Making outplacement a part of talent management.
Companies should incorporate outplacement into their talent management strategy rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to retrenchments, said The Ayers Group founder and vice-president William Ayers.According to the group’s recent white paper, Integrating Career Transitions into the Total Talent Strategy, released early this month, integrating outplacement or career transition early into the corporate strategy would not only equip staff for turbulent times but would also establish the company as an employer of choice.
Outplacement refers to the practice of employers assisting retrenched employees find new jobs, usually via a third-party outplacement firm. “It works to your advantage because you are seen as a caring organisation,” Ayers said in an interview in April, during which he discussed the findings of the white paper that was released early this month.Being retrenched is demoralising and stressful, he noted, but outplacement helps individuals rediscover their confidence as they learn to effectively prepare themselves for the future. “Outplacement is a comprehensive process people tend to oversimplify.”
Services offered by The Ayers Group include job search, customised career transition, resume development, interviewer training and network development. A partner firm of Career Partners International, an organisation of human resources consulting firms, The Ayers Group was acquired by outsourcing and consulting agency Kelly Services Inc in 2006.Ayers said outplacement is not just relevant during the current volatile economic environment, when retrenchments are on the rise, but even when the economy recovers. Besides offshoring (transferring service operations to foreign countries due to the supply of skilled but relatively cheap labour in those countries), mergers and acquisitions result in redundancies as well. “Where they won’t need two people to do the same function, they eliminate one and outplacement steps in,” he said.
Furthermore, what goes around comes around, added Ayers. “The person you retrench will become a competitor, a client or a possible rehired employee in future. If you treat them well on the way they’re exited, they will treat you well in the community.” Conversely, disgruntled employees can take to the grapevine and tarnish the company’s reputation, which would affect future hires as well, he said.How companies retrench staff also has an impact on those who remain, said Laletha Nithiyanandan, Asia-Pacific vice-president of Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group, the outsourcing and consulting division of Kelly Inc.Existing employees who see their colleagues leaving badly will lose faith in the company and morale falls.“Survivors are the future lifeblood of that practice.
Those who feel cheated will not perform well and become poor corporate citizens,” said Ayers, adding that this would prove disadvantageous for the company. Placing outplacement at the heart of a company’s talent management strategy would also better prepare line managers and human resource managers in the event that they are asked to “let go” of staff, he said. “People who have terminated people in the past make the assumption that they know how to do it. But when you have done it the wrong way before, you repeat your mistakes every time,” he said. Workshops on “no-fault termination training” help hiring managers in areas such as how to effectively relay bad news to employees and when to pass the individual to an outplacement consultant.
Ayers said the group emphasised “high-touch”, referring to a lower counsellor-employee ratio of around 35 to 45 individuals per counsellor, compared with competitors that have 100 to 150 clients to each counsellor. He likened the “high-touch” principle to gym goers and their coach. “If they have a coach to motivate them, they work out more often and more effectively. As coaches, we keep you on track by picking up the phone to motivate you.”