Here's everything you know about choosing the right outplacement services provider.

No organisation wants to let go of its valued employees and top employers understand the importance of supporting a successful career transition for impacted individuals following a redundancy. Empathetic employers that are committed to embracing their corporate values offer outplacement services to help departing employees land their next role. Following a redundancy or workforce restructuring, outplacement support is provided at no cost to employees and through this support, an individual can receive a freshly written, targeted and optimised CV and social profile, personal career coaching and access to highly targeted job leads.

how does outplacement work?

In addition to helping employees land their next role, offering outplacement support can help organisations reduce costs, protect their employer brand, retain employees and drive productivity among remaining staff, along with other benefits. Outplacement is offered through a third-party provider in most cases, and while there are many options and partners available, it’s important to know what to look for in an effective outplacement programme.

in this guide

Employers have offered outplacement support to employees in one form or another since the mid-1960s and these solutions continue to evolve to meet the needs of the changing world of work. In this guide, we’ll share an overview of everything you need to know about outplacement and its benefits to your organisation and employees. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • the origins of outplacement
  • how work is evolving
  • the modern job search
  • contemporary outplacement
  • what outplacement looks like from the perspective of both HR and employees
  • the cost and business value of outplacement
  • how outplacement compares to other options

related content: how to choose the best outplacement services partner

the origins of outplacement

To understand how outplacement has evolved, it’s helpful to learn about its history. Following World War II, Bernard Haldane designed and delivered a counselling service to help veterans find work after a long absence. The structure of how this service was delivered didn’t change much by the time the term ‘outplacement’ was first coined in the 1960s. Around this time, an increasing number of businesses were laying off workers and outplacement programmes were developed to minimise the impact on former employees having to return to the job market. Prior to the 1960s, individuals often joined companies with an unspoken agreement – once hired, the employees remained with the same company for their entire career and, in turn, companies supported them through retirement.

career coaching takes off

When the world of work began to change in the 1960s, the career counselling service that was conceived post-WWII was expanded to include consulting with management about redundancy best practices in addition to the traditional counselling services for individuals in transition. Workforce reductions were a new concept in the UK and as a result, there was a stigma associated with being made redundant. In response, companies began to support outplacement being used to help individuals mask their lack of employment by providing an office for them to report to every day. Once at the office, these individuals had the opportunity to attend career training workshops or simply use the telephone, typewriters and other office equipment necessary for conducting a job search. Since many of these individuals had only looked for work one other time in their lives, support centred around finding a similar position in the same industry at another company.

Since outplacement was initially introduced, the world of work, how and when people find a new job and what individuals are looking for in their next career move has changed dramatically. While some outplacement providers have adapted their support to meet the needs of the modern workforce, the basic structure of traditional, outdated outplacement models still exists among some of the largest outplacement service providers today.

Traditional outplacement services were offered in an office setting during standard work hours.

how work is evolving

Over the past decade or so, outplacement services have significantly advanced. The entrance of a new kind of provider started an evolution that is still taking place today. Understanding how and why innovations began to take hold in outplacement begins by looking at the changing world of work. While some people still follow a traditional nine to five, Monday to Friday work week, this business model has changed dramatically for many employees, especially with the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and the expectation that many people will follow a hybrid model of in-office and remote work in the near future. To boost employee engagement, many companies also offer  more flexibility with working hours, with some people starting the workday earlier, ending later or blocking time during the day to handle personal and family obligations.

Behind the changes in how we work are the advances in technology that have eased communication, laid the foundation for virtual work and eliminated the need for physical presence in the office. The advent of video chat and other online communication platforms have made it easier to conduct business anywhere and at any time. 

why we work is changing

Shifts in why we work have been transforming the workplace and given way to shorter periods of employment at one company, as well as trends such as the gig economy and boomerang employees. No longer are individuals looking to simply collect a pay cheque. Now, purpose, alignment with personal values and the need to see how individual effort contributes to overall corporate and societal goals have driven people to question the types of work they do and for whom. Instead of accepting that their work life activities are separate from their personal identity, people are looking for opportunities to make their work a reflection of themselves and their values.

related content: prioritising career wellness in 2021.

Given widespread changes in the world of work, in recent years, new service providers in the outplacement space have emerged to support the modern workforce through contemporary outplacement.

adapting to the modern job search

Just as the world of work has undergone dramatic change, so has the job market. Mirroring the changes in how we work, a job search is no longer a nine to five endeavour that must be conducted from an office. Online vacancy listings and application processes have opened the door to less structured searches. Now, individuals are looking at job listings on their mobile device while sitting in a café or on a train. They may decide to submit CVs and applications after dinner or at the weekends. Even interviewing has evolved to include video interviews and phone pre-screens, which can be taken from home or other locations.

It's no longer necessary to go to a physical location to use office equipment during the search. Mobile devices have brought the world to our fingertips. Not only can we search for jobs, but we can also apply online, conduct phone interviews and complete video chats from any location we choose. Meetings don’t have to be scheduled around travel time and individuals don’t have to spend time driving from location to location. As a result, career coaching and job search activities can now be conducted in the comfort of your own home, at times convenient to you and delivered on an individual basis. However, in many instances, the outplacement support offered today still does not reflect this job search evolution and require individuals to conform to the constraints of time and location.

contemporary outplacement

Rather than being tied down to an office, contemporary outplacement services leverage technology to provide virtual support, enabling all career transition services to be offered by phone, email, video conferencing and online resources. The contemporary outplacement model has taken the outdated prototype of the 1960s and transformed services to meet the needs of today’s job seekers, businesses and HR departments.

Modern technology has made it possible for outplacement services and career transition support to be offered virtually.

Contemporary outplacement provides technology solutions, personalised support and expert advice to organisations and the executives and HR leaders within these organisations who are concerned about the implications of workforce transformation on employer brand, employee engagement and overall company success. Unlike older models, contemporary outplacement seamlessly delivers a combination of high-touch services and high-tech solutions to exiting employees who are moving into, through and out of organisations.

To learn more about this shift from in-person to virtual services, let’s take a deeper look at the specifics of contemporary outplacement support for both employers and employees. While consulting for organisations undergoing change has traditionally been a part of the outplacement model, contemporary solutions enable HR and business leaders to gain better transparency into overall programme success.

technology and expert advice for HR

While many of today’s outplacement providers offer technology-based solutions and career coaching, it's important to have a full understanding of the scope and quality of services offered. The most effective outplacement services are consistent, high-quality and scalable, and provide a truly seamless, easy experience for both participants and HR.

Contemporary outplacement technology such as Randstad RiseSmart Insight™ provides HR teams with access to a complete system of record for real-time performance tracking and analysis, making it possible to securely transmit data, manage and edit impacted employee lists and receive live updates and notifications. In addition, alumni sentiment ratings and access to alumni employee comments enable today’s HR departments to proactively protect and maintain a positive employer brand image. In this contemporary outplacement model, HR leaders can get the current, actionable data they need to make better business decisions and ensure that the outplacement support they provide is driving the desired results. Some metrics that can be tracked include:

  • programme utilisation and engagement
  • satisfaction rates
  • landing rates within the timeframe outplacement is offered
  • percentage of outplacement participants who find new jobs with equal or better pay
  • brand sentiment

No matter the size of the organisation, it can be complicated and time consuming for HR departments to manage times of change on their own. With contemporary outplacement, there is no need. The right outplacement provider offers a dedicated team of experts that acts as a true business partner to help HR plan, execute and recover from redundancy and restructuring events. Through manager notification and resiliency training for both managers and remaining staff, contemporary outplacement firms assume much of the burden of these often stressful events.

how contemporary outplacement benefits employees

While contemporary outplacement services focus on virtual solutions rather than in-person meetings, exiting employees still need connection and personalised service. In fact, after a redundancy or involuntary separation from a company, individuals often feel more vulnerable and emotional and can benefit from added support and guidance to navigate the job market.

Understanding that exiting employees often go through a grieving process and need time and resources to discover the options open to them and their personal desires, contemporary outplacement models offer one-to-one career coaching models instead of group workshops. Mirroring the way work is done today, transition coaching is delivered at the convenience of the job seeker via phone or video chat – providing the most responsive coaching model available in outplacement today. Individuals can easily schedule meetings with their career coach via a technology platform and at a time that’s convenient for them.

Randstad RiseSmart's industry-leading approach

Through Randstad RiseSmart’s contemporary career transition support, everyone that has been referred to us by their former employer is armed with a team of three dedicated career professionals and supported by innovative, award-winning technology that has been built from the ground up to provide an integrated and easily scaled solution.

Here is an overview of the high-touch support available:

  • Personal coaching: each transitioning employee is partnered with an expert career coach based on functional and industry experience, not on geographic location. These coaches help individuals assess their skills, navigate the job search, prepare for interviews, and more.
  • Professional branding: a professional brand expert partners with each job seeker to create a customised CV and cover letter. This includes optimising CVs and profiles for the keywords recruiters and applicant tracking software (ATS) systems are searching for. Branding experts have functional and industry expertise and work closely with career coaches and participants to make sure branding materials are compelling and accurate.
  • Expert job concierge: looking through job leads is time consuming and transitioning employees aren’t necessarily aware of all the new opportunities available to them. As a contemporary outplacement provider, we match impacted employees with a personal career concierge who sources and delivers relevant job leads based on the individual’s experience, skills and personal career preferences.
  • Access to recruiters: As a part of Randstad, one of the leading HR services companies globally and through our public-facing talent directories, we provide job seekers with access to recruiters around the world.

To support these services, modern outplacement now includes technology that creates a connection between the job seeker and the resources and support required to land a job in today’s market. Benefits of a robust high-tech solution, such as RiseSmart Spotlight™, which was developed specifically for transitioning employees, include:

  • Semantically-matched and ranked job opportunities using AI: intelligently-ranked job leads are delivered on-demand to job seekers through a proprietary algorithm that narrows the results to match the individual’s intent and context.
  • Contact discovery engine: networking is still one of the best ways to find a job, especially given that may jobs are never advertised but are part of the hidden job market. Through a contact discovery engine, job seekers find the people they know with whom they should initiate conversations as well as those people that they don’t already know but should. RiseSmart’s networking capabilities allow participants to grow their networks by connecting with other job seekers and alumni who’ve been through our outplacement programmes. Job seekers receive suggestions for whom they can network with based on their profile
  • Resources: preparing for interviews, negotiating salaries, and standing out from the competition means participants have all the tools and best practices at their fingertips. In addition to expert one-to-one coaching, individuals in a contemporary outplacement programme have access to content, webinars, workshops, assessments, and research and market analysis information to assist with their job search.
  • Reskilling and upskilling: The right outplacement services provider will offer programme participants a skills gap analysis to provide them with a strategic roadmap to upskill and reskill efficiently, as well as access to courses and other experiential learning opportunities and assistance in developing a learning plan and staying on track.

cost of outplacement

The cost of outplacement services varies depending on the needs of the company and the professional level of those impacted. Some variables that determine the cost include the number of exiting employees and the level of services offered to people – such as amount of coaching time, CV critique versus CV writing and length of time support is available. Other factors to consider are any additional services and programmes – such as career development and related programmes for those remaining – and discounts offered by outplacement firms, often based on volume. The right outplacement services provider will offer flexibility and customisation based on a company’s needs.

related content: how much do outplacement services cost?

Outplacement offers many business benefits including improved productivity and morale among remaining employees.

value of outplacement

It might seem counterintuitive for an organisation looking to reduce costs through a redundancy programme to provide outplacement services, but in many cases, the business benefits far outweigh the costs. To name a few, some of the benefits of offering outplacement support include:

  • Drive a positive experience for impacted employees: the absence of outplacement services and other means of supporting exiting employees can lead to unexpected costs for your organisation. If those being made redundant have a negative experience, they might share this experience on social media or employee review sites like Glassdoor, which will place your organisation in a negative light and make it more difficult – and costly – to recruit qualified employees down the road.
  • Improve productivity and morale among remaining employees: by maintaining transparency in all communications, making it clear to remaining employees that their colleagues were let go through no fault of their own and highlighting how your organisation is assisting exiting employees through outplacement services, you can maintain morale and productivity at a time when many employees are feeling added stress.
  • Protect your employer and corporate brand: providing support for people being made redundant during a restructuring reflects well on a company’s employer brand and overall reputation. Companies that build a reputation for treating their people well during challenging times will be employers of choice when business and hiring pick back up, making it easier to acquire qualified talent. A positive brand reputation can also help companies attract new business from customers who want to partner with a company that lives up to its values.

how outplacement compares to other career transition options

When employees make personal career moves – whether within or outside your organisation – there are many options available to support a smooth transition. Below, we’ve highlighted how outplacement services differ from some other common career transition options.

outplacement vs severance

There is a wide range of what constitutes severance and outplacement from company to company and industry to industry. Severance pay is often granted to employees upon termination of employment and eligibility is usually based on length of employment. Severance pay and outplacement are among some of the support options that can be offered to departing employees, which might also include continued healthcare coverage, retirement benefits, payment of bonuses and life insurance.  

Top employers understand that there is both an immediate and longer-term benefit to providing the means for a smooth career transition for their former employees – whether this is through severance, outplacement or other benefits offered as part of an exit package.

outplacement vs redeployment

Redundancies are often one of the last steps organisations take when they need to restructure their workforce or reduce personnel-related costs. Agile businesses understand the benefits of tapping into redeployment to retain employees while adapting the workforce to evolving business needs.

Redeployment enables companies to move current employees to other internal roles or assignments, either on a temporary or permanent basis, based on business need. By tapping into redeployment, in the short term, organisations can benefit from moving employees from low-demand work to busier, high-demand areas of the business, while also broadening the capabilities of their workforce and promoting a growth mindset that is critical to agility.

In the long-term, redeploying employees to other areas of the business can help organisations preserve jobs, maintain institutional knowledge and save time and substantial costs. These include expenditures and time spent onboarding new employees, providing benefits packages and getting new employees up to speed and full productivity once hiring picks back up. Redeployment can also help employees find a new job within an organisation that might better align with their skills and passions, ultimately boosting retention and engagement and helping the organisation grow its workforce capabilities for greater business agility

outplacement vs career development

Like redeployment, career development can help organisations retain employees and drive engagement, while evolving their skill sets and capabilities to meet changing business needs. Companies invest significantly in recruiting, onboarding and training their employees. Once on board, if these employees don’t see an opportunity for continued growth and development, they will become disengaged and might even seek a new role elsewhere. If businesses don’t have a strategy in place to develop their talent on an ongoing basis, employees’ skills will become outdated, which will negatively impact their long-term employability and readiness to drive results for your business as it evolves.

Through effective career development, all employees can have access to a career development platform and the option to participate in workshops, complete career assessments, receive personal career coaching, and gain access to strategic reskilling and upskilling resources, along with other benefits. An integrated and scalable technology platform enables organisations to cost-effectively provide these services to all employees for maximum impact. When career development and skilling is available to all employees, companies can discover the hidden gems in their workforce and build an equitable and inclusive workforce.

the future of outplacement

The world of work is changing faster than ever before, as are the needs of businesses and employees. Contemporary outplacement solution providers are poised on the leading edge of these changes with innovative solutions to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Instead of only taking into consideration what worked in the past, these service providers are in touch with what HR leaders and the employees they represent need to navigate organisational change with confidence, ease and positive results. 

Submitted by:

Beth Kempton

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03 February 2021

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