Being told your position is redundant is a difficult conversation for anyone. For many in senior executive roles, added to the personal disruption and uncertainty is the more visible and public nature of their departure. The way in which they leave the organisation is critical, for the executive themselves and for their employer.
If you’re the HR person tasked with selecting the best package for executive outplacement services, this guide will show you what to consider when comparing executive career transition providers.
Executive outplacement helps senior executives to work through the emotional and practical issues associated with redundancy. It takes a highly skilled coach, but the results can be truly transformational – helping the individual to see new possibilities and helping the organisation to retain and even enhance its reputation.
how executive outplacement is different
Simon Lyle, Managing Director of Randstad RiseSmart in the UK, has extensive experience in the field of transition coaching and executive outplacement. His experience has given him an in-depth insight into how senior executives react to the news that their tenure is coming to an end:
“Unlike more mainstream outplacement services, when an executive faces the transition point of redundancy, the challenge is about so much more than just finding the next role”, he explains. “For one thing, transition times for senior leaders are longer. The majority of senior executives expect to take between six and twelve months to land a new role. But allied to that, for many executives, the harder blow is the emotional toll for a senior level leader. They are accustomed to a role with tight deadlines, fast pace, and a team to support their goals - having to adjust to the slower pace of the career transition process is a challenge. Outplacement services at this level need to recognise that. These can be complex emotional issues - vulnerability and self-limiting beliefs, challenges with self-image and resilience. Senior executives really value having someone they trust to help shape the next chapter in their career and support them through the outplacement process”.
the challenge of vulnerability
In Simon’s view, the real value of an effective executive outplacement coach is to help people overcome their fear of being vulnerable.
“Fear and vulnerability are debilitating, but they are not uncommon – and particularly in people who have held the highest positions, been in their roles for the longest and, dare I say it, have very healthy egos. Redundancy can cause them to feel exposed, because they can no longer ‘hide behind the title’, and their confidence can take a hit too. Their executive career coach works with them to reduce the level of fear and discomfort and to develop the clarity to make good decisions about their next step.”
Outplacement programmes often open people’s eyes to the fact that the world of work is changing, and at a faster pace than ever before. The way we work, the organisational structures we build, the skills we need are all different now to even a couple of years ago. Whilst millennials have embraced this, it sometimes comes as a shock for senior executives to realise that the skills that got them to where they are won’t necessarily get them where they want to be.
“Senior executives facing redundancy realise that some of those skills they have spent their career developing may not be so relevant for their future”, agrees Simon. “Deep down there can be an angst about their marketability in the outside world and outplacement support can alleviate that”.
the power of personal brand
Simon sees ‘personal brand’ as also being key to addressing these issues, explaining:
“Anyone in career transition has to be able to articulate what they bring to the table. So senior executives need to figure out who they are, as the person, not the title. Therefore, executive outplacement services need to help leaders understand and communicate their intrinsic commercial value, their identity and their purpose. Thanks to social media, information about them is out there whether they like it or not, so it makes sense that, during the outplacement programme, leaders learn how to control that information, and how they are seen. This is what we mean by personal brand.”
It’s not always a comfortable process – it requires being vulnerable, letting go of the title, letting go of what they were, and focussing on who they are and what they want to be and do over the next few years. But it is the first step to opening up a new world of opportunity and uncovering underlying skills.
how executive outplacement support can help
Through the career coaching process, executive outplacement can help senior leaders come to recognise and hone their ‘hard skills’ – the transferable attributes that enabled them to help a company navigate the changing economy. Skills like digital literacy, high EQ, being comfortable with ambiguity, leveraging the power and value of automation and AI but valuing the human touch.
“When executive outplacement coaching helps senior leaders recognise these skills and see new horizons, many feel they have spent their past on a treadmill”, says Simon. “In the sense that they have let the job carry them along. The career transition process helps them to review what really drives and motivates them and then they can reshape their view of the world of work and the place they want to have in it”.
empowerment and choice
At the end of successful outplacement programmes, Simon has seen senior executives decide to stay on the same track in the corporate world, but as a “considered choice”. He has seen others find themselves empowered by the outplacement process to make bold decisions and take their career in a new direction.
“We’ve coached executives who have taken advantage of our ‘borderless world’ to work in other countries. We’ve had some who’ve opted for a flexible, portfolio-based working life; some who have started their own businesses and some who have embraced retirement. The point is that they have all made informed decisions, based on a holistic understanding of their personal brand, their values and what they want to achieve”.
As one RiseSmart executive outplacement client, a Partner at a law firm, commented, “I found the advice, support and outplacement assistance from my coach during the period I was preparing to leave, and then after leaving the firm, when uncertain about which direction to take, to be of exceptionally high quality and value. I was guided through assessments of my strengths, values and interests to assist me in confirming what was the appropriate and ‘best’ course for that time. The personal touch was particularly appreciated as a late career change is quite highly emotionally charged, at a vulnerable time for an older person and I felt you understood that and provided the right level of support.”
a positive experience
So what makes a good career coach and a successful executive outplacement process?
First and foremost, the relationship between the senior executive and coach must be one of trust and credibility. The best outplacement services will have accredited and highly experienced career and leadership coaches, who work holistically across all aspects of transition. The outplacement support provider will take the time to understand the individual and match them with a coach who best fits their personal style. Ideally, they may even offer initial meetings with more than one coach, so the executive can choose the one they think they will work best with.
Executive outplacement is very much about building a partnership. If the coach understands the executive’s priorities and needs, they can build the required rapport and trust that allows them to guide and advise, and also to constructively challenge.
But executive outplacement services are about more than career coaching and job search. These are people who have been accustomed to leading and working with a large support staff. Part of a good executive outplacement service includes creating a familiar and comfortable environment for the executive.
dedicated support team
While highly skilled in their roles and knowledgeable in their industries, most professionals, especially executives, do not spend a lot of time planning to search for a new job. Therefore, they usually start an outplacement programme not understanding the nuances of the contemporary job search, online reputation management, or, least of all, CV writing. Many may not even know how to leverage social networking in the context of personal branding or landing a new role. At RiseSmart, The executive works with the coach to make strategic decisions and also has access to a team of other experts and specialists to help put those decisions into practice.
This includes a relationship manager who acts as a personal concierge and liaison with the Executive Outplacement Team to ensure seamless delivery of services. A certified Personal Branding Expert will carefully craft a CV or resume, write social media profiles, executive bios or cover letters. And a dedicated job concierge will research target organisations, networking contacts, facilitate introductions to relevant executive search firms and uncover tailored job leads.
A successful executive outplacement process starts with the quality of the preparation that executives undertake before they launch their search, as well as the quality of service they receive to help them effectively orchestrate and execute a plan to quickly land a new position. They are used to high-level planning while relying on a team for execution and reporting. Having a dedicated team to help the executive discover where they want to go next, formulate a plan of attack, and execute on that plan can make all the difference.
an executive outplacement services checklist
Some of the extended outplacement support services that executives find most valuable are:
- Assessment tools, used by the coach to help the executive gain a deeper understanding of their value, their style, their goals
- Specialist writers who can help implement the executive’s personal brand in a CV and LinkedIn profile
- A digital/social media footprint report – an assessment of the executive's current personal brand, which can highlight any issues, so they can be included in the coaching agenda
- A job concierge sourcing potential market opportunities that fit the executive’s future role brief
- Local and global networks – access to other executives, alumni and industry experts for advice, perspectives and insights
- Technology platforms for access to supporting resources, market insights, research and thought leadership articles
- Onboarding support to ensure a smooth transition into the executive’s new role or new career.
making a difference
Outplacement services can make a real difference to an individual’s life, career and outlook. Times of transition provide a strategic opportunity to regroup and reconsider, before moving on stronger than ever. The coach’s key goal is to set the executive up for career success – giving them the opportunity to find a role suited to their skills, a role where they can succeed and be as effective as possible.
Simon sums it up:
“I’ve had executives say to me: ‘Outplacement has let me re-discover my purpose, my identity. I am happy, emotionally’. That’s the point at which I know they will get their desired outcome. That’s when I see that they have embraced the transition as an opportunity to re-energise, refuel and reframe in a way that equips them to re-engage with their future and career. And that is a very successful outcome”.
demand more of your executive outplacement provider
Randstad RiseSmart is the world's fastest growing career transition and talent mobility company. We are experts in executive outplacement, providing a dedicated team of four to support each executive in transition, along with an industry-leading platform with patented SmartMatch technology.
Contact us now to find out more about our superior executive outplacement support.