Is your Outplacement Program working?

The first 48 hours after an employee is let go is the make-or-break time for any outplacement program and often directly ties back to the success of that individual’s subsequent job search efforts. Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa, explains that in an uncertain economic environment, retrenchment and outplacement are an unfortunate reality facing many businesses and individuals, across sectors and industries.

During the early days of the outplacement process, exiting employees make a crucial decision. They can either choose to engage with outplacement and look forward to the next phase of their careers, or look backwards at their former employer with frustration and, often, anger. That choice can have serious repercussions for the organisation, for while you can cut professional ties with an employee, you can’t sever their personal relationships with others in the workforce.

How the separated employee perceives the termination can have a ripple effect across the organisation, affecting morale, engagement, performance, recruitment and retention. In short, affecting your employment brand as a whole.

Ensuring that “the first 48” are as positive as possible is significantly influenced by how you choose to treat the individual, the available notification support and manager coaching provided by your outplacement partner, and the quality and scope of outplacement services you provide.

According to Statistics South Africa, figures from the Quarterly Employment Survey showed that South Africa’s formal non-agricultural sector shed 31 000 jobs in the third quarter of 2017. With losses of 41 000 in March 2017 and 31 000 in June 2017, Q3 2017 marked the third straight quarter of job losses across South Africa.

ManpowerGroup’s outplacement partner Right Management recently conducted a global research study to understand ‘Why Organisations Rely on Outplacement’. With input from more than 1,700 business leaders and HR professionals across 10 countries, the report reveals how organisations structure their outplacement programs and the services they utilise most.

One finding that speaks directly to this issue is the high value placed on personalised coaching for exiting employees. According to the study, 87% of buyers of outplacement services rank individual one-on-one coaching as the most important service they offer for workforce transition. Previous Right Management studies have consistently shown that the individuals also value one-to-one coaching more than any other aspect of services delivered, with an average ranking of 4.00 on a scale of 1 to 5.

“With economic uncertainty being a reality for South African businesses, it is important that these organisations look into having outplacement strategies in place, and partner with the right providers. Not only will this ensure a positive outcome for the business, but will ensure that exiting employees are provided with the necessary training, development and coaching to ensure their experience is as positive as possible,” says van den Barselaar.

She explains that organisations need to look into what resources they have in place to ensure that departing employees receive individualised support, as they cope with the stress and uncertainty of transition, especially in the critical early days. Is this support coupled with job search tools to help individuals gain traction in the job market and get back on their feet emotionally? And how are those services communicated to the rest of the workforce in order to maintain productivity and protect your valuable employer brand?

It is crucial for organisations to address these challenges, and improve on their overall outplacement trends. Right-sizing is a fact of life these days and whether that involves one or one hundred employees, prudent leaders recognise that doing it right is a smart business decision not to mention a social and fiduciary responsibility.

“When individuals are treated well, organisations win,” concludes van den Barselaar.