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Executive Outplacement: A Guide for HR

January 01, 2021 by Josh Hrala

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When it comes to executive outplacement, you need to ensure that the program you are considering offers a robust package of options that are specifically designed with executives in mind.

While this seems like a no-brainer, understanding what makes an executive outplacement program better than others can be tricky to say the least.

We aim to fix that. In this guide, we will briefly go over what you should look for – as an HR leader – when it comes to shopping for an executive outplacement provider that will meet, and exceed, your expectations.

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Let’s jump right in with the basics first.

What Is Executive Outplacement?

Executive outplacement is a service offered to outbound executives that aids them on their search for a new role outside of their original company.

Outplacement, as you probably know, is typically offered after a layoff or RIF event that displaces workers. However, there are many other reasons executives may sign up for the service.

For example, right now, the economy is doing well and unemployment is at a low point. This leads to fewer layoffs and RIFs. On the other hand, it opens up the door for mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, and many other events that take place even when business is booming.

An event like this can have far-reaching effects on staff, including the executive level.

Executive Outplacement: The Unique Challenges Explained

Besides what causes the event, executive outplacement needs to be more robust and well-rounded than normal outplacement processes because of the high-level role of the individual. Someone who is a senior executive will have fewer opportunities (job prospects) than someone who is a normal employee or someone in middle management.

This creates a unique problem. Not only do executives typically need to find a new role that is at the same (or higher) level than the one that they are exiting, those jobs are typically not listed on job boards, making the process much more network-driven than most.


So what you are left with is an executive who needs to find a role for a job that is often times hidden from public view.

Sounds impossible, right?

It’s not as hard as you may think. Our executive outplacement process works by thoroughly examining the needs of the person. Then, we make a comprehensive plan to get them into a new, meaningful role.

That last part is particularly important. We aim to help executives figure out what exactly they want to do in their next role, which is something that a lot people never think about.

“We work with executives who are looking at their next ten or 15 years determining not only what’s out there but how they position themselves in today’s marketplace,” Careerminds Founder and CEO Raymond Lee explains.

Lee explains that an increased need for executive outplacement started during the recession, but with the economy back on track, M&As and other business moves are creating an increased need once again. “This is leading senior executives to take inventory of themselves which is really at the heart of outplacement no matter what’s happening in the economy.”

As you can see, executive outplacement requires more skill and more time than other outplacement services to ensure that coaches can work closely with the executive to help ensure they land the right role.

But how?

Let’s dig into what our program offers so you can better understand the process.

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The Executive Outplacement Process: A Brief Rundown

When it comes to executive outplacement, the process can be long or short depending on the individual. The ability to adapt a program to the needs of the participant is a must, which means every executive outplacement program should provide until placement support.

What is until placement support?

Right now, many outplacement providers use term limits. For example, if someone signs up for a traditional outplacement program, they typically receive support for about 90 days. That means that if the person doesn’t find a new role within that time frame, they are on their own. This doesn’t work well for anyone who’s searching for a new role, but is especially cumbersome when dealing with executive level employees.

Other than that, executives also need more ways to engage with the program. At Careerminds, we provide flexibility by using the powers of the internet to create a program that can be used anywhere, at any time, allowing the individual to customize the support they receive. For busy executives, this is a must.

Those are two of the biggest concerns when considering an outplacement provider, but to help illustrate the bigger picture, here is a high-level overview of our process:

  • Initial meeting between an outplacement consultant and the senior executive to discuss their situation.
  • Formulating a marketing strategy for an online approach, namely fine-tuning the executive’s LinkedIn profile and tweaking their resume.
  • Building job opportunities via networking, referrals, and communicating with career professionals.
  • Preparing senior executives for various types of interviews with advice on presentations and insight into possible interview questions.
  • Helping executives negotiate job offers in terms of salary, benefits, and contracts.
  • Ongoing support until job placement.

All of these steps can be customized to the needs of the individual, allowing them to find the right job (not just their next job).

Why You Need to Offer Executive Outplacement

This is probably the real question on your mind: Do you need to even offer executive outplacement, or outplacement in general?


To put it simply, outplacement is a way for your exiting staff to get back to work after an event at your organization that has created separation. This could be a merger, acquisition, layoff, RIF, restructure, downsizing, etc.

Every one of these events can be trying on your overall organization. When you add exiting staff members into the mix, things can get even more chaotic.

By providing outplacement, you can ensure that your exiting staff members are in good hands and will make their exit from your organization in the easiest way possible.

Not only does this reduce the level of stress on the overall organization – and on HR in particular – it helps negate the negative impact on your corporate brand that these events can cause.

The last thing you want is an executive level employee leaving your business with a bad taste in their mouth, which can tarnish your reputation, causing a loss of business, more turnover, and harder talent acquisition. This is where the ROI of outplacement lies.

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Executive Outplacement: A Real World Example

Executive outplacement, when done correctly, can seriously help your executives find a new role while also maintaining a good relationship with your organization.

We don’t want you to just take our word for it, though. Let’s take a look at a real example of an executive that has already gone through our program.

Karen Lightfoot, Director of Separation Management for Hewlett Packard in Denver, was facing a change as HP divided into two companies. Lightfoot knew change was coming and – seemingly on a daily basis – she kept thinking about where she was in her career, where she wanted to go, and how she could get there.

“I started working with a Careerminds executive coach who really led me to view myself and my years of experience more broadly,” Lightfoot said.

“He’s been leading me through self-reflection, analysis, and learning so that I’m no longer looking just within roles and work that I’ve done but the broader business perspectives that I’ve developed and that I can apply in many different leadership roles.”

Lightfoot’s Careerminds coach, Rex Rolf, says that in many cases, senior executives have done so well within a defined area that they limit themselves within familiar boundaries.

“I work with clients to understand their core competencies and then identify transferable skills. After 25 or 30 years, they have a certain business acumen that’s instinctive and could benefit lots of companies, they just haven’t perceived themselves this way,” Rolf explains.

Our approach allowed Lightfoot to understand all of her options instead of just looking at the same role at another organization, which is a more holistic approach than traditional outplacement providers. We are able to do this because we are willing to spend the time for no additional cost. Our goal is simple: get people back to work in a role they will love.

“This self-reflection and re-branding often results in clients landing positions that are much more fulfilling, challenging and opportunity-rich than if they had continued to perceive themselves within their traditional niche,” Lee points out.

Here’s another example:

Since 1994, Kathleen Gowin had held leadership positions with Deloitte, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase until 2014 when her position with Pitney Bowes in Charlotte, NC ended. “This is my shot to work for myself,” she thought.

One day, while working with Careerminds, Gowin was describing her experiences when Rolf made an observation. Gowin remembers, “I had been talking to prospective clients like I was going for a job. What I really needed to do was talk about what I could do for them, starting right now. I need to demonstrate my value rather than just articulate it.”

That subtlety in how Gowin rebranded herself is now turning around her business. “The first time I took that more present approach, I got a small contract and have been growing ever since.”

As you can see, Gowin could have landed a role at another organization since she had so much experience and knowledge. But she didn’t. Instead, she looked at what she really wanted to do and went for it.

In short, executive outplacement needs to dig a bit deeper to understand the exact wants and needs of the participant if it is to be successful. In order to do that, coaches have to work closely with the individual and have the necessary time to make their job hunt work.

Executive Outplacement: The Takeaways

When it comes to executive outplacement, you have a lot to consider. Shopping for a program can be tricky even for the most seasoned HR executive.

To make it easier, remember that executive level employees need a more customizable experience, one that digs into what their next role could be. Expert coaches should help participants fully understand their options then help them create a plan of action.

The biggest thing you need to concern yourself with – besides the expertise of the coaching staff – is how long the program lasts. You want to ensure that your staff will have the support they need for as long as they need it. Term limits have no place in executive outplacement programs.

If you follow all of these tips, you will be able to pick an executive outplacement provider that fits all of your employee’s needs and goals, allowing them to move on to their next role while also maintaining a quality relationship with the organization they have moved on from.

Speak with an Outplacement Expert

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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