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Home / Blog / Using Outplacement Services After a Layoff: A Guide for HR Professionals

Using Outplacement Services After a Layoff: A Guide for HR Professionals

How outplacement services support employees during a downsizing, and how to pick your provider.

Miriam Groom
Leader of Human Capital Consulting at KPMG with 15+ years in Global Talent Acquisition, Organizational and Industrial Therapy, and the founder of MindfulCareer
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What are Outplacement Services?

Outplacement services are professional support services companies provide to their departing employees, typically in the context of layoffs or job termination. These services aim to assist these individuals in transitioning to new job opportunities efficiently and respectfully.

In today's dynamic business environment, organizational restructuring is a common phenomenon. Restructuring often leads to workforce adjustments, i.e., a layoff or reduction in force (RIF). In these situations, outplacement services emerge as a crucial resource. This article covers the key points you need to know before contracting an outplacement service provider.

In This Article

At their core, outplacement services represent a company’s commitment to its workforce's well-being, even as it undergoes necessary changes. These services range from career counseling and resume writing to job search assistance and interview coaching.

More sophisticated programs go a step further. An outplacement service may offer behavioral profiling and psychometric assessments to align an individual’s career aspirations with the market reality.

Understanding that every career transition is unique, outplacement services are not just about finding a new job. They are about redefining career trajectories, reassessing professional goals, and aligning them with personal strengths and market opportunities. This comprehensive approach ensures that transitions are not just successful but also fulfilling.

Understanding the Value of Outplacement Services

Benefits for Employers

  • Maintaining Brand Reputation: Implementing outplacement services reflects an organization's commitment to ethical practices and corporate responsibility during downsizing. It demonstrates to the remaining staff and the external world that the company values its employees, enhancing its brand reputation.
  • Reducing Legal Risks: By providing support during transitions, companies minimize the risk of potential legal actions from disgruntled former employees. Outplacement services can ease the tension and negative feelings associated with layoffs.
  • Boosting Morale and Productivity: Seeing their former colleagues receive support for the remaining workforce can alleviate anxiety. This reassurance can also boost employee morale and, consequently, increase productivity. It sends a positive message that the organization cares for its people, which can be crucial for employee retention.
  • Networking Opportunities: Former employees who land successful roles in other organizations can become valuable networking contacts, potentially opening doors to business opportunities and partnerships.

Benefits for Employees

  • Career Reorientation: Outplacement services help individuals reassess their career goals and find paths that align with their skills and aspirations. This career assessment and realignment process is crucial, especially for those who have been in a role for an extended period.
  • Skill Enhancement: Employees gain access to various resources, including workshops and training sessions, which help them enhance their skills and increase their employability.
  • Personalized Support: One-on-one coaching sessions via a career transition service provide a customized approach, addressing each individual's specific needs and concerns. This tailored guidance can be instrumental in navigating the emotional and practical aspects of job searching.
  • Networking Guidance: Outplacement solutions often include networking advice and introductions for job seekers, helping individuals tap into new job markets and opportunities.
  • Psychological Support: The transition from losing a job to finding a new one can be stressful. Outplacement services offer psychological support, helping individuals maintain a positive outlook during their job search.

The Role of HR in Layoff Situations

During a layoff, the Human Resources (HR) department must balance the organization's needs with empathy and support for the affected employees. HR's involvement is multifaceted, from the initial planning stages of layoffs to the final execution and beyond.

Here are some functions that fall on an HR team’s plate during downsizing.

Strategic Planning: HR is instrumental in planning the layoff process, ensuring it aligns with the company's long-term goals while minimizing negative impact.

Communication Strategy: It’s HR’s job to develop clear and compassionate communication strategies to inform employees about the layoffs, ensuring transparency and reducing uncertainty.

Legal Compliance: HR ensures that the layoff process complies with all legal requirements and employment laws, protecting the company from potential lawsuits.

Emotional Support and Counseling: Providing emotional support and counseling to departing and remaining employees is a crucial role of HR. This helps manage morale and maintain a positive work environment post-layoff.

Coordination of Outplacement Services: HR liaises with outplacement service providers to ensure smooth and effective support for transitioning employees.

An exiting employee receiving career guidance from an outplacement service provider.

Choosing the Right Outplacement Provider

Selecting an appropriate outplacement provider is critical to the success of the transition process for both the organization and its employees.

While cost shouldn't be the only factor, choosing a service that offers good value for the investment is essential. Look for providers that provide a range of services, from resume writing to career counseling, interview coaching, and job search assistance. The provider should be able to tailor their services to meet the specific needs of your employees and your industry.

Evaluate the provider's history and expertise in successfully assisting in career transitions, especially in your industry. Consider providers with a proven track record of using advanced technology. Also, ensure they can offer a wealth of resources to aid in job searches and skills development.

Ask for testimonials from the service’s past clients. Ask about the quality of individual coaches and their ability to connect with and support employees.

In-house vs. Outsourced Outplacement Services

Deciding between in-house and outsourced outplacement services depends on several factors:

In-house services can be more integrated with the company’s culture and may offer a higher level of personalization. However, they might lack the breadth of resources and expertise that specialized providers offer.

Outsourced services (professional outplacement firms) bring specialized expertise and a wide array of resources. They often have a broader network and more extensive job market insights, which can be crucial for effective career transitions.

Whether in-house or outsourced, the selected outplacement service should align with the company’s objectives and the needs of its employees, facilitating a smooth and supportive transition.

Crafting an Effective Outplacement Strategy

Developing an effective outplacement strategy goes beyond mere job search assistance; it encompasses comprehensive support tailored to individual needs during a layoff. Key components include:

Needs Assessment: Start by assessing the specific needs of your employees. Understand their career levels, aspirations, and the challenges they might face in the job market.

Stakeholder Engagement: Involve all key stakeholders, including HR, leadership, and the chosen outplacement provider, to ensure a cohesive approach.

Clear Communication: Maintain transparent and empathetic communication throughout the process. Keeping employees informed helps mitigate anxiety and confusion.

Tailored Support Programs: The outplacement assistance should include the development of customized programs that optimize resources for the diverse needs of your employees. One-size-fits-all approaches are less effective in addressing individual career goals.

Continuous Monitoring and Feedback: Regularly monitor the progress of the outplacement program and be open to feedback. Adjust strategies as needed to maximize effectiveness.

Employee Support Through Outplacement

Outplacement services play a vital role in supporting employees through the transition.

Emotional and Psychological Support

Layoffs can be emotionally taxing. Providing counseling and emotional support is crucial in helping laid-off employees cope with the stress and uncertainty caused by job losses. This support can include access to professional counselors, support groups, and stress management resources.

Personalized Career Guidance

Exiting employees benefit from one-on-one career counseling sessions tailored to their unique skills, experience, and career aspirations. This personalized career coaching service approach helps them identify suitable new career paths and opportunities.

Resume-Building, Interview Coaching, and Job Search Assistance

Practical tools and training are vital. Resume-building services ensure that employees present their skills and personal brand effectively. It can include advice on optimizing their online presence and social media, for example, setting up a well-worded and professional-looking LinkedIn profile.

Interview coaching prepares them for the application and hiring process, and job search assistance helps them navigate the job market efficiently. This can include access to job boards, networking events, and introductions to potential employers.

Measuring the Success of Your Outplacement Service

We must have clear metrics and success criteria to gauge how effective an outplacement program is. Here are my recommendations.

Re-employment Rate: The percentage of employees who secure new jobs within a certain period.

Employee Satisfaction: Feedback from participants on the support and resources provided.

Duration of Job Search: The average time it takes for participants to find new employment.

Quality of New Employment: Assessing whether the new roles align with the employee’s career goals and aspirations.

Return on Investment (ROI): Evaluating the program's cost against the benefits, such as reduced legal risks and maintained employer brand.

Take a look at this video for more thoughts on tracking the success of your outplacement efforts.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

When implementing outplacement services, legal and ethical considerations are paramount:

You must ensure the layoff process and outplacement services comply with all relevant employment legislation. At the same time, it is critical to maintain the confidentiality of all participants' personal and professional information.

Review laws and internal contractual obligations regarding severance packages, unemployment benefits, and other aspects of termination. A discrepancy can easily lead to legal action and damage the company’s reputation. One of the benefits of outplacement service providers is they’ve dealt with these legalities plenty of times. You can trust your provider to anticipate and counteract legal snags resulting from termination.

It is also critical to keep DEI front of mind during the layoff process. Outplacement services should be offered equitably to all eligible employees, regardless of their position or background.

FAQs about Outplacement Processes

Q: What types of services are included in outplacement?

A: Outplacement services can include career counseling, resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, job search assistance, and more.

Q: How long do outplacement services last?

A: The duration can vary, typically from a few weeks to several months, depending on the package the employer offers.

Q: Is outplacement counseling helpful for all levels of employees?

A: Yes, it benefits employees at all levels, from entry-level to executives, as it is tailored to individual needs.

Final Thought on Outplacement Services

Outplacement services are more than a corporate formality; they are a testament to an organization's commitment to its workforce's future.

By providing these services, companies aid their employees in transitioning to new opportunities and reinforce their reputation as responsible employers. As workplaces continue to evolve, outplacement services remain a key element in managing change, demonstrating an organization's dedication to its most valuable asset: its people.

Miriam Groom
Leader of Human Capital Consulting at KPMG with 15+ years in Global Talent Acquisition, Organizational and Industrial Therapy, and the founder of MindfulCareer
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Miriam Groom is a nationally renowned Industrial & Organizational Therapist and HR Strategist specializing in strategic and innovative talent management & workforce transformation strategies that are highly employee-centric. Being employee-centric means that she focuses on gathering in-depth data-driven insights and analytics via various assessments and systems that drive every strategy she leads, including ones for organizational design, workforce planning and shaping, talent acquisition, employee retention, engagement, performance, leadership development, and succession planning; thus making them highly personalized, practical and impactful.

She is currently the Leader of Human Capital Consulting and Management at KPMG Canada. She previously ran a national recruitment firm for 15 years called Groom & Associates and founded many organizations, such as a national career counseling practice called Mindful Career. She regularly publishes articles on the subject and is an influencer on linked in.

Her unique perspective comes from:

-15+ years in Global Talent Acquisition, leading a national professional recruitment firm

-5+ years in corporate Human Capital Consulting, specializing in Talent Management and Workforce Transformation 

-A Master's degree in Counseling, Psychology, and Industrial Psychology 

-Being a Licensed Psychometric Counsellor

-Being a Licensed Naturotherapist, by the Quebec Naturotherapist Association (ANQ)

-Accreditation for Integrative Holistic Health Coaching (INHC)

Also featured in: Medium, Noomii, SBBC

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