Debunking Outplacement Myths
Outplacement is a service that first became popular in the 1950s. Its legacy position in business, driven by legacy providers, has created some myths and outdated beliefs about what it is, who needs it and when it should be implemented. Unlike older models, contemporary outplacement has evolved to match the modern job search, the way work is done today and the expectations of employees impacted by layoffs.
In partnership with a contemporary outplacement provider, organizations can work to keep employees inside the organization, provide career development opportunities and help them plan for a non-traditional retirement—something needed in today’s environment of mature age workers. Before organizations can take a step forward to fully take advantage of all the services available through an outplacement provider, we need to take a step back to dispel some commonly held beliefs—the outplacement myths.
Here are eight outplacement myths, in no particular order:
Myth #1: Outplacement is only for executives
Historically, outplacement was offered to executives because their service was viewed as more valuable and important than other employees. Executives were generally those employees who had been with an organization for the greatest amount of time and were, therefore, owed more from the company.
None of these assumptions are true any longer. Employee tenures tend to be less than 4.5 years, regardless of position in the company and key employees may be contributing within a variety of seniority levels within organizations. In addition, the popularity of employer review sites and social media has put the spotlight on how companies treat employees at every level.
Companies who are still only offering outplacement based on years of service and position are finding it difficult to retain the status of ‘employer of choice’ among those looking to join an organization that will do the right thing for them and for the community at large. Greater transparency has made outplacement for all a necessity, not a nice to have.
Myth #2: Younger generations don’t need help finding a job
Do you still believe that Millennials or generation Z employees will land on their feet without any support after being laid off? While that is a popular notion, it’s not true. Believing this myth could cost the company dearly in long-term damage to the employer brand and increased unemployment insurance costs.
No matter a person’s age or career stage, getting expert career advice for networking, interviewing, and negotiating can be the difference between languishing on the rolls of the unemployed and landing a new job. While the younger generations may seem savvier than older generations about the use of the internet, job boards, and other critical elements of the job search, they may not be optimizing their use of those tools.
Few people, regardless of age, are experts at branding, resume writing and creating digital profiles. Even with the help of a resume template, most people have difficulty sorting through their skills, experiences, and backgrounds to surface the exact words and phrases that will get their materials through the ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) systems and catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.
Myth #3: Employees prefer cash over outplacement services
If you ask employees who have just been notified that they are losing their income whether they would prefer outplacement services or a cash payout, you may end-up by writing a lot of checks. But the decision to offer cash in lieu of outplacement is a short-sighted decision for both parties.
While cash-in-hand seems like the remedy to loss of income, employees will quickly discover that the cash has run out and they have not landed a new job. Often, these individuals restart their emotional process of grieving and become angry at the employer who has not sufficiently prepared them to meet the challenges of the job search.
There is no doubt that a layoff is a source of financial stress; however those challenges are not adequately addressed with a cash payout. Arming impacted employees with the support, tools, and resources they need to land a new job (on average 60% faster than on their own) will pay dividends to both the employee and the employer in the long run.
Myth #4: Specialists can’t be serviced by outplacement
The myth that lawyers, scientists, doctors and other niche employees are not well-serviced by outplacement is based partially on the truth. Outplacement services providers who offer a one-size-fits-all approach to career transitions are not addressing the unique needs of specialists. In fact, they aren't meeting anyone’s needs, regardless of career choice.
In reality, every career transition is unique, just as every person is unique in their needs, experiences and expectations. Partnering with an outplacement provider that offers services on a one-to-one basis and provides career coaches who have expertise in specific industries ensures that every employee, regardless of specialty, will get their needs met. Professional branding experts with expertise in specific industries understand the nuances and terms most recognized by recruiters and hiring managers looking for specialists and can create branding materials designed with the industry in mind. Check with your outplacement provider to make sure they have the right people to serve your unique population.
Busting this myth requires mentioning that specialists may be most in need of outplacement services from someone who best understands the hiring practices and norms of their specific industries. These individuals will need specialized advice—guidance they can’t get from a simple internet search or from a career generalist in a group setting.
Myth #5: Executive golden parachutes are enough
Despite the generosity of the golden parachutes offered to your executive employees, they aren’t enough all by themselves. Your executives still need transition support. Much like the cash payout in lieu of outplacement, assuming that a golden parachute eliminates the need for outplacement support is a fallacy.
Money, healthcare and retirement benefits do not provide any of the tools and resources a person needs to find a new job. Even with a generous cash payout, it’s unlikely that your executives will search out their own career coach, resume writer and job search expert—all the elements of an outplacement program.
Instead of leaving them on their own, help move your executives into their next role quickly. Doing so will make them brand ambassadors and may leave the door open for them to return to your organization at another time when you need their expertise and institutional knowledge again.
Myth #6: No need to worry about remaining employees
When a company is laying off employees, many HR leaders don’t think they have time to worry about those who are staying and would rather wait until the “dust settles” to talk about reengaging their current workforce.
In reality, when a company is undergoing a major disruption, that is the time when key employees reconsider their options. Without a plan in place to take care of the “survivors”—the employees not impacted by the layoff—companies risk losing key people and the success of the “go-forward” plan.
In a recent study, RiseSmart found that while many companies have some initiatives in place to care for their employees before, during and after a reduction in force (RIF), most do not do enough. Research found that it takes employees between three to six months to return to productivity, a work cost most companies undergoing layoffs cannot afford. Shortening the time to get back to work requires companies implementing initiatives for the surviving employees immediately.
Myth #7: Employees want to go to an office for outplacement
When outplacement services were first introduced to the market, there was a stigma attached to being laid off. Impacted employees needed a place to go every day to save face within their families and communities. They also needed access to office equipment such as a typewriter, printer, fax machine and telephone. Those requirements no longer exist.
In fact, going into an office every day from 9 am to 5 pm is not the way work is done by most people anymore. The majority of workers have access to a cell phone, at least, and don’t require the use of office equipment located outside of the home. Why then, would employees prefer to access outplacement services by traveling by car—often in traffic—to get the same services they can receive in the comfort of their own homes? Most likely, they do not. The problem is, the perception among HR professionals hasn’t kept up with the realities of today’s job search and old beliefs are propagated by legacy outplacement providers attempting to justify their high overhead costs as a result of brick and mortar locations.
When the majority of all job search-related activities are sufficiently completed on a mobile device, the outplacement services should match. Providers offering one-on-one coaching can walk individuals less proficient with technology through processes and may encourage those employees to update their technology skills in order to remain relevant in today’s world of work.
Myth #8: We don't need outplacement unless there's a layoff
Like the world of work, outplacement services have undergone a transformation in response to the needs of employers and employees. While restructuring, mergers and acquisitions are still necessary—and often a positive event for organizations—the talent shortage is real and the costs to hire are climbing. In response to the need for a more holistic approach, contemporary outplacement providers are offering alternatives to layoffs, such as redeployment solutions. Creative retirement and career development programs are a natural evolution for an outplacement provider that already has career experts and learning and development tools developed to help people find the next step in their careers.
Staying current with the needs and expectations of five generations of workers in an environment where employee tenures are short and talent gaps continue to widen, debunking the myths of outplacement and employee support programs is a positive step in the right direction toward future-proofing your organization and your employees.