Reduced demand, halting of projects, and a decrease in new commercial opportunities force companies to downsize their workforce in the short term to stay afloat. For employees, this threatens their job security—the guarantee that they will keep the same job. But job security has been under attack for years now. The modern professional is better off seeking employment security instead: the guarantee that they will always have work. Employment security means becoming independent from a single role by being able to flexibly apply professional skills and knowledge in new areas. In good times, helping your staff grow their employment security is often done through talent and development programmes that offer benefits for both the company and the employee. How can you still make the best out of a bad situation in lesser times and turn employees into life-long ambassadors for your organisation, even as your paths diverge? Outplacement could be the answer.
Outplacement programmes are usually offered once a member or part of a company’s staff becomes redundant due to a reorganisation, outsourcing of tasks, return from expatriation, or other developments that require a reduction of the workforce. No matter the reason, getting laid off can come as a huge shock and leave an employee feeling lost as to what they should do now. It’s not just the loss of their job itself that is emotionally challenging; their daily routine and their relationship with their coworkers is completely disrupted as well. In the past 20 years, Venturn’s founding partner Patrick van de Ven has been closely involved with numerous clients in the development of outplacement programmes. He highlights that the very first step of outplacement is helping someone process the news of their dismissal. “Especially for people who haven’t switched jobs often in their lives, the process of finding a new one can be daunting. Supporting them in this temporary phase helps them come out of it faster and better. Offering them an outplacement says: you’re not alone in this. We’re going to help you.”
Road to recovery
After this initial stage of emotional processing, recovery can begin. The end goal of outplacement is clear: finding a suitable and sustainable new working environment. What this means differs from person to person. The whole process is therefore tailored to the individual: who are they? Which competences do they possess? What do they aspire to? Developing a clear self-image through various assessments is necessary to present interesting and realistic new job opportunities to the participant. Patrick emphasises: “Participating in an outplacement programme doesn’t mean that the employee sits back and waits for a job to be handed to them. Applying for jobs is almost a profession in itself. It’s a collaborative process and it’s essential for the person to be truly motivated to find joy in and at work again.” In addition to job assessment and orientation, intensive coaching should be part of outplacement. Coaching often focuses more on interpersonal skills, such as communication and leadership styles, rather than the abilities required to fulfill job-specific tasks. This holistic approach ensures both professional and personal development throughout the entire process. An outplacement takes five to six months on average, but may continue for longer until the outplacee has secured an appropriate new form of employment.
“Someone loses their job and it’s the end of the world, but in reality, it’s a wake up call.”
Opportunity of a lifetime
In addition, outplacement is about more than job hunting. Through the process of being outplaced, people gain valuable insights about themselves that will enrich their career even after the programme is finished. People usually have a very limited view of their abilities and opportunities. Getting outplaced offers an opportunity to seek out your true passion, instead of continuing on the same career path until retirement. “There’s this scene from the movie Up in the Air that always comes to mind when I talk about outplacement,” Patrick recounts. “Someone loses their job and it’s the end of the world, but in reality, it’s a wake up call. It’s your chance to find true joy in your work.” The shock of getting laid off can relieve someone of the ‘path dependency’ they experience when it comes to their career. Instead of doing what they’ve always been trained and paid to do, they’re forced to think: what do I actually want to do? Over the years, Patrick has seen people make extreme life changes through outplacement time and time again. “The most recent example I can think of is the director of a shipping line that I ran into. After leaving that role, he spent time in Thailand and discovered his passion for their cuisine. Now he’s a restaurateur!”
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