Outplacement Support with a Difference

Outplacement Support with a Difference

A previous post on ‘’Ethical Outplacement or Retrenchment’’ on this site introduced and discussed Outplacement Support services in more general terms. This post focused on the benefits of such programmes to both retrenched employees and to employers. Since then I have been asked many times to elaborate on what’s involved in outplacement support, and particularly about the Career Choice and Planning programme.

Sandbox Advisors offers two complementary outplacement programmes: The Transition and Job Search programme which is the basic component of any outplacement service, and the Career Choice and Planning programme which provides greater support to the employee and facilitates reputation or brand maintenance for the employer.  

Career Choice and Planning Programme

A frequent reason for retrenchment is that a particular function (e.g. finance or IT support) is being outsourced to a third-party provider in a lower-cost country such as Malaysia, India, or The Philippines. Usually this follows an industry pattern, so as one company outsources a function overseas, so do others. The knock-on effect of this is that jobs in that function are in decreasing supply and increasing demand, so employees in these positions are going to find it harder and harder to find a similar job. The career choice and planning part of outplacement support helps retrenched employees look wider and beyond their previous role to find jobs or careers that they will find satisfying and fulfilling. It turns the traumatic experience of retrenchment into one of opportunity – indeed, many people look back on the experience as liberating, life changing, and the motivation they needed to move from a mundane job to a fulfilling career.

The career choice and planning module helps individuals plan their next move properly. Individuals are guided through a systematic process to get a detailed picture of their characteristics and preferences that should be taken into account for their next career move. These include:

•    Strongest life / career aspirations

•    Personality type and traits

•    Strong interests

  • Skills and strengths

•    Knowledge / motivation

•    Work values

•    Work environment preferences

•    Goals and constraints.

Psychometric inventories are used to help people identify careers and jobs that are firstly suited to their personality type, and secondly, to their core or strongest interests. Other assessments and exercises identify their skills and strengths (strengths being those skills that people are both good at and enjoy doing) and their work values. Participants then have four separate perspectives on finding a career direction that will be personally fulfilling and satisfying, and ones that they are likely to perform well in.

Obviously, this is far different than the individual looking for a similar role to the one they have just been terminated from, and possibly a role that is no longer being offered by employers.

Ethical Outplacement or Retrenchment

Outplacement Support

Outplacement / retrenchment is a stressful time for both those losing their jobs and those involved in administering the process such as HR staff and managers. Employers are obliged to make the process as dignified and respectful as possible, and to do so sensitively and fairly. The Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment (from the Ministry of Manpower – updated March 2020) elaborates on how companies should do this. In particular, MoM stresses that employers should assist those being retrenched in finding an alternative job and recommends the provision of outplacement assistance programmes or outplacement support services.

Outplacement support provides benefits to both the affected employees and to the employer.

For the displaced employees, outplacement support reduces the stress and anxiety the situation causes, and helps them maintain a positive outlook. Frequently the support provided reframes the awfulness of the situation into one of opportunity for the employees. Most importantly, outplacement support makes their job search more efficient and effective, and reduces the timeframe in finding another suitable position.

For the employer, the benefits of providing outplacement support to retrenched employees includes reducing the inevitable impact on the organisation’s reputation and brand, and helps preserve the goodwill of terminated employees. It also helps improve the morale, motivation, and productivity of remaining employees, and makes the firing process somewhat easier for managers and HR staff involved.

Outplacement support should be provided as soon as possible, preferably the same day that affected employees are notified. There are two benefits to this: Firstly, it provides immediate emotional support to those being retrenched, and secondly, it facilitates them in starting their job search immediately and in a planned way. The job search strategy part of the outplacement support will ensure that the affected employees avoid the many mistakes that job hunters are prone to.

Outplacement support has four main components. Firstly, as mentioned above, it is essential that each retrenched employee has a personal job search strategy that utilises the three approaches to finding jobs. This is the primary focus of outplacement support.

Secondly, the retrenched employee needs an impactful resume that will be noticed by those hiring managers it is sent to. An impactful and focused resume secures an interview. Thirdly, the retrenched employees as job applicants need to know how to convert job interviews into job offers. Most outplacement support services provide these three components. The fourth component is career choice and planning which gets the retrenched employee to look wider than their previous job. If one company is reducing its headcount in a particular function, it is probable that other companies may be doing so either now or in the not-so-distant future. It is therefore advisable for people to look at other jobs that they may be suitable for. This career choice process also helps individuals identify and compile their skills, strengths and work values – all of which supports their overall job search process.

What is involved in Outplacement Support?

Outplacement support benefits the company as well as the individual

This is a question I have to frequently answer either by e-mail or over the phone. When retrenching a staff member or members, people in the Human Resources department like to offer the person or persons involved various supports to help them secure another job. This is also aimed at protecting the company’s reputation, both internally and externally.

The Benefits of Outplacement Support

Providing outplacement support presents a more human and caring side of the company, and to the remaining employees, it shows that the company is going to great lengths to help the retrenched staff. This lessens the inevitable blow to staff morale that accompanies retrenchment.

To the outside world – customers, clients, suppliers, the media, etc – a company that provides outplacement support is viewed as less mercenary and penny-pinching. Even when people don’t fully understand the need for the retrenchment, by providing outplacement support they perceive the company in a more positive light.

Of course there are huge benefits to the retrenched staff from outplacement support, and as stated in a previous article, it helps their self-esteem as well as places them in the best possible position to secure another job.

So what is involved in outplacement support?

Career Choice and Planning Programme

There are generally two programmes involved. The first, which we in Sandbox Advisors call ‘Career Choice and Planning’, is focused on providing the individual with a clearer understanding of their career goals; the options or choices they have; the constraints they face; their skills and strengths; their work values and motivations; their core interests, particularly those related to work or career; and their personality type and how it affects their career and job search.

This ‘Career Choice and Planning’ programme not only leads the individual to a better understanding of themselves, but helps them identify ideal industries and careers to focus their job search on. In doing so, it broadens the scope of their job search and widens out the variety of jobs they are willing to pursue. In short, it increases their options.

The process also uncovers vital inputs for crafting a new, impactful resume, cover letters, and online profiles such as LinkedIn. The increased self-knowledge also helps prepare them for job interviews and salary negotiation.

The steps involved in the ‘Career Choice and Planning’ programme includes psychometric inventories or personality assessments – the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interests Inventory (SII); the completion of a set of self-assessment exercises to uncover achievements, skills and strengths; work values elicitation; and the unearthing of deep aspirations about work and career.

Transition and Job Search

The second programme, which we call ‘Transition and Job Search’, focuses on getting interviews and converting them into a job offer.

Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Profile

The starting point of this programme is the crafting of an impactful resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile – these are the tools used to secure interviews. To create these impactful instruments, the individual has to complete a workbook that compiles and assembles information in particular formats – they are provided with a guidebook and supporting materials to help them. Their career advisor then uses this to craft an impactful resume and profile.

The Job Search

Once the individual has a new resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile, they are ready for the job search part of the programme. Their career advisor helps them develop a three-pronged job search strategy focused on the three approaches to job searching – job boards, employment agencies or recruiters, and networking. Using a guidebook and directed by their career advisor, the individual produces a personalised strategy for their job search. This, and the use of the tools discussed above, will attract more interview calls.

Preparing for Interview

The interview preparation part of the programme involves two workbooks. One is focused on presenting the individual’s career achievements and key strengths in an impactful, structured manner – this also provides a structure for answering unexpected questions. The second workbook is focused on answering interview questions, and in particular, focuses on commonly asked and expected interview questions specific to the individual’s job target. When the ‘content’ for interviews is prepared, then there is practice in the ‘techniques’ of successful interviewing, including a mock interview and how to be proactive during interviews. Building and presenting confidence and poise during interviews is also practiced.

Ongoing Support

When the preparation stages described above are completed, we provide ongoing support to the individual for a period of two months. This involves tracking their job search activities and providing advice on how they should tweak their approach if necessary. The individual is also provided with guidance for ongoing needs, such as tips for upcoming interviews and dealing with various job search situations. This support ensures that they ingrain all the best practices for a good job search and that they execute a speedy and effective job search.