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Outplacement is a generic term that covers career and emotional support for people who lose their jobs.  The process is also often referred to as career transition, or the process of supporting individuals as they move from one job to another

The difference between outplacement and career advice is that it embraces an element of counselling to help people come to terms with the many emotions that are triggered by redundancy or job loss.  Loss of self- esteem or self-worth, feelings of isolation and despair are common and whilst difficult to cope with in themselves may also compound the problem by hindering the search for a new job.

A report by Hays management consultants published in 2010 revealed that over 80 per cent of employees thought it ought to be compulsory for organisations to provide outplacement support should employees lose their jobs.  However the same survey also found that 73 per cent do not receive such services mainly because there was not the internal will to provide it of managers thought it unimportant. 

Although making outplacement compulsory might be a step too far, certainly giving employees support and counselling at a very difficult time to enable them to come to terms with their job loss and get back into work as quickly as possible, can be a positive investment.  As well as mitigating the unfortunate circumstances of redundancy for departing employees, it sends a positive message to those left behind that the organisation is committed to treating people as well and as fairly as it can reasonably afford to. 

This is especially important because redundancy does not only affect those that lose their jobs.  Those still in employment often feel guilty about friends that are departing, they feel under pressure to perform and take on additional tasks and insecurity that their job too might be at risk.  This so-called “survivor syndrome” is often characterised by a lack of performance among remaining staff, an unwillingness to take risks, higher stress and consequently sickness and lower levels of employee  engagement.  Ultimately it may result in the best talent quickly following the redundant employees out the door as they start to question the sustainability of the organisation and search for more congenial and secure work opportunities.

It’s also true that whilst people don’t (usually) seek redundancy, it can prove for many an invigorating career catalyst enabling them to think about what they really want from their working life and focus on taking the positive steps needs to realise career aspirations.  Outplacement, done well, can certainly help turn the negative experience of redundancy into a positive career re-evaluation or even point people in a new and more fulfilling career direction.

This may be particularly relevant for public sector employees trying to move into the private sector.  Not only are they likely to experience a different culture, they may also have to convince private sector recruiters of their commercial relevance and their ability to apply their skills in a different business model. Again outplacement can help not just with identifying opportunities but also with the preparation to market skills effectively.

Getting people back to work quickly after redundancy is a laudable aim for both organisations and the economy so investing in a bit of support not only to help them with the job hunt but to equip them to develop the resilience to bounce back is likely to pay off several fold.

Written by Angela Baron
Monday, 21 May 2012 9:09

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