We all know intuitively what it means to be a good individual citizen. At the most basic level, it requires not violating the law, though for most of us the bar is rightly set much higher and involves everything from voting to volunteering at our children’s schools to providing assistance to those in our community who need it.

Though the concept of citizenship can be far more complex when it involves a corporation with a large geographic footprint and tens of thousands of employees, the basic idea is the same. To be a good corporate citizen means to understand and take seriously obligations beyond the bottom line. In recent years, much of the attention around the need for improved corporate citizenship has involved environmental sustainability and the importance of ensuring business operations don’t harm the natural world we all depend on.

But good corporate citizenship is also about doing right by people: including those who live in the communities where companies operate, customers and, of course, employees. One critical tool in any company’s efforts to become a better corporate citizen is a generous outplacement program.

How companies treat their severed workers may seem like a quintessentially internal matter. But the impact has profound ripple effects. The examples of how this plays out are many and include the direct financial burdens on the worker and their family due to the loss of an income and the indirect impact on the local economy due to reduced spending—where a healthy local economy is a prerequisite for a stable, safe and thriving community.

A generous suite of career transition services that include job coaching, resume services, and tools for speeding the job search reduces the time spent unemployed soften the effects of the job loss. For the worker who has lost a job, effective outplacement can serve as a bridge from one opportunity to another. In the very best scenario, the time between jobs is minimal (or even non-existent), making the impact on an employee’s family and community next to nothing. But even if it’s impossible to move immediately from one job to the next, the emotional support, career coaching, resume makeover, and interviewing, networking, and negotiation skills the job seeker receives still help to position the job seeker for success in their next role—potentially a role with an equal or greater salary and in line with the employee’s passions and career goals.

Put simply, companies that prioritize the well being of their employees and the communities where they live even after a separation are good corporate citizens. And just as there are rewards for individuals who are engaged citizens, good corporate citizens can also reap real benefits.

Treating former employees fairly and compassionately will be noticed by the larger community in which companies operate, making it easier to attract customers and new talent. Remaining employees--the ones companies rely on to keep operations running smoothly and profitably--will also take note of how their former colleagues are treated. For them, there is no better indication of how they will be treated in case they leave the company than how their friends and former co-workers were dealt with on their way out, which can impact retention, productivity, and sales.

Being a good corporate citizen is increasingly an expectation in today’s society. Providing outplacement is a good place to start.

17 July 2015

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