Career transition is one of the most stressful and complicated pieces of our work lives that, as business leaders, also presents us the opportunity to really make an impact. The HR departments that keep the “human” in human resources and lead with empathy are the most important liaison in your employees’ career transition experiences.

The HR departments that keep the “human” in human resources and lead with empathy are the most important liaison in your employees’ career transition experiences. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR

In a new era of corporate responsibility and transparency, it’s easy to lean on our employer brand, or a “score” made up of employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor, word of mouth, sentiment rankings, and so on. When we put all of the above in second place, it allows our hiring managers and human resources teams to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because of its impact on our employer brand or what others might think.

The right thing for employees goes beyond employer brand

While no one wants to think about the impact a downsizing, reorganization or restructuring will have on the employees who will lose their jobs, we must be prepared to support them in a way that goes above and beyond legal compliance. When we see changes coming down the road that may impact our workforce—no matter how far in the future or how tentative the possibility may be—HR can ensure smoother transitions by putting initiatives in place well ahead of the actual layoff or restructuring events.

While no one wants to think about the impact a downsizing will have on the employees who will lose their jobs, we must be prepared to support them…beyond legal compliance. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR

The best advice for HR leaders about to face a round of layoffs is to be as transparent as possible about the situation and the business decisions that are leading the company to make those tough decisions. This also means taking the lead in programs for post-employee support.

Related content: Layoff Best Practices in a Low Unemployment Economy

I’ve identified three initiatives HR leaders can implement to assist career transitions for employees impacted by organizational changes focused on putting the “human” in human resources.

#1 Post employee support in the form of community

Online communities like company alumni groups on LinkedIn can help employees who are departing the company stay in touch with former managers and coworkers, and be a form of transitional support in the early days. Alumni groups are for employees you’ve had to let go, but would be eligible for rehire in the future, so HR can assist team leaders with offering recommendations on LinkedIn (along with coworkers), and both could be sources of possible job leads. Additionally, alumni groups keep your former employees in the loop with regards to other opportunities at your company for which they may be eligible.

During the offboarding process, HR can encourage transitioning employees to connect with coworkers (if they haven’t already done so on LinkedIn) and join your company alumni network. It may also be helpful to maintain and provide a list of online community groups that are industry or role-specific so your former employees can get support, job opportunities, and advice from those in their field. A great example of this is an Austin-based Facebook Group called “Austin Digital Jobs.” This is an excellent resource with offline meetups, online interaction, and recruiters posting open jobs for the tech community. There are Facebook Groups like this by region, city, industry, and more - and they’re easy to find. Because they’re private groups, members tend to bond at a comfort level they wouldn’t have in public groups on LinkedIn.

#2 Retraining in the form of online classes

Online classes are a great way to help employees and alumni sharpen their skills and get access to different resources and information. During a transition period out of an organization, it’s important to understand the impacted employees’ current skills levels and their career aspirations. If you have an employee with a solid skill set as a business analyst, for example, next steps could range from landing a similar role in a different organization or transferring those skills to a new career. These individuals may want to pursue mastering a skill that will make them more marketable, such as Google Analytics or Adwords certifications. There are many online resources for training and certification, many of them free or very low cost, and you can help by giving your employee a list of these resources.

Related content: Which Online Certificate Courses are Credible for Your Career?

Online venues for sharing information include podcasts and YouTube channels; or sites like SkillShare with a video knowledge base focused by area of expertise; websites or knowledge profiles; or simply a list of industry experts who can be contacted for answers, information, and advice. Most employees, given the opportunity to improve their current skills, will eagerly participate in self-paced training. Some companies will even offer offboarding employees a year’s subscription to these sites (at a cost of around $19.99 annually) to ensure they have access to both free and paid courses.

Retraining and reskilling initiatives are made more powerful when offered through contemporary outplacement services that include a dedicated career coach who can help them identify their next steps and career goals. Many transitioning employees find that leaving their current job due to reorganization or restructuring is an opportunity to make a change, and career coaches are pros at offering direction and advice and serving as resources for identifying next steps and the right online courses. I found this to be true for me. The advice from my company’s vendor partner was invaluable and has continued to serve me now and will for many more years to come.

#3 Career coaching and preparation

Job and career coaching via one-on-one support can help employees through career transitions by preparing them for a host of job search challenges, including interview preparation, career assessments, impactful resumes and digital branding, salary negotiation, and advice for the first 90 days on a new job. If you have employees who have been with your company longer than five years, they may not be prepared for today’s job market. The last time they were on the job market, we were just coming out of a recession, job boards were still one of the best ways to get a job and social media wasn’t a must have to network for business.

Coaching can help elevate anyone’s job search efforts by providing expert advice and assistance with personal branding, career guidance to lateral moves as well as to retirement, freelance or contract work, or even a start down the road to entrepreneurship, depending on the goals and desires of the individual employee.

Related content: How Does Career Coaching Work?

Once the restructuring, downsizing or reorganization is set, it’s never too early to begin working with employees scheduled for transition (even months down the road) to offer resources and support for resumes, interviews, career changes, return to an educational institution, or even planning ahead for a sabbatical. This is where your business partners come in: career coaches can lead workshops, one-on-one learning sessions, resume assistance, community partnerships, and even offer emotional support for transitioning employees stuck in “what do I do now?”

Career transition strategies set everyone up for success

When workforce restructuring is unavoidable, organizations concerned with doing the right thing for employees, protecting the employer brand, and ensuring future business success require an outplacement solution different from the outdated models offered by many providers today. A business partner for career transition should be capable of creating a better future for your employees and help them get market-ready quickly, starting with working in partnership with your human resources team to develop and launch initiatives like the ones I’ve outlined above.

08 August 2019

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