Your Outplacement Provider: A relationship of choice or convenience?

Outplacement provider fit for purpose

Outplacement support, like so many services, is scoped, costed and agreed based on an organisation’s needs at the time.

As market conditions and circumstances change – and they have never changed more seismically than they have over the last 12 months – the needs of a business and its people change too.

So, what may have been the best outplacement approach several years ago, may no longer be quite so perfect, or in some cases not even fit for purpose. However, many outplacement providers – wedded to a one-size fits all approach or service agreement that works for them – refuse to adapt their offerings when you need them to do so. They have neither the capability, nor the desire, to support in the way that you or those most affected, actually need.

The risk is that at the exact time when you and your people need a tailored, quality service, they are provided with a rigid, unsuitable, overtly process driven offering that fails to effectively support your business in terms of service or value.

The events of 2020 have created an unprecedented situation with unique people challenges. And while you may not think that now is the time to review your outplacement provider, how can you actually be sure the services they are providing to your organisation and employees are still fit for purpose if you don’t compare them to viable alternatives?

There is a plethora of factors you should consider and review to ensure you still have the perfect outplacement partner – one committed to meeting your needs as well as your employees. Here’s a quick checklist of the qualities you should look for:

Flexibility 

Many outplacement providers talk about ‘partnerships’, but has yours proactively approached you to discuss alternative ways they can support you as your business responds to the impacts of Covid-19? Have they introduced new services or pricing structures as opposed to remaining transactional and profiteering from the economic catastrophe many businesses have faced? Is it time to consider a specialist that is focused on your need – and those of your departing employees – rather than simply their own efficiencies?

Approach

Consider how they have adapted their existing outplacement services. Many will have promoted their online capability – but does that also include the virtual one-to-one coaching sessions that are most valued by employees affected by redundancy? Is that ‘personalised’ support still available and if so, from whom? It is crucial to ensure those supporting your employees are experienced coaches, skilled in advising individuals on their unique situation. There are some great online tools available within the outplacement market however, for them to be truly effective they need to complement one-to-one coaching as opposed to replacing it. And equally, those delivering the support need to be experienced. Exceptional career coaches really do make the difference and it’s key that any outplacement provider not only helps individuals to ‘career pivot’ towards viable opportunities but also has the credibility to guide at this critical career juncture. In short, are you getting the level of expertise you are paying for?

Feedback 

Many outplacement providers will promote how quickly they help someone to find a new job, and this is a key part of outplacement support; helping individuals to quickly reconnect with their chosen career path. However, ‘job search isn’t the only element of outplacement support and more and more people are seeking an alternative to a conventional career.  For many organisations, wanting to do the right thing by outgoing employees is a key motivator for investing in professional outplacement support. After all, the quality of the support your employees receive directly impacts both your employer brand and your brand more generally. It is a difficult time and people need to be treated as human beings rather than feeling they are moving through an impersonal ‘process’.  So, find out how it was for those affected. If your approach is not having the reputational impact intended, perhaps you need to consider another way.

Transparency 

You should be fully aware of the support employees are getting and confirm that it matches the service originally contracted – in value and suitability even if not in the exact method of delivery. Like many things, outplacement support is constantly evolving. Investment in new technology to improve service is important, however, it should not be to the detriment of other aspects of support your people may need. This year we have heard of examples of outplacement programmes evolving into solely automated activity with limited opportunities for people to speak to actual coaches. The human element being eroded is often a far cry from the qualitative solution originally commissioned.

Tailored v Technology

Many providers talk of ‘unlimited support’, however what specifically are those ‘unlimited’ aspects of the service? Often this translates into unlimited access to digital platforms not unlimited support from coaches. It is worth checking that the service provided is not being stripped back through an increased use of technology to essentially a ‘signposting service’. Access to online tools can be massively beneficial however in times of great stress, many would rather feel they are dealing with people, not with robots. For some, the process is about quickly finding work and they may possess obviously transferable skills. In these instances, some online offerings can genuinely aid the process. Yet for others, perhaps in roles no longer commonplace or seeking an alternative direction, this can be a genuine career crossroads which some can find incredibly challenging. At that point a more considered, personal approach can be critical, empowering them to make sensible choices and identify viable next career steps.

Ease of access 

For individuals facing the prospect of redundancy, access to support and the option to speak to their coaches is crucial. Outplacement support is about helping individuals at a time when they may have real concerns and mixed emotions, driven by job loss and lack of opportunities. In order to be truly valuable, expertise must be easily accessible. It should not contribute further to anxiety instead it should demonstrate you respect individuals enough to offer a service tailored to their needs.

These guidelines paint a picture of what premium quality outplacement support could look like in the current climate. Now more than ever you owe it to your business and your employees to do the analysis.

A question to leave you with: Is your current provider genuinely supporting you in this way? Or is it time you considered one that would?

For further advice and guidance on how to manage change and redundancy, including planning and communicating change, the redundancy process and employee support options available download a copy of our guide to ‘Supporting your organisation through change and redundancy’ below. 

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