Outplacement Trends: Could COVID-19 Change How Companies Manage Layoffs?

In keeping with current outplacement trends, a manager conducts a layoff virtually.

Posted on

December 23, 2020


The monthly U.S. jobs report for April 2020 revealed what many of us already suspected: over 20 million jobs in almost every industry were lost due to COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, the need to restructure or reduce costs within organizations is likely to grow—but the good news is that outplacement services can help employees quickly get back on their feet.

How Are Outplacement Trends Changing?

In a downturn, companies often consider off-boarding as a way to tighten their budget while retaining their core functionality. However, COVID-19 provides an entirely new challenge. Unlike more organic recessions of the past, the virus has shuttered most of the economy all at once. This sudden global stop (think of it as “The Great Cessation”) means that the corresponding recovery will also be unlike anything we’ve ever collectively experienced. This requires a new, more flexible approach to workplace standards, cost-cutting, and offboarding.

Many companies are experimenting with a mixture of pay reductions, furloughs, or work-sharing measures. Instead of letting go of top-tier team members, many HR professionals are now reshaping the economics of their team. Reductions in pay across the board are one of the most equitable and surprisingly successful ways to keep your team while reducing your overhead. These salary reductions should also apply to the executives. If everyone, including the department head, is taking a pay cut, team morale can actually increase. These ubiquitous pay cuts can create a sense of camaraderie where before there was uncertainty, and make the team feel that they are weathering the storm together.

However, when it comes to finding employees new jobs, outplacement trends are rapidly adapting to meet the reality of the pandemic era. It’s no longer enough to simply call someone in to your (virtual) office and let them go: great employees deserve a great exit plan.

What’s the Hazard in Not Adapting to New Outplacement Trends?

Before COVID-19, the Internet—and the virtual impression a company makes upon it—had become an important part of an organization’s overall reputation. In our current era of virtual meetings and working from home, this importance has only increased. How you conduct layoffs and the corresponding outplacement for your employees can make or break your company’s reputation, which is why adapting to new outplacement trends is so vital. In this era of instant, widespread communication, a series of negative reviews on the internet can quickly ruin a company’s stellar reputation. American workers are paying attention to how empathetic companies are to employees during this time. The more thorough and accessible the outplacement process is, the more benefit it will bring to your company in both the short and long term.

To avoid damaging your company’s reputation, plan the offboarding process with as much thoughtfulness and preparation as you’d bring to a hiring session. Since so many layoffs must be conducted virtually during this pandemic, make what can be an impersonal experience as personal as possible. Ensure that your internet connection is strong and unlikely to be interrupted during the session. Turn off your phone so you won’t be distracted by an incoming notification. If you can, send out the notification for the meeting on the day you plan to conduct the termination. This will reduce the amount of anticipatory dread employees may feel when they receive the invitation. Most importantly, write out what you intend to say before you begin the session, and run through it a few times so you are comfortable with the speech. Being sloppy or unprepared will make what is already a difficult session worse for the employee.

COVID-19 outplacement trends emphasize being compassionate while also providing plenty of resources to each and every laid-off employee. It’s a great idea to research the strengths of the employee who is being let go and be ready to suggest how they can find a new job, as well as offering helpful information including what they can expect if they choose to file for your state’s unemployment benefits. Offering access to career coaching services, as well as resume editing, will help ease feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Regardless of the employee, make sure that your severance policy is consistent. Inconsistency can lead to lawsuits and an unneccessarily messy exit. Most importantly, don’t appear rushed: this is a life-changing moment for your employee, and you owe them the courtesy of patience while they process the news.

The Most Effective Outplacement Trends Come From a Place of Strength

These are uncertain times, which means that projecting hope during this period is crucial for your employees and fellow HR professionals. There’s no need to put on a false front, or otherwise try to hide what is obviously a challenging time from your employees. However, by remaining confident in the inherent value of each employee, as well as the strength of their work, you can inspire a feeling of hope that is sorely needed. It’s important to emphasize that the change in their work situation is not their fault, and that, in accordance with new outplacement trends, you are offering them plenty of assistance in finding their next job.

Employees who are hopeful have a much better chance of finding a new job than those who feel discouraged or undervalued. We are all currently experiencing a historic moment. While we can’t control exactly what will happen, we do have control over how we choose to face it.

Finding Professional Resources

Whether you’ve been managing personnel for twenty years or twenty days, offboarding people is a mentally and emotionally challenging process. In our current era, outplacement trends favor a thoughtful and transparent approach for both the employer and the employee. Intoo has been refining the outplacement process through our platform of networks, resume development, and job matching. As outplacement trends continue to adapt in response to COVID-19, Intoo is committed to transforming a traditionally difficult process into a smoother, less jarring transition. Learn more about our platform and services to benefit both you and your employees.


INTOO Staff Writer

INTOO staff writers come from diverse backgrounds and have extensive experience writing about topics that matter to the HR and business communities, including outplacement, layoffs, career development, internal mobility, candidate experience, succession planning, talent acquisition, and more.

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