I recall a time in high school when learning English, and one source of entertainment was looking for the most complicated words in my native Finnish to then throw at the poor English teacher as ‘how would you translate this word’. The winner was something along the likes of ‘merkityksettömättömyydellänsäkäänköhän’. Er… don’t ask. However, my current favorite on the same ranking would be the Finnish word for outplacement services: uudelleentyöllistymispalvelut. I can only assure my Finnish customers, that the content, the meaning and the impact of the service is something far better than what the word may sound like.
While typing this blog and pulling out the few reference materials I have addressed in the text below, another three notifications caught my eye of various employers starting new layoff-negotiations in Finland. The situation in the labor market is remarkably tough to begin with – and by the tone of the news, it promises to get only tougher. Add to that an individual professional of any field who is still in some degree of denial upon an unexpected termination notice from previous job, and perhaps 10 years gone by since the last time he or she had had to apply for a job. That is what you call a total mess. And that is where the value of outplacement services becomes the most evident!
You may have noticed, or heard, that headhunting has become an increasingly common approach in looking for talent also in managerial and even senior specialist roles – no longer a method only applied in search for top-paid chief executives. Now, fortunately, the same is happening with outplacement services.
In the U.S. the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings even predict that we will see outplacement services becoming part of standard benefits packages employers are offering already at the time of recruitment! Boy, I can’t help thinking what a shift in mindset that represents from the old Japanese lifetime employment culture to exit support becoming used as a carrot already in the recruitment phase.
So what are these outplacement services? In a nutshell, they refer to support the employer chooses to provide to an employee at the end of employment, in order to help the individual to find a new job. Typically these services include review and improvement of CV, recommendations of improving one’s application process, and tips and tricks for effective preparation for a job interview. More comprehensive packages may also include for example some combination of personality- and assessment testing to bring out individual’s natural strengths in view of possible new career options. But equally importantly, a well-constructed outplacement offering should also help the individual to set realistic expectations on the duration of the job-hunting phase, what to prepare for, and how to keep updating one’s skills and profile during that time so they continue to appeal to potential employers. Effective utilization of one’s contact network is something us Finns tend to find difficult, or even embarrassing, to do. One essential element of a valuable outplacement service is to ensure exactly that gets done.
As tends to be the case with any kind of training or consultation, individual help with one’s own, unique situation is far more effective than more generic instructions shared in a group setting. Two separate studies were conducted in Belgium in 2013, and the results speak for themselves on this matter. Out of those who had received individual outplacement training, 80% found a new job. With participants of group training, the success rate dropped to 60%. While I personally advocate individual service in a matter as sensitive as support with one’s job search, career planning and competence evaluation, of course that result for group sessions is still far better than no outplacement provided at all. The same results, however, found that only 8% of outplacement participants had received purely individual coaching – the rest had only group sessions, or combination of both.
But wait! Why should an employer take up additional costs by providing an outplacement service for individuals about to leave the company? It actually makes perfect sense. The key beneficiary is the company image – both internally and externally. The remaining employees will pay close attention to how the employer is treating their colleagues that face an unfortunate lay-off. So an investment towards their re-employment will help to maintain morale high within the company in that challenging situation. Externally, job applicants will take note as well. A poorly managed lay-off process could easily have a negative impact on the employer’s ability to attract top talent the next time new resources are needed. In Greece a survey was conducted last summer on the impact of outplacement services, and the results show that the most significant benefit for the employer was indeed corporate social image (65% of respondents), followed by the facilitation of the end of termination process for the departing employees (59%).
The more difficult the situation in the labor market and the odds the individual job seeker is facing – the greater will be also the value and impact of a high quality outplacement offering for both the employer and the exiting employee.