We all have to deal with this unusual and difficult situation, both on a personal and professional level. Coronavirus attacked suddenly and we all undertake activities that are focused on protection of our health and life. Employers face many difficult challenges. In recent years, economic growth facilitated hiring of new employees, pay increases and investments. These days, entrepreneurs want to maintain operation of their businesses, despite a changing world. The cure for many employers will be bitter, but it may save them. We already know that many companies will be forced to restructure and temporarily cut staffing. Laying off workers who are blameless, but fall victim to epidemic, can be a tough decision not only for top executives in a company. It may also be a traumatic experience for middle-level managers who will have to deliver such difficult news to their teams and provide notices of termination. However, there is a method that may ease this trauma, showing respect and support to workers who are laid off. It is outplacement.

Traditional and modern outplacement

When in 2008 we struggled through the dramatic financial crisis, many companies had undergone considerable restructuring based on many factors. It included assessment of competencies and potential of staffing. It also involved job cuts, frequently group layoffs. The market of HR services responded with outplacement services. This did not come without mistakes. Many programs on offer were phased in over an extensive period of time, whereas time plays a key role for a jobless person. To a large extent, emphasis was put on evaluation of development of various skills or psychological diagnosis of outplacement participants. This is valuable information, but is rather insignificant for finding a new job fast. People who are laid off need immediate and practical help in creating tools to find a job – CV and profile in social media, showing how to use these tools, indicating ways to establish relations with employers and support from experienced recruiters. Equally important is a skillful psychological assistance for people who are in a critical situation in life, making sure that the whole energy is directed to activity in finding a new occupation. A response to the current needs is outplacement service in a form of modern, remote work, based on many years of experience of specialists involved in recruitment on a daily basis.

What is outplacement?

Outplacement is translated to the Polish language – roughly speaking – as “monitored” layoffs or “employee allocation.” These names did not become popular, thus the English word “outplacement” is being used. Although this word is not mentioned in Polish regulations, the Act on employment promotion and labor market institutions imposes upon employers who lay off at least 50 people within 3 months to arrange with an appropriate employment office the range and form of support for laid off workers. These activities include assistance in future job planning, career guidance, training, etc. Employer is obliged to notify an appropriate employment office about the scope of these activities. However, outplacement service does not involve exclusively fulfilment of legal requirements.

Company is created by people. Reduction of employees is a painful activity for managers who lay off staff. Relations with co-workers in daily work go frequently beyond an official relationship. We learn about each other, like, respect and often build friendships. People working in teams create emotional connections. Therefore, it is very difficult to make the decision on laying off someone whom we like, especially due to the reasons beyond his or her control. In addition, people who are laid off frequently blame the employer. Thanks to outplacement programs, it is possible to reduce negative emotions. What’s more, we can save and even promote the company image, which despite difficult decisions does not leave the laid off employees alone.

Outplacement supporting an organization

The case of sudden necessity to lay off employees has made managers unprepared to such tasks. Staffing reductions should occur after in-depth analyses and consultations. However, a company that has to lay off employees immediately is forced to make decisions with insufficient information. What’s more, employer has to choose employees to be laid off. The criteria for the selection are not only salaries and competencies, but also employee life circumstances. Sometimes the selection is very painful. How to lay off a single mother or someone who is just to reach the protected early pension age?

When an organization needs support under such circumstances, taking advantage of expertise is recommended. People with business knowledge and broad HR expertise can help in business analysis necessary to reduce staffing. What’s more important, experts can quickly provide knowledge in the form of workshop or training (also online), which will help to structure and plan conversation with a laid off employee, preparing to it factually and emotionally. A person who lays off an employee should have planned, ready answers to questions that are asked by the majority of workers who are laid off, for instance “Why me,” “What can I do to avoid a layoff?” One shall also be prepared to negotiation attempts, crying or aggression … One can also expect uncontrolled behaviors or even health reactions. Conversation that is skillfully conducted by the superior can prevent it. Outplacement also helps managers who are responsible for carrying out layoffs to deal mentally with this difficult situation. One shall also think about management of knowledge possessed by employees who are laid off. Disappearance of an employee from an organization means frequently departure of his clients or unique knowledge not possessed by anyone else.

One shall also remember that bad layoffs can cause damage to company image. Bad reputation can follow an employer for years. Rebuilding company’s good name, in addition to time and energy, can be very expensive. Outplacement has a significant impact on maintaining employer image in the eyes of people who are laid off. Outplacement, in addition to HR function, works also as a marketing and image tool.

Outplacement supporting an employee

Workers who are laid off need help immediately. “Here and now!” In particular due to the fact that the number of businesses that lay off workers is increasing. There will be more people for one job than before. Practical help consists in starting cooperation with recruiter within outplacement. With the help of recruiter, outplacement participants create their own CV, profile in social media and learn how to search for job offers. Specialists conducting outplacement have detailed knowledge in this field. What is easy and obvious for recruiter can be very difficult for a person who has for years not searched for a job. Within the past several years technology has changed so much that it forced changes in job search methods. A worker who is laid off can feel helplessness and weakness in such situation. Unfortunately such conditions can continue for a long time. Staying without occupation transitions finally in a long-term unemployment, and even neurotic disorders. Outplacement provides not only tools, but also psychological support necessary to search for a job. What’s more, participant receives an opportunity of consultation with recruiter for at least several months. The relation established between participant and recruiter is important. Therefore, outplacement is conducted exclusively by people with strong interpersonal skills, trustworthy and hopeful. It is very important from the participant’s point of view. Good cooperation, the sense of self-effectiveness in job searches, outlining systematic activities and sustaining of such welfare play a key role in searching for a new job.

Outplacement supporting a man

An important feature of outplacement is voluntary participation in it and even in its individual parts. People are different thus reactions to difficult situations can vary. Layoff can be sometimes accompanied by the sense of shame or simply humiliation, anger or fear. Experienced recruiter can guide participant during the outplacement program is such a way that he is gradually, but in a very short time, able and willing to participate in parts that require opening and involvement. It happens, for instance, during simulated recruitment conversation. Responding to questions in an unnatural situation, the sense of embarrassment or listening to the recruiter’s comments may seem challenging for participants. Nevertheless preparation to recruitment conversation by correction of inappropriate responses, providing answers to “difficult” questions or techniques to reduce stress are necessary. During selection of outplacement service, one shall always make sure that it contains preparation for a job interview, and people who provide such service have proper interpersonal skills, are empathic and can treat the person who has been laid off by an organization in a respectful, humane way.

A feature of good outplacement is also an ability to choose its parts and flexibility. Participants should be able to determine what they need. It allows for adjustment of the leading recruiter’s activities to their needs. In addition, during the process, the leading recruiter can put emphasis on any aspect of job search, which along with the participant will be determined as important. It is also possible to eliminate activities focused on teaching the participant skills that are already possessed by him and there is no need to pay too much attention to them.

Outplacement as investment in your peace of mind

Comparing to other costs of HR services, outplacement is not an expensive service. From the point of view of program leaders, outplacement is crowning of skills acquired for years, being perceived as a service used for noble purposes. Service for workers who are laid off is paid by their employer. Thanks to outplacement, the company maintains its image of good employer and prevents spreading of negative opinions on the Internet or among future job candidates. What’s more important, it allows to reassure the people who remain in the organization. Thus it prevents rotation of employees. What’s more, thanks to social media, it is possible to engage employees in support of outplacement participants. Modern outplacement provides not only practical skills and support, but it provides to both the employer and workers who are laid off the sense of peace of mind, suppresses feelings of guilt and makes possible maintaining of good relationships.

Łukasz Radzikowski Talent Acquisition & Recruitment Specialist

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