This Program is Vital for Limiting Backlash When You Have to Lay People Off
Business owners around the world are reeling from the financial stress of the global health crisis, which has resulted in mass layoffs and furloughs. Luckily, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the layoffs and furloughs have slowed and almost returned to the pre-crisis rate. But even with things turning around, it’s difficult to predict when you might need to be prepared to lay off some of your team members. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place with an outplacement program.
What is an outplacement program?
An outplacement program is the process of helping your employees prepare for finding new employment when you have to initiate a layoff. This helps maintain the relationships you’ve built with your team as much as possible, while also putting some protection in place for new hires in the future. Considering much of the world lacks certainty, being transparent about your outplacement program in the event of a layoff situation can help bring security to new talent you want to attract to your team. Outplacement programs can also help you identify which employees are good fits to bring back from a furlough and which ones it’s time to part ways with permanently. Layoffs are difficult, but if you find yourself facing that reality, an outplacement program can create powerful support for your team members and uphold your reputation as a business that cares about your staff.
The best part is that you don’t have to conduct or structure the outplacement program yourself. You can delegate this to team members in leadership roles, HR professionals or a third-party outplacement service provider. Regardless of how directly involved you are in the outplacement process, here are the elements of an outplacement program that can support your employees.
Reviewing employee performance
When considering who to let go, it’s important to understand the impact each employee has had on the business. Who helps you reach your goals? Which employees improve morale? Who has the best numbers, and who do your existing clients have the best relationships with?
There are many things to consider when you’re thinking about letting someone go, and it’s in this review process that you can compile a list of each employees' strengths. Then, you can use that list to write recommendation letters for the employees you aren't able to keep on staff. That list is also valuable for them as they're writing cover letters and updating their resumes and CVs.
Updating application materials
A simple list of duties performed and responsibilities handled won’t be enough to make former employees stand out. However, if they can point to specific metrics they helped your business attain, such as 20 percent growth in the third quarter, reducing turnover and increasing employee satisfaction according to employee surveys or closing 15 percent of sales for the business, then your team members are more likely to make a positive impression and get to the second stage in the hiring process.
Not only will your team members have more tools to use, but they’ll also walk away with a clear vision of how they make a difference and how they can continue to grow. Some of the most difficult aspects of layoffs are the feelings associated with the process. According to the Journal of Service Science and Management, layoffs can have severe mental and emotional consequences for everyone involved, including the laid-off employees, the managers or team members enacting the layoffs, and employees who keep their positions. By supporting your laid-off team members in a way that exemplifies their value, some of those emotions, such as worthlessness, may be lessened.
Some of your employees may not have had an interview in a few years. By providing outplacement training with interview prep, interview training and mock interviews, you can set your team members up for powerful conversations that help them seal the deal for a new job. In interviews, there can be a lot of subtext to the questions being asked that the interviewee can miss if they’re not in the know. This will get your former employees thinking deeper about their impact on a business and how they can advocate for themselves in the hiring process. Interview preparation is one of those trainings that can take a daunting, anxiety-ridden experience and turn it into something positive.
To go the extra mile, train your team members on audio and video interviews and provide them access to a stylist who can help them make an excellent first impression (on- or off-camera). Most meetings these days are virtual calls, skipping the coffee and handshakes altogether. The skills needed for video and audio interviews are a little different than in-person interviews because body language is limited. In today’s hiring environment, people need to be ready to showcase their personalities, talents and skills across multiple platforms.
After reviewing the performance of your team, helping them prepare their materials and training them for interviews, you’ve got a good grasp on what will make them a good fit for another business in the marketplace. One way to make sure your outplacement program is as successful as possible is to find job openings and opportunities that match your former employees’ skills and personalities. You can simply make them aware of the opportunities and give them all of the information they need to apply themselves, or you can support them through the application process.
If you happen to know someone at another business or company who might be looking to hire, you can also facilitate warm introductions, which give your people the best chance for success in finding new employment. You can also hire people to support your employees, such as head-hunters, recruitment firms or career coaches who might be able to help them find the right fit quicker.
Think of your outplacement program as a contingency plan. Although planning for things to go awry isn’t necessarily fun, if things do go wrong you can save precious time by moving straight into action instead of trying to figure out what the next move is. Whether you're facing laying off your team or not, having an outplacement program structured so that it's there if you need it can reduce stress.
Here are a few ways to make it easier. If you do performance reviews, focus on data-based metrics that can help your employees understand their contributions to the business. This way, you have a clear record of exactly how each employee has made a difference in the business at your disposal. You don’t have to go looking for this information in the event of a layoff situation, and this will also help you with promotions and team morale. You can also network and find any outside professionals, like stylists, recruiters or career coaches that you can build relationships with in case you need to call on them for help. And finally, be open with your people. In a world where mass layoffs feel like they’ve happened overnight, the fear of losing a job is real. If your team knows that there’s a contingency plan and they won’t be alone trying to navigate the job market, that can ease some nerves.
Most importantly, remember that this process is not something you need to directly do as the business owner. There are many ways to delegate this entire process, from utilizing internal managers or HR executives to hiring an external outplacement program service provider who can manage the program for you. How much you’re involved personally is up to you.