From time to time and for various reasons, companies in Singapore and elsewhere downsize and retrench staff. Thankfully this is becoming less so as the labour market in quite buoyant. However, in some industries, jobs are being lost to technology, increasingly so since the government placed more emphasis on the need for greater productivity – there are many government schemes in place to support increasing productivity. Jobs are also being lost by moving them overseas to cheaper labour markets such as Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
Every year therefore, some employees in Singapore are receive the bad news that they are to be made redundant or retrenched. This can be devastating and very frightening news. Employees with families wonder what is to happen to them and their dependents – will they be able to afford the mortgage on their apartment, pay medical fees for elderly parents, and meet other commitments. They worry whether they will be able to find a similar job elsewhere or whether their career has become obsolete. How long will it take to get a new job? The questions are endless and the anxiety high.
Downsizing and retrenching doesn’t just impact the individuals to be laid off. It also affects those whose jobs survive – they too are frightened that it could happen to them. All of this has a big effect on morale and consequently productivity suffers. This negatively impacts the company internally. But there are also external negative impacts – the company’s image and reputation are affected: people view the company as heartless and inhuman for treating their loyal workers this way and this can reduce sales.
Both internal and external negative impact can be greatly reduced if the company provides outplacement support for employees to be retrenched. Such an initiative should be a crucial part of the internal and external marketing campaign that accompanies the process. Companies that provide outplacement support are seen as less heartless and even concerned for the ongoing welfare of former staff.
So what is outplacement support? There are two elements to outplacement support. Firstly there is career review, choice and change. This is where retrenched staff receive career coaching to help them review their current worth in the labour market or assist them in choosing a new career. With some upskilling, the person may well be able to continue in the line of work they have previously done, but in industries where jobs are being downsized, usually there is a reduced demand across the board for such jobs. Retrenched staff are encourages to look at a new career, perhaps something they previously had wanted to do but never got around to it. Frequently psychometric inventories or assessments (often incorrectly called personality tests – but they are not ‘tests’ as there are no right or wrong answers!) can be used to suggest a career in which they might find fulfilment and contentment. Strengths-based and values-based approaches are often used too. The objective is that the person will have a clear idea of the job and career that they are going to pursue. This clarity and specificity is necessary for successful job searching, which is the focus of the second element of outplacement support.
People who have been employed for an extended period usually do not have the knowledge and skill required to successful secure a job in modern day Singapore. They need to know how to craft an impactful resume and to be able to refocus it on the specific requirements of an employer for a particular job. They also need to know how to promote themselves in an interview as the best candidate for the job in question. And before getting an interview and sending in a resume, they need to know the three approaches to finding an available job in Singapore. Outplacement support equips people with these necessary skills and knowledge.
The benefits to a company of providing outplacement support to retrenched staff is twofold: it lessens the negative impact internally as both outgoing and surviving staff see the company as supportive in the process; and through well-managed public relations and marketing, customers and the public in general don’t view it as heartless and only focused on the bottom line. The earlier outplacement support is planned and engaged the better – this gives retrenched workers more time to find a new job – hopefully even before their current one disappears.