Steps to Downsizing with an Outplacement Program

Though it may not have occurred to you if your firm is currently experiencing difficult circumstances, making use of an outplacement service can help to strengthen the relationship between your firm and its departing employees.  In spite of the fact that economic or other circumstances may have required that you ask an employee or group of employees to leave your firm, you can show your understanding of the difficult transition they’re about to undertake, and at the same time you can thank them for their previous service to your company.  This can be accomplished by providing outplacement services to ensure they are provided with the tools to move on to the next phase of their careers as quickly as possible.

Historically when most companies downsize, they send employees off with a severance package and little else.  However, companies that want to do right by their former employees enlist the aid of an outplacement firm to help displaced employees transition quickly into new jobs, or advise them on alternate career paths that can lead them to exciting new opportunities.  

And as beneficial as this service may be for the employees, surprising to most employers, it’s also good for the company.  Benefits provided to the firm from an outplacement program can include public enhancement of the company’s image, aiding the company in its reorganization efforts, and reducing the risk of legal liability from downsized employees or government entities who decide that the company did not act in good faith in its downsizing process.

If your company is in a position where it is considering a layoff, I encourage you to consider the following action steps as you finalize your plans.

Action Steps

Hire an outplacement service company or consultant – Outplacement firms assist not only in helping employees transition out of the company, but also in helping the company understand the legal issues regarding employee termination. Outplacement firms provide career coaches that work one-on-one with employees by helping them to update their resumes, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and prepare for new career opportunities.  If you’re undertaking a company-wide layoff, outplacement firms can handle the transition process for a single employee, for dozens or even hundreds of employees. And due to their experience, such companies know the type of services and support that former employees need most during this time, as well as ways to make the layoff process easier for both employer and employee.

Make an alumni program part of your outplacement strategy  – Though circumstances may require you to lay off employees in your current situation, you may find your firm needing to rehire them if the company’s financial state improves, the economic climate changes, or if new positions open up for which their skills (and existing company knowledge) would be transferable.   Adding an alumni program to your planned outplacement services allows you stay connected to valued former employees while also providing them with a way to stay in touch with colleagues and friends for support during their transition and beyond.


8 Responses to “Steps to Downsizing with an Outplacement Program”

  1. David Reimer Says:

    Great points, and I would just add three quick notes. First, when choosing an outplacement contractor for the first time, make sure to ask questions about how their services have been modified to help individuals in this economy. Second, make sure you’ve pre-defined what “success” of will look like for you, the outplacement consultant or company, and the employee(s) you’re laying off. Make sure you’re not writing a check without some kind of pre-defined outcome.

    Third, and finally, your point about creating an alumni association is spot on, and easier than ever in today’s world. Use LinkedIn, or one of the other professional networking sites (as opposed to pure social networking sites) to start the alumni forum yourself. It’s easy, relatively free (aside from minimal staff time to maintain), and when this economy turns around, will prove one of your most valuable talent pools.

    David Reimer

    • StrategicGrowth Says:

      Hi David –

      Thanks for your comments and added suggestions. I see you’re with DBM which probably explains why we’re so much in agreement – much of my thoughts on this topic were gained when I worked as a consultant to DBM on a couple of large contracts. Thanks again for your participation.

      Linda Daichendt

  2. Aimee Day Says:

    One key aspect not mentioned in your article was technology, which exiting employees are requesting more than ever. They want 24 hour access to tools that will empower them to proactively market themselves to future employers. While the human-element, coaching services etc. are important for many exiting employees, the cost of those services can be prohibitive to many companies, and scaling those services to reach all employees is a further challenge. Rather than letting goodwill exit with an employee at any level, providing them access to scalable, online career tools is a cost-effective, win/win for both the employees and employers. Optimal Resume is the leading provider, our site is

  3. Holly Says:

    Aimee makes a great point. People in transition want to be able to access their career transition information at any point in time. Technology is just one aspect of the outplacement process. When considering an outplacement service you should also be looking at one that is connected to the community too. This will allow not only technology resources that can support those in transition 24/7 but also help them put their new tools to work in the community they will eventually be working in.

  4. Steps to Downsizing with an Outplacement Program: Outplacement Layoff Says:

    […] post:  Steps to Downsizing with an Outplacement Program Tags: Career Jobs, currently-experiencing, difficult-circumstances, firm, making-use, may-not, […]

  5. Courtney Pike Says:

    Great article!

    Deciding to deliver outplacement is the easy step. Choosing an outplacement firm is a little more complex. Here are a few tips for choosing a firm:

    •CREDENTIALS. It’s important that your employees in transition work with qualified and accomplished consultants who posses advanced degrees as well as experience in human resources, counseling, and business. It’s a huge plus if the company is recognized in the media as a trusted career source and if the company has a solid foundation in the human resources industry.

    •SERVICES. This is the hallmark of the outplacement package. Find out if the firm offers individual services or group workshops. Of course, the more hands-on and the more one-on-one services, the better. Making a career transition is a difficult and complex process, and each person needs a specific and individualized plan. Shy away from firms who seem to offer a cookie-cutter approach.

    •FLEXIBILITY. Discover if all employees must go into an office to complete the services, or if they have the option of conducting some consultations remotely. Look for firms with less overhead and bureaucracy that can customize packages to best fit the needs of your company and your impacted employees.

    •RESULTS. Obviously, you want your departing employees to have a positive experience, to be engaged, and to be placed quickly. Ask for the company’s engagement rates and customer satisfaction statistics to find our more about their results and success stories.

    •COST. Some outplacement firms charge by time period no matter how many services are used. Firms priced by service usually deliver more value for your employees. There are even some firms that only charge for services rendered which usually reaps the highest ROI.

    While considering these themes, ask your prospects the following questions to help you pinpoint which outplacement company is the right fit. Here are a few questions you can ask:

    1. What are the credentials of the consultants who will work with our employees? Do you specialize in a certain field or industry?

    2. How much one-on-one work do our employees receive?

    3. Do you write the resumes for our employees? What does the career coaching service entail?

    4. Do our employees work with the same consultant throughout the process? How many candidates does each of your consultants work with?

    5. Do you give our departing employees advice on how to use online job boards and social media networks in the job search?

    6. What is the cost? How does the payment process work? Do you base your prices on the services or a time period?

    7. Are you able to accommodate people anywhere in the country? Do our employees have to visit a physical location to use the outplacement services, or can they conduct consultations over the phone?

    8. What is the engagement rate of past clients?

    9. What makes you different than other outplacement firms?

    10.Why would my company and my employees be happy we chose you as our outplacement firm?

    Finally, your conversations and experience with the outplacement firm during the fact-finding stage should give you clues on which company is right for you. No matter how big or small your company is, you should receive amazing customer service, diligent responses, and stellar follow through.

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