Outplacement is a service provided at no cost to employees by their employer through a third party supplier during times of workforce restructuring and layoffs. Contemporary outplacement is delivered by companies, such as RiseSmart, to organizations concerned with the long-term implications of workforce transformation on their employer brand, employee retention, and overall business success. While there are many suppliers of outplacement services, the difference in their delivery models is significant.

The history of outplacement

To understand how outplacement has evolved, it’s interesting to begin at the point of conception. After WWII, Bernard Haldane designed and delivered a counseling service to help veterans find jobs after returning home in response to the number of men coming back into the workforce after a long absence. The structure of how that service was delivered didn’t change much when it was introduced as outplacement for companies in the 1960’s who found it necessary to restructure workforces in order to remain competitive in the market. Prior to the 1960’s, people joined companies with an unspoken agreement – you hire me and I will pledge all my work life days to you and in return you will support me until my day of retirement. When the world of work began to change in the 1960’s, the service that was conceived post WWII was expanded to include consulting with management about layoff best practices in addition to the traditional counseling services for individuals in transition.

Because layoffs were a fairly new concept in this country, there was a heavy stigma associated with being laid off during this period. In response, outplacement services were designed to help individuals mask their lack of employment by providing an office for them to report to every day. Once there, they might attend workshops or simply use the telephone, typewriters and other office equipment necessary to conducting a job search. Because these individuals had probably only looked for a job one other time in their lives, coaching centered around finding a similar position in the same industry at another company.

Since that time, the world of work, how and when people find work, and what individuals are looking for in their next career move has changed dramatically. Surprisingly, the basic structure of those outdated models still exists among some of the largest providers of outplacement today.

The changing world of work

Just a little over 10 years ago, the outplacement model began to change. The entrance of a new kind of provider started an evolution that is still taking place today. Understanding how and why innovations began to take hold in outplacement begins by looking at the changing world of work. While there are still people who must conform to a traditional nine to five, Monday through Friday work week, that business model is changing for the majority of workers in the U.S. The majority of workers do not dress for work each day and drive to an office where they spend the hours from 9 am to 5 pm and then return home. Work today is more fluid and flexible. People may work exclusively from home or work from home one or two days a week. If they do go into an office, they may arrive and depart at varying times.

Behind the changes in how we work are the advances in technology that have eased communication, laid the foundation for virtual work, and eliminated the need for a physical presence in the office. The advent of the internet and video chat have made it easier to conduct business from anywhere and at any time. Formal business letters have been replaced with email, IM, and chat messaging.

Shifts in why we work have been transforming the workplace and given way to shorter periods of employment, the gig economy, and boomerang employees. No longer are people looking to simply collect a paycheck. Now, purpose, alignment with personal values, and the need to see how individual effort contributes to overall corporate and societal goals have driven people to question the types of work they do and for whom. Instead of accepting that their work life activities as separate from their personal identity, people are looking for opportunities to make their work a reflection of themselves and their values.

With all the changes in how we work and how we find jobs, it’s surprising that the services designed to support those efforts had changed little in 50 years, until the advent of contemporary outplacement.

The modern job search

Just as the world of work has been undergoing dramatic change, so has the way we find and land jobs. Mirroring the changes in how we work, looking for a job is no longer a nine to five endeavor that has to be conducted from an office. Online job listings and application processes have opened up the door to less structured job searches. Now, people are looking at job listings on their mobile device while sitting in a café or on a train. They may decide to submit resumes after dinner or on the weekends. Even interviewing has evolved to include video interviews and phone pre-screens which can be taken from home or other locations.

It's no longer necessary to go to a physical location to use office equipment. Mobile devices have brought the world to our fingertips. Not only can we search for jobs, we can apply online, conduct phone interviews, and video chats from any location we choose. Getting expert advice is only a phone call away. Meetings don’t have to be scheduled around travel time and individuals don’t have to waste time driving from location to location. Career coaching and job search activities can now be conducted from the comfort of your own home, at times convenient to you, and delivered on an individual basis. However, in many instances the outplacement services offered today still do not reflect these changes in work and job search and require individuals to conform to the unnecessary constraints of time and location.

Contemporary outplacement

Now you may be asking, “What is contemporary outplacement and how is it different?” The simple answer is that the contemporary outplacement model has taken the outdated models of the 1960’s and transformed services to meet the needs of today’s job seekers, organizations, and HR departments. Contemporary outplacement provides technology solutions, personalized support, and expert advice to organizations and the executives and HR leaders within those organizations who are concerned about the implications of workforce transformations on the employer brand, employee retention, and overall business success. Unlike older outplacement models, contemporary outplacement delivers a combination of high touch services and high-tech solutions to transitioning employees who are moving into, through, and out of organizations.

To clarify, let’s take a deeper dive into the specifics of contemporary outplacement. First, for the employer. While consulting for organizations undergoing change has traditionally been a part of the outplacement model, the ability to show results and share timely data about employee engagement and progress has not.

Technology and expert advice for HR

Without a technology component, organizations are forced to share sensitive employee data over insecure email channels with an outplacement firm that they must trust will move those individuals into new roles quickly. Reporting and individual progress is delivered via Excel spreadsheets that give little insights and are bulky and require hours of analysis to glean true insights and ROI.

In contrast, technology such as RiseSmart’s Insight™ provides HR teams with access to a complete system of record for real-time outplacement performance tracking and analysis, making it possible to securely transmit data, manage and edit impacted employee lists, and receive live updates and notifications. In this contemporary outplacement model, HR leaders can get the current, actionable data they need to make better business decisions. In addition, alumni sentiment ratings and access to alumni employee comments allows today’s HR departments to proactively protect and maintain a positive employer brand image.

No matter the size of the organization, HR departments don’t want to go it alone in times of change. With contemporary outplacement, there is no need. Service providers have dedicated teams of experts that act as true business partners to help teams plan, execute, and recover from layoff and restructuring events. Though manager notification and resiliency training for managers and remaining employees, contemporary outplacement firms assume much of the burden of these, often stressful, events.

High touch and high-tech for transitioning employees

Just because the world has become automated doesn’t mean that people don’t need that personal touch. In fact, after a layoff or involuntary separation from a company, people often feel more vulnerable and emotional and require more hand holding than when they are choosing their own career transitions. Understanding that impacted employees often go through a grieving process and need time and support to discover the options open to them and their personal desires, contemporary outplacement models offer one-on-one career coaching models instead of group workshops. Mirroring the way work is done today, transition coaching is delivered at the convenience of the job seeker via phone or video chat – providing the most responsive coaching model available in outplacement today.

Related Resources: 5 Reasons Virtual Career Coaching Works

But contemporary career transition support doesn’t stop there. Each person that has been referred to the outplacement company by their former employer is armed with a team of three professionals and supported by innovative, award-winning technology.

Here is an overview of the high touch support of a contemporary outplacement solution:

  • Personal coaching: Each transitioning employee is partnered with a transition coach based on functional and industry experience, not on geographic location.
  • Resume writing: Job seekers make a great first impression with a resume and digital profile written for them by professionals who know how to tailor every word to highlight the applicant’s accomplishments and unique talents.
  • Expert job sourcer: Looking through job leads is too time consuming. Contemporary outplacement solutions provide a personal job concierge who sources and delivers relevant jobs based on the individual’s experience, skills, and personal preferences.
  • Access to recruiters: Through partnerships with large HR services companies, contemporary outplacement providers provide access to a team of recruiters around the world.

To support these services, modern outplacement now includes access to technology that creates a connection between the job seeker and the resources and support required to land a job in today’s market. Among the benefits of a robust high-tech solution, such as RiseSmart Spotlight™ that was developed specifically for transitioning employees are:

  • Semantically-matched and ranked job opportunities:  Intelligently-ranked job leads are delivered on-demand to job seekers through a proprietary algorithm that narrows the results to match the individual’s intent and context.
  • Contact discovery engine: Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job. Through a contact discovery engine, job seekers find the people they know with whom they should initiate conversations as well as those people that they don’t already know but should.
  • Resources: Preparing for interviews, negotiate salaries, and stand out from the competition means having all the tools and best practices at your fingertips. In addition to expert one on one coaching, participants in a contemporary outplacement program have access to content, webinars, workshops, assessments, and research and market analysis information.

The future of outplacement

The world of work is changing rapidly as are the needs of organizations and employees. Contemporary outplacement solutions providers are poised on the leading edge of these changes with solutions to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Instead of looking at what worked in a by-gone era, these service providers are in touch with what HR leaders and the employees they represent need to navigate organizational change with confidence and ease, and positive results.