Unprecedented challenges confront the American worker in 2020. The dual forces of the pandemic and the phenomenon that is artificial intelligence have compelled companies to lay off workers in record numbers on a continuing basis.
When faced with terminating employees as a last resort, companies should consider offering outplacement services in addition to a severance package. Outplacement counseling helps terminated workers regain their confidence and move forward with hope and optimism into their future. Providing this strategic guidance at such a crucial time in their career also reflects well on the company reputation and will bolster the morale and sense of loyalty of the remaining employees.
Loss of Identity and Self Confidence
For most workers, losing a job is a crisis not only because of the potential depletion of income and loss of health insurance, but also because such a disruption in the career flow often deals a serious blow to self-esteem and may affect mental health. Work contributes greatly to an individual’s sense of identity. The skills and talents we employ in our jobs build confidence and the opportunity to engage as an integral part of a larger community. Losing a well-established job or career can also result in emotional upheaval for an exit employee, which can cycle into a debilitating depression.
Five Stages of Grief
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist, identified five stages of Death and Dying to help a patient and family members come to terms with a terminal illness. These stages can be easily applied to exit employees offering a better understanding of the impact of job loss.
Denial – In this stage, individuals can’t process the layoff as reality and have a deep sense of disbelief. “There must be a mistake” or “How could this happen?” Shock sets in when the nervous system, completely taken by surprise causes the individual to become temporarily immobilized and unable to take normal actions.
Anger – When shock and disbelief wears off, the second stage replaces denial with anger. There is a need to blame something or someone for the loss. “How could my boss do this to me after I put in so many hours?” An individual might imagine how they can t seek revenge against a boss or the organization. This can be productive in working out anger as long as it not acted on.
Bargaining –The third stage involves the hope that you can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. “I’d give anything to have my job back even it meant working longer hours” Or: “If I had just taken more initiative, I might still have my job.”
Depression– During the fourth stage, there is a deep sadness about the job loss and despair about whether you will find another job. In this state, the individual may become withdrawn losing hope and confidence. “ I will never find as good of a job as my last one” or “I no longer have the qualifications to compete in this market”
Acceptance-In this last stage, individuals embrace reality, accept their situation and are ready to move on. “I will update my resume” or “I will start looking for job postings on LinkedIn.” They feel that they have fully experienced the loss, expressed their emotions and now have a deep desire to move on to the next chapter.
How Outplacement Works
Large outplacement firms and career coaching practices support unemployed workers at any stage of grief by allowing some time for workers to process their disbelief, anger and blame. However the main goal of outplacement is to reduce the stress and length of the job search by helping individuals design and implement an effective plan that includes career assessment and job search strategy.
Five Questions to Ask Outplacement Companies
Most outplacement firms and coaching practices offer different packages and the costs vary depending on the resources used and the nature of support needed. Companies should carefully evaluate an outplacement firm to determine if it’s best option for your budget and laid-off employees.
What services are provided and what is the cost? Find out if the outplacement firm helps with the most important areas of job search including resume, LinkedIn profile, creating a professional brand, strengthening networking and interview skills and mapping out a job search strategy. Depending on the services offered, you might be able to negotiate the cost of outplacement services based on the number of exit employees and your budget.
How are services delivered? Today most outplacement firms and coaching practices rely on virtual platforms and can work with clients located across the country or even internationally. Ask the firm if they offer individual and/or group sessions and if webinars are available that provide training on specific job search topics and strategies. Learn more about the tools and technology used so you can be assured that your employees have the best chance of finding a new opportunity.
Who coaches your exit employees? Ask about the experience and credentials of the outplacement coaches. Are they certified? What are their professional backgrounds and experience? Do they understand your industry or related field?
Does the firm have connections? Your exiting employees will be encouraged to network, so contacts are critical to a successful job search strategy. Ask if the firm has connections to recruiters, hiring managers, and senior leaders at other companies.
Are They Successful?
While it is difficult to measure success rates of employment placement, most firms have available data that offers some insight into how many of the exit employees have been re employed. Testimonials can also be useful since they demonstrate how participants felt about their experience with the firm.
It Benefits Your Business
According to Forbes Magazine, laid-off workers who are receiving outplacement services are important ‘press releases’ for your company. A strong company brand is
often a key factor in attracting the most talented top performers. When your company provides outplacement, your exit employees are apt to focus their attention on their continuing career goals instead of remaining stagnant in their anger and frustration. This often reduces the possibility of legal action, which can be costly or the risk of your company being targeted in a harmful way on social media.
Layoffs also affect the morale of those who remain in your company. They worry about their colleagues who are now out of work and wonder if they are next on the chopping block. Knowing their colleagues were supported in finding new jobs does a lot to calm their worries and cultivates company loyalty.
Perhaps the best reason to offer outplacement is because it’s simply the right thing to do.