It is no longer enough to only focus on recruitment and hiring practices and policies when you’re seeking to improve talent acquisition. Employers of choice are looking at every aspect of their employee benefits offerings, including outplacement and career transition services, and measuring their impact against the employer brand and their ability to recruit and retain top talent. HR leaders in these organizations realize that in our hyper-connected business world, current and former employees will likely become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references—or even boomerang employees that return to work for the company in the future. As a result, when employees leave a company—whether voluntarily or involuntarily—it’s more important than ever before to support them, and to support the employees that remain.

Even with stakes this high, many employers choose to keep ineffective and outdated service providers as their partners for a variety of reasons, including the lack of effort required to keep the status quo.

According to the RiseSmart 2017 Guide to Severance and Workforce Transition, over half of companies (51%) have formal severance policies in place, and of these companies roughly half (52%) offer outplacement services. As these numbers continue to rise, spurred on by the importance of investing in the employee journey, many HR leaders want to know: how do I ensure that the outplacement services I have will help me reach my goals? For those organizations who don’t have an outplacement and career transitions provider in place, the situation is even more critical. What all these practitioners have in common is the desire to put services and processes in place to lead their organization to become an employer of choice.

I’ve put together a checklist based on the popular “change management” model to help HR leaders successfully transition from an ineffective and outdated outplacement provider to one that improves the employee experience and provides the tools and resources HR professionals need to show ROI on their efforts.

Follow this five-point change management checklist to transition from one outplacement provider to another:

#1 Define your “North Star”

According to Forbes, successful change management requires a “North Star.” In other words, your outplacement and severance programs should be pointing to something greater. For many of the companies we work with, the underlying motivation—or “North Star” -- behind partnering with an outplacement services provider is to improve the employee journey, thereby improving the employer brand. For others, the costs associated with inflated unemployment tax liability and legal costs are still their main motivators. Whatever the reason, if your organization has decided to engage with an outplacement and career transition services provider, you’ll want to make sure you’re able to get the most out of the relationship.

If you’re unsure if your outplacement provider is well-equipped to help you meet your goals, take a look at the data. Here are a few questions that surface valuable metrics to help you determine whether or not it’s time to make a change:

  • What percentage of the employees who were eligible for the program took advantage of the services offered?
  • What percentage of the employees who used the services landed a job while in the outplacement program?
  • How quickly did program participants land a new job?
  • How did the amount of time it took your employees to land a new job compare to the national averages?

During times of change and workforce reshaping, having a North Star can keep your actions aligned with your goals and make employees feel like they are being cared for -- despite business turbulence. When making a change, keep your main objectives top of mind and stay focused on what’s most important to your organization.

During times of change and workforce reshaping, having a North Star can keep your actions aligned with your goals and make employees feel like they are being cared for -- despite business turbulence. @Emily_Elder #SmartTalkHR

#2: Develop a transition timeline

Whether you’re launching a partnership with an outplacement vendor for the first time, or transitioning from one vendor to another, put a timeline in place.

Waiting until you’re planning a restructuring event or layoff is probably not the best time to be searching for a new vendor, although sometimes it is necessary. If at all possible, start thinking about your business partnerships before you need to use them. In some cases, larger organizations may have several approved vendors for outplacement and other services. In these cases, showing ROI on programs and tracking employee participants can be difficult, if not impossible.

Treat your outplacement vendor as you would any other important business partner. Choose the one that will be most able to help you meet your business goals. Start with a review of the plans and processes you have in place. Once you’re familiar with the history of your relationships, and the business results they’ve achieved, set a calendar for choosing your vendor of choice – including allowing time for any internal approvals or prescribed processes for vendor selection.

Your timeline should incorporate managing rogue spend and a target date to cut off other vendors. Be sure you are in the position to track and identify if another vendor is still being used, especially if you don’t have budget for the overlap. A transition timeline should outline when your organization plans to transition over completely to avoid doubling up on paying vendors and to avoid confusion once services are required.

#3: Determine top priorities: where will you invest?

To get you started with your decision making process, we’ve created a guide to determine if your outplacement service provider is delivering the results that will help you move the needle forward.

When you’re evaluating the effectiveness of your provider, begin by asking these three questions:

  • How do you measure results?
  • Can you provide us with time-to-land (a new job) rates, overall engagement metrics, activity level reports, or participant satisfaction so we can understand the ROI of our outplacement spend?
  • Do you make former employees’ progress available in real-time?

These questions will help you keep your top priorities in mind and focus your discussions on measurable results and expectations, making it easier to zone in on finding the vendor that can help you achieve your goals. Tangible outcomes based on business priorities make it easier to communicate, define roadblocks, and stay committed to a new outplacement services provider.

#4: Optimize employee engagement

For employers who already have outplacement services, it’s often difficult to measure the ROI on those efforts, and to realize the value of the services you’ve paid for. Without transparency into the outplacement processes, companies have no way to track employee engagement and success. It’s not until much later that HR departments discover that some employees chose not to use the services, or dropped out of outplacement programs when they don’t fit their needs. Due to lack of engagement, employers are left to deal with the very consequences they were trying to avoid, including:

  • Damage to the employer brand through poor reviews and negative social media
  • Increased unemployment tax liability for years after the initial layoff
  • Legal liability and costs associated with employees looking for remuneration for their losses
  • Poor productivity and employee engagement by remaining employees
  • Inability to recruit top talent

When employees leave your company involuntarily, there might be reluctance to leverage the services you offer, even if they are designed to ensure job placement success. Select an outplacement provider that provides indicators and insights for engaging employees with the program. To get the greatest value from the services you’re paying for, you need a vendor that guarantees outreach to your qualified employees within 24 hours of notification.

Your outplacement provider should be able to measure the degree to which employees engage with the program, and give you metrics on how satisfied they are with the career transition services they’re receiving.

Ask these questions to test how well the outplacement provider will help measure employee engagement and transparently report ROI on your outplacement investment.

  • Do you offer qualitative and quantitative feedback from actual transitioning employees?
  • Do you test service delivery to ensure relevance, resonance, impact, and results?
  • Do you integrate career transition services with individuals’ social networks?
  • Do you have tangible proof or case studies that show employees are landing faster because they are using your specific outplacement services?

#5: Find change champions- internally and externally  

According to Mark S. Babbitt from YouTern, “human nature dictates that we don’t like change without our control. We want to first understand the need for change, then be an active participant. So, the best way to rewire how we see change is to realize that in today’s economy, where most companies have change initiatives in place, the ability to manage change is a highly regarded soft skill. Embrace change by becoming a "change champion."  

HR leaders can help internal managers across the company become “change champions” by not only helping them to embrace the change, but by seeing and fostering resilience as a soft skill. Not all employees will embrace change with the same optimism and aptitude. Begin thinking about how employees will react when you must institute a workforce reshaping, and be sure managers are well trained to manage change and communicate effectively with their team members. Partnering with an outplacement provider that has the programs, training, and support your internal teams need as well as the services that will best serve your impacted employees.

HR leaders can help internal managers across the company become “change champions” by not only helping them to embrace the change, but by seeing and fostering resilience as a soft skill. @Emily_Elder #SmartTalkHR

It was due to one dedicated change agent within the organization that one RiseSmart customer was able to turn a layoff into a series of new beginnings for all their impacted employees. The customer, a market intelligence software firm with fewer than 500 employees, was lucky have an employee engagement leader who already knew the benefit of offering career transition services to transitioning employees. Because she was willing to be the change champion in her organization, was able to care for their employees, which were more like family, and show the remaining employees that the company truly supported their friends and colleagues, allowing them to get back to productivity faster.

The stakes are high, and supporting the employee journey is more critical to business success than ever before. While the messaging of many outplacement providers may sound the same, evaluate your partnerships based on measurable outcomes and the ability to have full transparency into the entire process. Once you’ve decided to change vendors, following these tenets of change management will make that transition easier.

06 February 2018

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