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Outplacement: The 5 Secrets HR Needs To Know

November 02, 2009 by Careerminds

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Why are we sharing these outplacement secrets?

First and foremost it’s about awareness. The world of outplacement is changing. Your business is changing. You may be going through a series of layoffs. You may be restructuring soon. Outplacement and career transition solutions are there for you when the time comes. It’s a smart investment. It’s a smart business decision. However, amid the increasing reliance companies have on outplacement, Careerminds wants to ensure you’re not overpaying for a service.

We can’t think of an outplacement provider that has questionable business practices. Certainly they’re out there, but for the most part it’s a reputable marketplace with good people doing good work. That doesn’t mean you’re getting the best value for the price you pay. The following five secrets aim to shed light on what you should be looking for from a vendor. These are the tough questions you ought to be asking every time you spend money on outplacement.

If your organization’s severance budget is value-focused as much as it is cost-focused, then we believe you’ll find these secrets to be eye-opening. When you’re ready, give us a call or request a demonstration of our program and technology. You’ll be well served by doing so. Careerminds knows the secrets. Because of that, our programs ensure you won’t overpay and you will receive the most comprehensive and progressive outplacement service anywhere.

Secret #1: Limited Participant Access to Coaching Time Leads to Undesirable Outcomes

The average length of outplacement coaching time for a participant is 3 hours. Few firms offer more time, many offer considerably less. Why is ample coaching time such a critical aspect of the career transition process? Research from the International Coach Federation shows the outcomes that participants most often attribute to their coaching are a higher level of self-awareness and self-confidence, a more balanced life, smarter goal-setting and lower stress levels.

Providing more hours of coaching within an outplacement program allows the participant to benefit from an ongoing dialogue with his or her coach. Seasoned coaches thrive on being exceptional listeners, facilitators, and editors—all of which are central to creating a desirable outcome for the participant. Most importantly, they use these skills to hold the participant accountable during the career transition process. To that end, the time it takes to achieve the following coaching goals requires more than a couple of hours.

Critical Listening
o Identifying gaps between where the participant is and where the he or she wants to be
o Asking for more intentional thought, action, and behavior changes than the participant would have asked of him or herself

Process Facilitation
o Guiding the participant to make full use of the content and process
o Creating an environment in which participants see themselves more clearly
o Understands and anticipates potential obstacles

Editorial Review
o Reviewing and commenting on participants’ work output

The Bottom Line
If your organization uses outplacement, now’s the time to look at your vendor agreement and see just how many hours of coaching your former employees receive. If you’re considering outplacement for the first time, when you conduct your due diligence of several providers, be sure to zero-in on how many hours each displaced worker is going to receive. In both cases, if it’s fewer than 3 hours, you’re likely going to short-change the participant’s experience. If your organization is spending money on outplacement, you expect that it’s going to put your former employees back to work quickly and effectively. Having plenty of coaching time available is at the center of that return on investment.

Secret #2: Limited Convenience for Recipients Leads to Higher Prices

In a 2006 study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the demand for more affordably priced career transition services is on the rise. At some point, you may have asked why traditional outplacement services—like those provided by the so-called ‘Big 3’—are so expensive. Let’s face it: laying out $3,000 to as much as $10,000 per displaced individual is steep. Yet, that’s the average cost range in today’s outplacement marketplace.

The reason you see stratospheric prices is simple—and it’s something you may not have ever considered. It’s called infrastructure, and the most common names in outplacement services have lots of it. Dozens of physical offices and layers of management cost money. In order to cover their overhead, the traditional outplacement providers need to charge more.

So what does this have to do with convenience for participants? Everything! There’s an old, outdated notion that meeting face-to-face with coaches, attending classroom-based training, and having a physical space to come to in order to work on your resume is more effective for the participant. The reality is that it’s not.

There’s a considerable body of research that not only makes a case for virtual, on-demand access to experts and educational resources, but demonstrates the convenience it affords the participant without sacrificing quality or desirable outcomes. The time it takes for a sponsored outplacement recipient to travel to a physical site to receive services can be very inconvenient, especially during a time of unemployment. When people are out of work, their schedules are turned upside down and there’s enormous emotional stress. Being able to access resources in an on-demand manner (as opposed to an onsite fashion) from the comfort of home can mean the difference between having an effective, engaged participant and one who feels strained to get the help he or she needs.

The Bottom Line

Convenience may be the most important factor in determining an effective participant’s outcome. It’s also the way outplacement can be made more affordable for companies. In an on-demand, web-based program, where the content is accessible via a web portal and the coaching is done over the phone, the outplacement provider has drastically reduced overhead. The bottom line is you ending up paying less per participant and can feel confident that the service will be as effective—if not more so—than a traditional, onsite services.

Secret #3: Limited Job Search Technology Leads to Ineffective Placement Results

Here’s an eye-opener that ordinary outplacement providers won’t talk about. Do you know what type of job search technology your vendor is using? Have you seen it demonstrated? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you might want to take a closer look. Why? Because the name of the game in outplacement is to help people find jobs. To be sure, the entire career transition process encompasses much more, but in the end the participant needs to have access to robust job-search technology.

Most outplacement firms do little more than maintain a job database that is similar to,, etc. Sure, there may be a few extra bells and whistles; yet, when the individual performs a search, they’re likely seeing the same opportunities everyone else in the world can see. This does very little in the way of competitive job searching. The result is a well-prepared job seeker with a relatively weak method for getting in front of an employer in a proactive, strategic way. This fact can lead to much longer search times, increased stress, de-motivation, and in some cases having to simply ‘settle’ for the first job that comes along.

The Bottom Line

Your organization invests in outplacement in order to preserve your image in the business community, help employees feel more secure in the event of a layoff, and, ultimately, put displaced individuals back to work quickly and effectively. Your return on investment may be lacking with a traditional vendor. Simply put, why spend all that money on outplacement if the provider lacks the technology to re-employ participants in a manner that goes beyond what is already widely available to out-of-work individuals everywhere?

Secret #4: Limited Scientific Basis for the Outplacement Process

Most outplacement companies have some form of a personality or behavior assessment that is either standard or available as an option. If your provider doesn’t use one (or if you don’t know if it uses one), now’s the time to give this secret some serious thought.

Basic questionnaires like Myers Briggs are well respected but only tell half the story. They’re designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. What they don’t do is provide a scientific basis that gets to the core of what a career transition process is designed to achieve; that is, what a job seeker’s work style and motivations and values are. The key to an effective behavioral assessment for job seekers is in its ability to reveal his or her motivations and values in the workplace in the following ways:

• Willingness to help and serve people
• Drive to become an expert in his or her profession
• Desire to make money and be productive
• Disposition on taking responsibility and to lead others

Most assessments used by outplacement firms do not measure the above traits. Yes, taken together, these behavioral attributes serve as the North Star in guiding the participant to a successful outplacement experience. They are concrete, actionable insights that speak directly to the career transition process. Because very few vendors perform assessments that reveal these traits, they thereby limit participants from a complete view of what their actionable work strengths and weaknesses are.

The Bottom Line

Working with an outplacement provider means knowing how much emphasis it places on the scientific basis of its program, particularly with respect to personality and behavioral testing. If your current or future provider is using an instrument that doesn’t reveal insights to the above mentioned dimensions, then your investment in outplacement may be at risk. If your organization’s aim is to give your former employees an empowering outplacement program that puts them back to work, the vendor’s choice of assessments can make all the difference.

Secret #5: Limited Access to Leading Minds

Let’s be clear: any vendor worth its price has very talented coaches and support personnel on staff. Sadly, relatively few outplacement firms take advantage of expertise outside the walls of their organizations. Most providers retain a coaching staff with backgrounds in human resources and/or training. However, a vital component of career transition is having access to outside experts. Why? Because, insights provided by well-regarded professionals adds depth to the overall experience. The exchange and dialogue helps to keep participants motivated, focused, and aware of leading-edge knowledge on various career transition topics.

The Bottom Line

Beyond the coach and in-house trainers, what does your outplacement provider offer in the way of outside experts? If you don’t know, now’s the time to find out because it’s directly linked to the experience and final outcome for the participant.


Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.



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