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How Outplacement Firms Can Become More Relevant – Some Additional Thoughts


Recently I wrote a blog discussing “Four Ways To Make Outplacement Firms Can Become More Relevant”. The blog generated some insightful commentary from a number of my professional colleagues. The feedback was so great that I wanted to share some of the insights.

Larry Stybel of Stybel Peabody in Boston provided some great input by saying that:

“The "name" outplacement is owned by large firms that are providing web based training programs and are generally sneered at by senior candidates and looked at with contempt by the HR Managers and Buyers doing the purchasing.

“You are NOT offering outplacement services. You are offering 1:1 campaign management to help the person find a job AND then onboarding programs to help succeed in that job. That is NOT what outplacement is today. You and your team offer 1:1 campaign management services.

A candidate for political office hires a campaign manager to help define the theme, organize the candidate's time, and keep on message during stressful interviews. You are not a "trainer" or a "coach."

Confucius said "the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."

Larry makes an important point that career transition service support or outplacement has evolved and now is really about providing career management for candidates. Outplacement firms need to show how they can:

  • Move their candidates forward in the job search process
  • Engage each candidate thru employment
  • Provide onboarding assistance so that the candidate will start out well and not repeat any mistakes that may have derailed their career previously.

This all has real value.

Human capital consulting firms will need to provide this value, communicate back to the sponsoring organizations via smart metrics and take on the candidate as customer mentality I have proposed.

Keith Mullin, President of Mullin International, runs one of the best outplacement firms that I know. His summed this topic up succinctly by saying:

“Quality is commoditized until it is not”

Mullin International has been a best in class benchmark for my firm in using metrics and tracking to be able to clearly communicate back to their sponsoring organizations the value that they are delivering. Marrying the human element with technology allows Mullin to clearly show the return that organizations receive for the outplacement money spent.

If this is not done firms will experience what happened to my firm recently where I lost two different outplacement candidate engagements because the candidate decided to take the “cash value” of their outplacement services rather than the services themselves.

Their reason? They both said that they had outplacement services in the past and did not feel the experience was successful. This feedback drives home the message that I am trying to make about making the candidate experience value added by providing individualized service and building relationships. This will create future advocates for the service and as Larry Stybel says:

“The value proposition for the company that pays your fees is "grateful alumni." They may not like the person who fired them but they have respect for the company that fired them. One of my clients charges our services to business development and not to HR.

They "get" the value: in a highly interconnected business community you never say "good bye" to the people you fire. You are only saying "see you later." We help insure that no bridges are burned as executives leave. Our value is the same as your value: we are a marketing tool”.

Outplacement – or career campaign management – can add value to candidates and be an ROI supported expense for Human Resource management if its focus remains on how to make the candidate successful.

There are always going to be cost and competitive considerations to consider but it will all come back to whether the money spent delivered value. My belief is that the “candidate as customer” approach  will win the day.