An Outplacement Story (3/3)
Reorganisation or restructuring is a common strategy in the face of change, whether the result of a merger, new competition, economic pressures, or even a pandemic that upends global commerce for an unpredictable period.
Downsizing is usually accompanied by the outplacement of individuals or even whole teams. From the organisational perspective, downsizing and outplacement maintains the fitness of the organisation. There are times when an employer has to make tough decisions to achieve a better foothold in the market, to change the way in which work is traditionally done, or even to close parts of a business down. But when outplacement is handled poorly, organisational fitness is undermined.
Part 1 focused on the detrimental effects felt by employers themselves with a weak outplacement strategy.
Part 2 discussed the people who are outplaced. When employers fail to provide strategic support to the parting team members, they fail to serve their own interests.
Now, we consider the “survivors” – those who remain in their jobs after one or more of their colleagues have been let go. These are the people who keep the business going. How do these people respond when colleagues are let go?
Better stories within your own walls
Stories about employers who handled outplacement poorly are told with enthusiasm and conviction, spreading through families, on LinkedIn, in the job marketplace, employee feedback forms, and even within your own walls.
By providing quality outplacement support, you are investing in the stories that will be told about you and your organisation by workforce survivors.
There is ample research that shows survivors often feel guilty about retaining their jobs when their friends and colleagues have lost theirs. Management might reassure them that this is an isolated change event. However, the survivors continue to wonder, and top talent survivors know that they can find another job. They begin to question if they will be in the same position, cut adrift with perhaps inadequate time and support for a transition to a new job. They begin to quietly look around, and top talent can quickly depart.
Any good outplacement program will include a “survivor management” component. Early on, this will include training by managers in how to deliver the bad news and demonstrate that outplacement support has been put in place to help effect a quick career transition. It also heightens the awareness of the managers about the fragility of the team that remains and the need to communicate. It is about connecting with the survivors, understanding them, providing support as they bed into the new structure, and information about the success of their ex-colleagues finding new roles.
If the survivors can see that departing colleagues are being provided with professional career transition services, they tell better stories. The absolute importance of a consistent, clear and ongoing communication strategy around the change is essential. The result is usually improving team morale, better team dynamics, and increased productivity.
The Extra Mile
Letting employees go is never fun and always carries some cost. The question is whether you spend extra to ensure the separation is successful. “Successful” for the affected employee quickly transitioning into a new role or career. “Successful” for the survivors seeing that their ex-colleague has been looked after. “Successful” for the organisation continuing in its new direction, where the brand is not impacted negatively in the market, and they are seen as a responsible and caring employer.
Perhaps most importantly, professional outplacement support helps your former employees move forward. Professional career coaching and outplacement provides people with practical support they need to take control, upskill for new market conditions, to hit the ground running and land a new role more quickly.
The Story Goes On…
Organisations want to become an “Employer of Choice”, to be seen as responsible and caring and a desirable place to work. Everyone knows that organisations go through change at some stage and this change is often accompanied by downsizing.
By providing separated employees with professional outplacement support, your business can send goodwill in important directions, including the people who are outplaced, their families, and the survivors whose productivity and solidarity is boosted by knowing that their ex-colleagues have been looked after.
The job marketplace and the “war for talent” relies on the reputation of the employer. Reputation is a vital factor for top talent choosing where to work. By providing professional outplacement support, you are enhancing your reputation and helping set up for the future.
All the evidence suggests that successful outplacement strategies, with the right communications programs in place, benefit all stakeholders – you the employer, the affected individual who has now gone in a new career direction, and the survivors who remain behind with you, underpinning your business, its productivity and future.
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