Many years ago a human resources executive hired my firm to provide outplacement for their departing executives. I remember being there the first day when three executives were being let go. Guess who greeted them? I did and I did it with a smile. The human resources professional did a fine job in explaining my role. My role would be to assist those executive in defining their next career path and helping them with their career search. As I talked to them in my makeshift, temporary office I spoke about my philosophy of job seeking, what my company does and how I would be personally involved in their search. Remember that there were three executives sent to me in the outplacement program the company paid for but I never saw number three. He remained “at large” as my human resources contact explained to me. The other two executives found meaningful and better opportunities within 90 days of engaging with our firm.
Here’s the skinny on what large outplacement firms probably won’t tell you:
1. It’s Risk Mitigation to Us – In other words we aren’t trying to be nice. Companies pay for outplacement because they don’t want a bad name in the marketplace, they don’t want to incur wrath and they don’t want to be sued. They often don’t do it because they feel a real obligation to pay you beyond the point that they need your services. But they figure helping you some is better than getting the bad PR of “not taking care” of their employees. It’s a whole lot better than letting your senior executives go with a nominal severance package only to find out they really want to seek legal counsel and sue your company.
2. Our Outplacement Budget Stinks – Another known fact in the world of outplacement is that almost all budgets and margins for this employee exiting outplacement was blown to bits in the past six to ten years. Who can justify paying to help a terminated employee find work at another firm. So outplacement money has dried up. That means companies must drive costs down and they simply pay less to outplacement firms. That means outplacement firms offer less one on one help, resume writing, personal interview training, research and other brand building work on behalf of individuals. It has become about online access and webinar information not personalized help.
3. Turnover Is Nasty and 1099s Rule – Almost all outplacement companies cannot employ multi-year, proven career coaches and rely on a steady stream of human resources related people to deliver highly individualized career services even to their executive clientele. They cannot keep outstanding career coaches or counselors. Wisely, many outplacement companies cannot keep their best talent. Their best talent leaves and they must rely on part-time help that resembles a traveling band of gypsies not a professional staff of multi-year human resources, hiring and talent management executives with a long-reputation of excellence in career services. Now, would you want your executives to be collaborating with this merry-go-round?
4. Advice is Like Russian Roulette – A friend who served executive clientele told me her outplacement contract as an outplacement provider provided no training. “I literally went in there without a job and kind of desperate,” she said, “and the next day I am giving specific advice on issues I had no business speaking about.” What happens is that outplacement companies need money and the poor, black sheep of outplacement remains the career advisors. For years outplacement companies often provide more income and incentives to their sales people and business development people than their service providers. So the advisory help your company is paying for is second rate and an after thought. Makes sense doesn’t it? Big outplacement is a munching money machine that needs to be fed and where is the money in the service providers? It’s not going into the advisors; it’s going towards sales. Big surprise.
Firing, downsizing, rightsizing, and a number of other words can be used to talk about leaving a job. For many departing employees words that may be associated with leaving a company hit closer to home – embarrassment, anger, trauma, stress. The stress of losing a job comes with a price and that price can be financial, emotional, spiritual and physical. Stress causes all sorts of body and mind changes. Would you agree?
So if outplacement is a problem what are some actionable solutions?
1. Insist on Getting the Credentials of Your Outplacement Companies Career Coaches and Service Provider – Do you really know who you will work with and what their qualifications are to help you? Insist that you work with certified career consultants, professional resume writers, personal branding specialists and experienced career providers. Do not settle for less.
2. Demand that You Choose Your Outplacement Plan and Program – You also need to buy some insurance or consider paying for services they don’t cover. It’s your career you know so find out gaps that you need cover and don’t be cheap about investing in yourself and to give you the career services you need. Search alternative sources and stop depending upon your former company for assistance. You may think they owe you more but don’t squander the opportunity to refine your goals and build your next career steps.
3. Never Commit to a Company Long-Term Who Doesn’t Take Care of Those They Let Go – Always have your exit strategy in mind when you take a job. What is your severance? Does it include outplacement? How long and how much help will you get? Can you choose your own outplacement advisor? Insist on this option and don’t go for any cookie cutter programs.
Would you feel comfortable with the rotating door of large outplacement firms, caroseling their part-time advisory staff to “support” your displaced workers or senior leaders? Insist on the best, no, demand the best. Boutique firms like ours provide this one on one focus. What do you feel companies need to do to invest in their departing workforce? Are you ready and more knowledgeable about getting your demands met? Are you in human resources? Then find and invest in your workforce and your departing workforce by associating yourself with best practices, defined and delivered. No cookie cutter approaches.
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