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4 Ways Outplacement Firms Can Become More Relevant

Outplacement has changed over time – mostly on delivery – but its core mission of helping the employee successfully navigate their way to reemployment is still at the core not changed.

For corporate outplacement to remain relevant in today’s cost cutting environment outplacement firms have to focus everything on enhancing the candidate experience by treating them as customers that need to be delighted in order to become followers. 

The margin pressures that human resource departments face today are challenging. HR tries their best to provide programs that work but face increasing internal financial demands to accomplish this with fewer funds. What happens is:

  • Outplacement becomes a purchasing decision managed by RFP’s
  • The decision criteria focuses on risk mitigation, reputation management and lowering unemployment insurance costs
  • Elimination of programs altogether for lower level exempt groups. It is now reported that 50% of executives and managers get outplacement services, only around 37% of administrative and non-exempt employees get the same consideration 

This has impacted outplacement firms who are asked to deliver programs at lower costs. As a result firms have moved to:

  • Reduced one on one coaching interaction
  • More group coaching via webinar
  • More self-directed learning for candidates
  • Shorter career transition contract period – less time for firms to work with the candidates
  • More virtual delivery versus in person interaction with a consultant with local market expertise

With such a gloomy picture how can outplacement become more relevant?

The answer is to intensify the focus on the candidate experience and to treat them like Nordstrom shopper or an online purchaser at Zappos. The focus has to be on helping the candidate land as quickly as possible and providing them with all of the tools and support to help them get there.

This sounds simple but in practice what often happens is that the focus of outplacement firms is on the delivery not the candidate. This then leads to all of the efforts at innovation taking place on the delivery – online portals, webinars, and virtual delivery.

The focus should instead being on how can we make our candidates more successful? Technology tools are a part of this but the main way to accomplish this is by getting back to one on one, individualized coaching. Programs need to be tailored so that they can take into account each candidate's unique circumstances no matter what the contracted period is.

This will get outplacement back to what it was originally intended to do – get candidates re-employed.

So in the context of moving to a more personalized, one on one candidate experience, how can outplacement become more relevant is today’s cost pressurized business world. Here are four ways that it can be done:

  1. Focus more of the delivery time on individualized coaching. Group meetings and webinars are tremendous supplemental tools but they should not replace the in person time spent learning how the consultant can best help the candidate.
  2. Dedicate more time and resources to tracking candidate performance and reporting back results to the sponsoring company. Most firms have some sort of tracking process for their candidates that result in an Excel file sent to human resources on the progress for the candidates in a given time period. An ideal way to go beyond this approach is to personalize it and report back the specific success stories. HR managers are people who care and I have seen firsthand how taking the extra effort to let them know that one of their former employees has landed goes a long way. It also is important to note that this is the ultimate ROI reporting tool for an HR Manager looking to show that their outplacement dollars had an impact.
  3. Make sure that the candidate relationship goes past them landing and into the onboarding process. There is tremendous benefit to having the consultant follow up with the candidate after they land to provide them with advice on how to effectively onboard into their new role. I have been using The First 90 Days protocol written by Michael Watkins for years with great success.
  4. Have the consultants maintain the relationship with their candidate for the long term. When outplacement consultant become trusted advisors the process is complete

Outplacement is a tremendous service that can provide much needed assistance to transitioning employees. It helps them positively bridge an uncomfortable period in their lives from unemployment to re-engagement. Outplacement can and will be relevant if the focus stays on providing the best candidate experience possible. This can be done by keeping the priority and focus on one on one, individualized consulting.