No aspect of executive responsibility is easy as company leaders develop strategies to navigate their companies through the market’s inevitable ebbs and flows. Nevertheless, no aspect of a leader’s role proves more difficult than when a business strategy leads to a necessary reduction in staff.
Whether it’s due to business contraction or technological advances making positions irrelevant, an executive leader’s business strategy shouldn’t stop at the moment of a staff reduction. Rather, it should include an understanding of the impact of layoffs and a strategy for the comprehensive care of not only the exiting employee but also the remaining employees, key team members facilitating the process, and the company’s market reputation.
When leaders and their HR teams face the difficult of staff reduction decisions, outplacement services provide the best opportunity to help leaders balance careful strategy and comprehensive care for everyone involved.
The Value of Outplacement Services
The value of outplacement services is no secret.1 Without thorough outplacement strategies, leaders will likely see their company’s growth and morale diminish and their public legacy tarnished in times of staff reduction. But not all outplacement services are created equal. The most useful services assist leaders to think and respond strategically to the impact an involuntary job loss can create for the impacted employee as well as the company’s remaining personnel and reputation.
More Than a Job Change
At first glance, outplacement services seem like a sunk cost. With online networks and other platforms for job searching, why use valuable time and money to help an employee find her next career path? Though LinkedIn and other platforms help others pursue career opportunities, they don’t (and can’t) provide the commensurate resources and care necessary to assuage the emotional and vocational difficulties associated with being laid off.
Leaders should consider outplacement services that provide strategies that go beyond providing job search information for exiting employees. Find firms that connect an employee with a personal career coach to manage the emotional impact of the involuntary employment change, develop necessary job-seeking skills, find new careers, all while helping preserve a healthy, respectful relationship with the former employer. Leaders equipped with outplacement strategies “… highlight the fact that a sudden transition like job loss doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Coaches, in contrast to job search firms, provide support and advocacy. At the end of the day, outplacement services are about how individuals handle and manage change and the realities of an involuntary job loss.”2
Caring for Your Entire Company
Avoiding an outplacement strategy is no guarantee for avoiding staff changes. On the contrary, avoiding it or approaching it haphazardly is a surefire way to burn bridges with former employees. And an absence of outplacement services will likely direct the fire’s blaze toward remaining employees and the company’s market reputation.
Caring for Facilitating Team Members
Although corporate leaders don’t typically conduct the face-to-face separation conversations themselves, they are responsible for the decisions that preceded layoffs and for the company’s health during and after. That enduring health is the result of leaders coming alongside the HR personnel involved in the day-to-day difficulties. Those facilitating the day-to-day components of layoffs shoulder an incredible weight as they oversee the building of severance packages, sharing the news, and navigating an employee’s, oftentimes emotionally wrought, reaction.
Professional coaching will assist HR through these multifaceted dilemmas, outplacement firms allow a company to share the difficult aspects of such a sensitive process, so managers can maintain momentum with their current workloads and personnel.
As one PROMARK coach commented:
“Without third party involvement, the stress of the process can take a toll on those managers, hurting their effectiveness in their regular roles and, given their personal involvement, adversely affecting staff relationships in the future.”
Caring for Remaining Employees
As much as an outplacement strategy conveys a story of lasting care to exiting employees, it conveys similar messages to remaining team members. When a layoff occurs, employees watch how it’s handled. They take account of how the exiting employee was treated. Leaders need to consider how a remaining employee’s perception of another’s layoff still affects them and their ability to perform.
Remaining employees who have reason to suspect a lack of transitional care during a layoff may compensate their work styles to avoid the same fate. Employees may begin to “show off” to command attention to convey their being irreplaceable. Others may attempt to become “invisible,” in hopes that they won’t be noticed. Regardless of the kinds of responses, leaders who lack a careful strategy will likely see remaining employees’ morale and productivity diminish as they wonder if they’re next on the list.
Caring for Your Company’s Brand
Outplacement professionals come alongside leaders to help them remain mindful of their companies’ market reputations. Executive leaders navigating layoffs for a large portion of their workforce especially have the particular dilemma of creating uncertainty in the market. And unless a leader has a strategy to ensure their shape of the public narrative, outside communities, investors, and stockholders will hear another version casting an unfavorable light on both the company and its executive leaders.
Additionally, leaders ought to see former employees as continuing public relations and brand ambassadors. Outplacement services convey to an employee that their future matters to the company, even though it may not be with that company. Providing such a message can even stave off possible litigation, and its associated costs, in the event of a disgruntled employee.
As one PROMARK coach shared:
“Whether companies realize it or not, they have a reputation that the public sees and perceives about their culture and work environment. Exiting employees have an impact on that reputation. It is much better to have former employees saying “I was always treated fairly during my time at XYZ, even when I left” than the opposite.”
Leaders should see Investment in outplacement services as an investment in a company’s PR brand strategy.
What No One Wants But Everyone Needs
No leader wants to show a team member the door after they’ve contributed to a company’s mission. But leaders need to be prepared for the inevitable multifaceted difficulties of workforce changes. Outplacement services provide leaders with the much needed strategies, guidance, and resources to ensure their ability to care and lead during these difficult times goes beyond the bottom-line.
Though no leader ever wants to be in a situation where they have to utilize outplacement services, it’s vital they see that outplacement services provide what everyone needs during the difficult moments of company change.
If you’re an executive leader who wants to consider outplacement services for your company, or if you’re searching for outplacement services yourself, contact PROMARK today to see how we can come alongside you.
2 PROMARK Coach