helps individuals broaden out their thinking in relation to possible careers and jobs they may consider. This is important particularly where the job they are leaving might not exist anymore – automation or Artificial Intelligence (AI) may have replaced or eroded the role of humans. Or if companies are finding it cheaper to relocate support departments to a cheaper labour market, then there will not be many openings for that type of job in the future. So ‘career choice and change’ programmes get the affected staff to broaden their thinking about what type of jobs to look for.
Often the process turns the experience into a positive one for some staff. Perhaps they had thought about a career change in the past but were too comfortable in their current job to do anything about it. Well now they have the opportunity to do so – and during outplacement support, they also have the guidance of a career coach to help them do it.
Outplacement support helps individuals through a difficult time in their lives, and frequently reframes the experience into a positive one.