Outplacement is More Important Today Than Ever

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(and not for the reasons you might think)
By John Myers
May 19, 2020
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In this COVID-19 environment, many people feel isolated, disconnected, and alone. They are worried about the country, the economy, family, friends, and neighbors. And at the top of the list, they are concerned about their jobs and ability to make an income to support their most basic needs.

Source: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Abraham Maslow 1943 “A Theory of Human Motivation” Psychological Review Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

At no time in recent memory has Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs been more relevant. Maslow used the terms “physiological,” “safety,” “love/belonging,” “esteem,” and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move. And he asserted that a failure to have needs met at various stages of the hierarchy could lead to mental health issues. Today, most people, even those more fortunate than others, are battling this hierarchy on multiple levels. It is a stressful time.

Outplacement when done well is all about helping people and companies through difficult and stressful times. In a traditional sense, outplacement firms and their career consultants are skilled at career assessment, personal branding, resume development, building a social media presence, creating a job search campaign, teaching networking skills, providing access to recruiting firms, practicing interviewing skills, and helping negotiate the job offer. But these are “table stakes” to be an effective outplacement provider and career consultant. The greatest differentiator – the “magic”—and by far the most important aspect of outplacement in today’s world (and actually always has been) is the skilled career consultant. The professional who meets with individuals after being told they no longer have a job. The person who listens to their worries, fears, and concerns; who allows them to vent, and tells them everything is going to be OK. The professional who picks up people, dusts them off, and changes the focus from job loss to the amazing opportunities in front of them. The professional who says “WOW, your background, skills and accomplishments are amazing.” Who gives people hope at a time of despair. Who sees the positives and possibilities in a world that appears dauntingly difficult to navigate.

Organizational Perspective

It’s nearly impossible to imagine a more stressful time for companies. They are being forced by uncontrollable circumstances to make extremely difficult decisions about their business and to make changes in their organizational structure and employee ranks to best fit into an uncertain future. For many, it is simply a matter of survival. Unfortunately, people and their livelihoods are involved. Fortunately, companies are a collection of people, most of whom are experiencing the very same feelings as people faced with job loss, possibly with one exception – they have a job – at least for now. Most senior leaders, managers, and supervisors have compassion for what is happening in the world and care for the personal and professional situations their co-workers face . They are, however, caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. Do we cut costs now for the greater good of the company and the majority of employees? Do we layoff people or furlough them? What does the future look like? Will we be able to bring people back? What if we furlough people and then have to move to a layoff? Is that a double whammy?

Companies generally have compassion which is why they invest in outplacement services. Nothing says they must; it is not a legal requirement. But most still do. Some offer outplacement because they are committed to being an employer of choice, and most provide outplacement because they know it is the right way to treat people. They do it because the company is a collection of compassionate people. They provide outplacement because it helps people through a difficult time. And they do it because they want separating employees to leave with as fond a feeling as possible, and in case in the future they want to re-hire, recruit a family member or friend. They do it to protect and build their employer brand. They do it to help their separating employees heal and to minimize the likelihood of an angry and unsupported employee retaliating against the company, the employees who remain, and the community.

More than a Business

In today’s COVID-19 world, unemployment levels are approaching and may surpass record highs. From my vantage point – as both an advisor to companies and a champion for their people—at no time in over 30 years as an outplacement consultant, business owner, and industry leader, has outplacement been more important. People are panicked about their livelihood and the most fundamental need to provide for their families. So, in this very emotional time for companies and for employees, a close relationship with an outplacement firm is vital. Clearly, reputable outplacement providers are in business to support their clients’ employees while also providing for their own employees. And, the very best firms have mission-driven leaders and professional career consultants who help companies and employees navigate difficult times. We are in the business of helping people succeed.

For those companies in a position to support furloughed and separating employees with the support and advice of a career consultant, thank you. For those whose financial situation doesn’t allow for such an investment, most of the best outplacement firms have fee-reduced solutions and/or complimentary services to support their mission of helping your people.

Outplacement has never been more important. We are indeed an essential business with essential employees comprised of compassionate career consultants who are here to help.

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