how to run an outplacement program without undoing your DEI efforts

Some organizations are in the midst of a business transformation and need to downsize, others may likely have to do so over the next 12 months. A lot of these businesses, especially those in the tech sector, have in recent years invested heavily into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 

Over the last few years, job seekers (and employees) have wanted to consider an organization's DEI initiatives and wider story. Glassdoor's recent survey underlines this point: 76% of job seekers and employees consider diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers.

Savvy business owners have understood the importance of inclusivity in not just attracting talent, but the wider effect a strong DEI story and consistently delivered initiatives has on employer brand, engagement, and ultimately the bottom line. And, they shouldn’t be in a hurry to let that all go when tough times are faced.

In a perfect world, your business would never be in a situation where difficult decisions such as letting go of talent are required. Unfortunately, that isn't reality, and as such tough decisions need to be made. 

Organizations with a real commitment to DEI will be concerned more than most about how a layoff process is conducted for fear of calls it is targeting marginalized talent. The role managers play now sees them walk an increasing fine line, trying to safeguard the company's interests, do what's right by employees, and be mindful of how equitable and inclusive the layoff process is. 

To avoid putting your company in an awkward position in the future, working with a provider of inclusive outplacement support for your employees could help.

how to approach outplacement with inclusivity 

The decision to reduce a company's workforce usually has a ripple effect. It can damage or build your reputation. Since you need to attract and hire new talent in the future, avoiding negative transition experiences and reviews on social media sites and job boards is critical. You can maintain a positive corporate image by making outgoing employees feel supported throughout the transition process and giving them every support to find a new role without losing out financially.

While there is no singular approach to outplacement, every organization has unique qualities that need consideration; cost-saving is typically the end goal. 

While that goal will not change, focusing on cost reduction blindly at the expense of inclusion, puts organizations in a heightened position of risk, undoing and undermining the effort they have put into their DEI story previously. 

Nowadays, providing basic outplacement support to your employees isn't sufficient. Some businesses, reluctant to invest in outgoing workers, use their recruiters to give outplacement participants help with CVs and job hunting – and it can backfire. Similarly, the support you provide an employee should not differ based on their identity or racial background. 

Employees from all backgrounds have high expectations of career transition support, and working with a specialist third-party provider is advantageous. For instance, employees expect insightful coaching, direct connections to opportunities, and assistance with building their personal brand. 

As an HR manager, it is highly likely you will need support from an external outplacement provider to not just meet the evolving expectations of job seekers, but to ensure the entire layoff process is conducted in an inclusive way. 

Let's explore the services that outplacement support can offer, and how it can help you eliminate the marginalization of specific groups and identities in your workforce. 

notification day support

When you are downsizing, the news of a layoff elicits mixed reactions and emotional responses. Some employees experience denial, shock, and anger before confusion and worry kick in. Sometimes, it helps to have an outplacement consultant present when laying off workers. A specialist consultant is experienced in helping employees manage their feelings and ensuring every worker is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their background or ability. When outplacement support is available from the beginning of the downsizing process, it will be more effective. It shows your commitment to helping your employees make their next career move.

Helping departing employees requires well-planned communication. During the layoff, you provide sufficient information to reassure them. However, it is crucial to ensure they have clear details on accessing support. You can conduct awareness sessions on the outplacement support available. Providing proactive support during the first few days after the layoff notification increases the take-up rate of the outplacement service.

Some employees may be reluctant to take up outplacement support for various reasons. However, having the outplacement provider reach out directly creates a neutral platform for them to receive support and the utmost privacy guaranteed. 

understanding contemporary job seekers

In today's economy, employees change jobs more frequently than in past generations. Following a worldwide resignation and hiring crisis, a LinkedIn study of the US workforce showed that 25 percent of Gen Z and 23 percent of Millennials have hopped to new jobs or plan to leave within six months. In the UK, 24 percent of employees are planning to move jobs, and 69 percent are ready to move to new jobs in 12 months, according to a study by Randstad.

With many employees preparing for new positions and career transitions, your outplacement support should work to cater for the specific needs and requirements of candidates. It is important to conduct interviews to identify candidates who are prepared and educated about looking for new positions and who want a fast-tracked job search process. The outplacement service should also guide employees who need an exploratory approach to the job search process.

Once the necessary support level is determined, you consult outgoing employees about their career aspirations. Do they want to change their career, work in different industries, or move to a new location? When you understand what your workers want, you can match them with inclusive outplacement support that caters to their needs. 

the depth of outplacement coaching

Outplacement coaching involves a career coach working with employees to help them understand what is happening to them, to improve their personal brand and resume to attract potential employers, but also getting them psychologically ready for interviews and the potential for knock-backs and recruiters not engaging with them. 

Employees needs may differ here based on their backgrounds. Every employee being laid off deserves a 1:1 conversation to understand that their role has been eliminated, why it has happened (to remove blame and eliminate burden on them), and to describe what support they will receive as they transition out. 

Outplacement coaches stay engaged with an employee until they find a job or until your support contract ends – whichever happens soonest. Be generous with this support, as it is where your organization can provide the most value before the employee leaves you. 

Coaching makes the outplacement process inclusive since coaches provide personalized support to get them individually ready for the next step. 

Effective in-depth outplacement coaching that can help with inclusivity include:

  • career transition: the career coach should help laid-off workers leave the organization on good terms and plan for the future. For instance, the coach can provide tips for managing feelings of anger and reviewing personal finances before getting another job. A transitioning employee may also need help identifying whether they want to change careers or go freelance.
  • career evaluation: a career coach assists employees with career evaluation by completing assessments of their skills and competencies to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Personality questionnaires and listing career achievements help employees to improve their resumes. Career evaluation is critical in identifying areas for development, aligning job searches to an employee's skills, and reviewing salary expectations.
  • identifying job search options and lifestyle decisions: employees are often uncertain of their next career move after redundancy. A career coach helps them determine whether they want to take early retirement, start a business, or look for another job. If they decide to look for another job, the coach helps them determine favorable career options (like taking on an interim, contract, or consultancy role), and where to begin their search.
  • cv assessment and interview: a career coach helps employees revamp their resumes by ensuring they are professional, up-to-date, and focused on their key achievements. Since it offers comprehensive branding support, the coaching process includes updating the employees' LinkedIn profiles and prepping them for interviews. A coach helps with employer research and conducts mock interviews to ensure employees present themselves in the best way possible.

virtual outplacement services

An outplacement approach should offer in-person sessions and virtual services to boost inclusivity, regardless of if someone works in an office, remote, or a hybrid setup. Introducing outplacement technology and providing services online improves the service's reach and enables you to support more outgoing employees. Your outplacement provider should offer a virtual approach to coaching and e-learning tools.

Most outplacement service providers have an e-learning platform that employees can use to learn new job searching trends from various geographical locations.
E-learning tools educate job seekers on enhancing their CVs and building their online brand through LinkedIn.

Some outplacement providers offer job matching services through virtual platforms by matching a job seeker's resume with different job descriptions. Typically, employees who use the virtual outplacement service also improve their job applications and their chances of shortlisting. For instance, most companies use applicant tracking systems to filter resumes, and the outplacement provider helps employees pick the right keywords during application. Virtual career coaching is also available, and most outplacement services use a questionnaire to match job seekers with career coaches.

group learning sessions

When developing an outplacement program for outgoing employees, it is essential to offer diverse learning techniques to cater for different backgrounds and abilities. Some job seekers prefer one-on-one coaching and e-learning tools, and some prefer group learning. For instance, if a person has trouble sticking to a self-led program, group training may be more effective in supporting their concentration and participation.

Some outplacement providers have group training sessions in brick-and-mortar locations, like seminars and workshops for job seekers. If people aren't inclined to attend a workshop or seminar, your outplacement provider should offer the service online through webinars covering various topics.

If your outplacement support includes group sessions, ensure the training activity matches the needs of the job seekers participating in the program. For instance, if the employees work in a science setting, the webinars and group activities should focus on scientific fields. A reliable outplacement provider covers all topics in the webinars and has the flexibility to provide both group and individual training.

until-placement support

While not exclusively a consideration for inclusive support, most outplacement providers offer services for a specific duration, running for three months on average. In today's work environment, three months is an ambitious timeframe within which to land a new job. Most outplacement providers start counting down the three months from notification day, and sometimes it takes weeks before employees complete the training and begin the job search.

To offer inclusive outplacement, ensure the services cater to diverse employee needs. For instance, you should consider separate outplacement for executives and senior leaders in the company. Alternatively, negotiate an outplacement service that supports your leavers in the long term until every laid-off employee makes a successful career transition.

benefits of inclusive thinking in outplacement

Some of the advantages of offering outplacement support with inclusion as a key imperative include the following:

  • displays social consciousness: while taking cost control measures is unavoidable for business, outplacement signals a company's social consciousness. Taking care of your outgoing employees through outplacement makes a meaningful public statement and to your remaining employees.
  • protects your brand: reductions in the workforce often risk your positive brand image. Negative social media reviews affect your future hiring prospects. Having an outplacement service alleviates such risks.
  • supports employees to get back on their feet: layoffs are an unpleasant surprise for many workers, and an outplacement partner can help them move on faster. Your outgoing employees are likely to land a new job faster with support and progress in their careers.
  • minimizes survivor anxiety: on top of mounting workloads, remaining employees often have survivor syndrome and are more likely to resign. Having a transparent outplacement process gives them hope and improves employee engagement.

By reinforcing transparent, clear, and consistent communications about hiring freezes, layoffs, and reductions in force, you encourage trust and build the workplace to be a safe, equitable and inclusive space, even through the most challenging times. Inclusive organizations are filled with transparency, collaboration and accountability, and these principles should be at the fore of your outplacement process.

DEI initiatives are not something organizations should solely do when economic times are good. Such behavior systemically undoes the trust and connection with their employees, particularly women and employees of color, and will become apparent to job candidates, investors, and customers alike.

If a downsizing process is handled transparently, with discriminatory behaviours at the front of mind, and with best practices employed, impacted staff are less likely to feel that a process is not inclusive, and less chance of accusation of a discriminatory layoff. 

To learn more about how a suite of inclusive outplacement services can benefit your business, these articles cover information on coaching, career transition, and more.

05 October 2022

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