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Investing in a company outplacement strategy

01 Apr 2019

If you don’t treat your people right, what does that say about your brand? Investing in an outplacement strategy is good for business, says IoD member Victoria McLean, founder and CEO of City CV.

You’ve seen the news: Brexit, a sluggish economy, digital disruption and automation. There’s a long list of risks and pressures forcing restructuring in many industries, from retail to manufacturing and financial services. Even if those don’t affect your business directly, the negative news can still undermine employee morale.

In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that five million jobs will be lost by 2020. The inevitability of this may have reduced some of the social stigma attached to losing a job. But, for your employees, it doesn’t take away the personal hurt and the fear of loss of income.

Providing outplacement support to departing employees is a powerful indicator of a business that believes in looking after its people from beginning to end. It is, quite simply, the decent thing to do. But, it’s also an effective way to enhance your employer brand and public perceptions.

Companies spend millions on marketing their products and services and on PR campaigns that stress their commitment to their local community or global good causes. How you deal with the sensitive issues surrounding letting valued employees go is one of the most important communications campaigns you will ever have to handle.

The process is painful for everyone. No one likes making people redundant. But here are three strategies to minimise the collateral damage it can cause your company and your employees.

  1. Remember, your employees and ex-employees are your best PR campaign

Properly communicating the business case for any redundancies is an essential first step. All organisations are now expected to operate in a transparent, collaborative and cooperative manner. Even then, your employees are likely to feel upset, confused and worried.

An ineptly handled redundancy process and shoddy treatment of employees creates an enormous amount of ill will. Talented individuals will go on to find good jobs in other companies. They might even become business leaders and influencers in their own right. Wouldn’t it be good to have them on your side – an army of brand advocates rather than critics?

Increasingly, disgruntled staff vent their anger on social media. It only takes a few minutes for the national press to pick up on the story and amplify it. Your outplacement strategy can make or break your employer brand.

Providing outplacement services can mean the world to employees at a time when they need help finding new employment. The breakneck speed and unpredictability of today’s business world means they are likely to be even more appreciative of these services. If they’ve been with you a number of years, it’s often difficult for them to identify their new career direction and objectives.

The job market has changed radically, even in the past five years. The rise of social media, networking and personal brand building means that those cast out with no support can feel extremely vulnerable having to navigate this new world. And, that can apply at all levels, right up to Board Directors.

Comprehensive career counselling and support can be provided on an individual or group basis. Either way, it should include help with CV and LinkedIn profile writing, using social media for job hunting, and interview skills. Many employers also offer coaching for career development, re-building self-confidence and overcoming the stress and anxiety associated with redundancy.

  1. Don’t forget about those left behind

    Redundancy doesn’t just affect those losing their jobs. Survivors’ guilt is real and detrimental to the wellbeing of your remaining employees. A robust and transparent outplacement programme will maintain employee confidence and an effective transition support programme will help everyone understand and deal with change.

  2. Always be prepared

Some companies simply use outplacement services when they need to re-structure and make redundancies. However, we are seeing an increasing number of visionary business leaders making these services an integral part of their employee development programme. This strategy builds flexibility and resilience into your team before the pressure of restructuring and redundancy strikes, and boosts your reputation as a good employer.

Support your people, protect your brand

Let’s face it; your brand is one of your most valuable assets – alongside your people. If you have a reputation for treating employees badly, how easy is it going to be to attract fresh talent when your business recovers or the market outlook changes?

A constructive and supportive outplacement programme gives employees a clear signal that they are valued and you’re looking out for them. It won’t dispel all the pain and fear, but it can help people cope with it better. It can also ensure the goodwill of former colleagues while keeping your remaining employees motivated through challenging times.

That’s a strong, positive message to be sending to all your stakeholders.

IoD member Victoria McLean is the founder and CEO of City CV. She advises individuals on their own career development and companies across the full spectrum of recruitment, employee retention and restructure strategies. 

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