“Compassionate Outplacement: Back to Basics”
By: Meredith Masse
Letting employees go is undoubtedly one of the toughest parts of any leader’s role, not to mention that it’s painful for the employees as well as their surviving colleagues. As you navigate layoffs and major organizational changes, you want to do the right thing by your people. You also want to maintain your good reputation and manage costs.
A few dos and don’ts to help make sure you do right by your employees:
DO consult an employment attorney. Getting expert advice will help you avoid any legal missteps that could ultimately cost the company.
DON’T tie outplacement services to the severance agreement. Partner with an outplacement firm that focuses on helping separated employees move forward — versus focusing on what they’ve lost (and contacting their own counsel). That said:
DO partner with an outplacement firm. A true partner will support you in:
- Preparing and planning for all the steps leading up to the day of notifications, including logistics as well as planning for unexpected emergencies.
- Crafting company-wide communications that focus on the business reasons for the terminations.
- Training and scripting managers with concise messaging for the notification meetings. (I can’t tell you how often we’ve heard managers give a message in these important meetings that would make you cringe. It is important to help them prepare and practice.)
- Devising (prior to the notification) the “after care” plan for surviving employees. It’s important to support those on whom you’re relying to to maintain the company’s new standards and its “new normal.”
- Designing appropriate outplacement packages and services to take care of those leaving and demonstrate goodwill to the survivors.
- Creating an honest, compassionate external PR message. Media is kinder when they have a heads up than when they find out the “scoop” on their own. You want them telling your story, not theirs.
DON’T hesitate to ask outplacement firms these questions to make sure you find a partner that shares and will deliver on your company’s values at this difficult time:
- Can you help us plan for compassionate notifications?
- Can you help us train our managers and HR business partners on delivering the tough notification messages to our employees? What’s the cost for this training?
- Can you compassionately support an entire site closing so employees don’t feel like just a number?
- How do you work to meet each employee’s unique career needs?
- What’s the process for connecting separating employees to your services?
- Can you help us create a plan for taking care of “surviving” employees, too?
- Will all my departing employees work directly with a Professional Career Transition Coach?
- How soon will my employees meet with a Professional Career Transition Coach?
- How often will they meet?
- What will they work on together?
- What program levels are available for my budget? Can you help us put together appropriate levels based on position, tenure and other considerations?
- In what cities do you offer in-person services? Virtual services? Nationally? Globally?
- If my employee could benefit from other non-traditional services, what other services are available through their program?
- When are we invoiced for employees’ programs?
- Can we get updates on employees’ search progress? How often?
- Do you provide satisfaction ratings from employees?
“Other employees are watching the process, judging the professionalism and dignity – or lack of – to which the terminated employee is subjected. Our reactions and actions set the tone for our culture.”
~Dawn Iselin, SHRM-SCP, COO and HR consultant, American Industrial Werks, Schaumburg, IL.