How Outplacement Can Help Protect Your Employer Brand

February 27, 2023 by Josh Hrala

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Many people perceive branding solely as a marketing matter, encompassing things like fonts, visuals, and advertising initiatives designed to craft a cohesive narrative for a business that resonates with its consumers and beyond. While this holds true for the broader concept of branding, the realm of employer branding diverges significantly, focusing more on the internal aspects of an organization rather than the outward messaging it chooses to convey.

Just like a reputation, employer branding takes a long time to build, and yet can be lost in mere moments. The primary culprit behind tarnished employer brands often lies in inadequate internal policies that directly affect employees. This concern becomes particularly pronounced during offboarding procedures, especially in cases of involuntary terminations. It is therefore crucial for human resources to know how to navigate layoff events and reduction in force (RIF) scenarios without compromising the integrity of the employer brand. 

In this article, we will delve into strategies for managing such reduction events effectively to protect your employer brand. But first, it’s essential to briefly explore the concept of employer branding and elucidate its significance in maintaining organizational reputation.

What Is an Employer Brand?

An employer brand mirrors the standard concept of a brand in many ways. However, instead of being driven by outward-facing marketing initiatives, it hinges on the perceptions of employees within the organization and any prospective talent considering employment there.

The employer brand is crucial to the employee value proposition, essentially representing the organization’s identity to both current and potential employees. It encapsulates the organization’s mission, values, culture, and personality, serving as a beacon for portraying it as an exemplary employer and an exceptional workplace. 

While there is a plethora of strategies that organizations can employ to enhance their employer brand–such as offering perks like paid leave, or organizing employee events and retreats–our focus here is on examining the flip side. Namely, how inadequate employee offboarding practices can detrimentally affect employer brands.

How Can a Poor Layoff Event Damage Your Brand?

Layoffs and reductions in force (RIFs) present multifaceted challenges that employers must navigate. Yet one of the most overlooked aspects is their potential impact on employer branding. When organizations fail to ensure proper offboarding procedures, they risk significant damage to their corporate or employer brand. However, there is a silver lining that allows employers to not only protect but potentially enhance their brand when they employ valuable services like outplacement.

Outplacement is a service provided to those affected by layoffs or RIFs, assisting these employees in transitioning to new roles outside of the company. Outplacement alleviates the stress of job hunting by connecting departing employees with skilled coaches, career transition resources, and resume experts, optimizing their profiles to navigate Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), and providing state-of-the-art technologies to streamline the job search process.

Beyond facilitating the transition to new roles, outplacement sends a powerful message to employees–both departing and retained–as well as to the external world, demonstrating the organization’s commitment to their success even post-employment.

This message carries immense weight. Mishandled layoffs can sour the relationship with former employees, potentially leading to negative reviews, legal action, heightened turnover rates, and more difficult talent acquisition efforts in the future. Conversely, outplacement services help to mitigate these risks and foster positive outcomes for all parties involved.

If you’re about to go through an RIF in your organization, you can download our layoff script to help you begin making a strong offboarding plan for your employees.

Download Our Layoff Script Here!

Layoff Example 1: What Not to Do

Consider an illustrative scenario: Let’s say a company finds itself in the unfortunate position of needing to lay off 200 employees due to budgetary constraints. The company decides to execute these layoffs abruptly, just before the holidays, offering no prior notice and failing to provide any form of severance package, especially since the affected employees were hourly workers.

Understandably, these 200 laid-off individuals will feel a profound sense of injustice and resentment, likely venting their grievances in online forums, to friends, and to former colleagues. This wave of negativity has the potential to spread rapidly.

Meanwhile, the employees who remain with the company may question their allegiance to an organization capable of such callous treatment toward its workforce. They may experience layoff survivor guilt, and ponder their own job security and future within the company.

Simultaneously, these negative online reviews can come back to haunt the company in multiple ways. It can deter prospective hires from considering employment, whether for the same positions or higher-level roles, as no one wishes to be associated with a business that undervalues its employees.

Layoff Example 2: With Outplacement Support

Now let’s flip this around. While a layoff is always stressful, if an organization plans properly and offers the right level of support, those impacted (and those retained) will be able to clearly see that the layoff was nothing personal and that the company truly cares about their well-being.

Imagine our fictional company facing the need to lay off the same 200 workers. Exhausting all other options, a reduction in force becomes inevitable. However, unless the situation is dire, the company might consider delaying the layoff until after the holiday season or–at the very least–informing the staff now and scheduling the event post-holidays. Given the already heightened stress during the holidays, maintaining a sense of stability with a full salary is paramount.

Furthermore, the company should conduct face-to-face meetings with each employee, delivering the news transparently and providing clear explanations. Every staff member should be offered a severance agreement with outplacement services. This severance agreement serves a dual purpose. It offers financial support to bridge the gap until departing employees can find new work, and safeguards the company against potential legal repercussions. Moreover, the included outplacement services furnish departing employees with a tangible and fully supported pathway forward.

By ensuring departing staff members are equipped for their career transition, and by demonstrating a commitment to support those remaining, the company reinforces its reputation as an employer that prioritizes the well-being of its workforce, even in challenging times. Such measures serve to safeguard the employer brand that has been cultivated, whether consciously or unconsciously, over the company’s lifetime.

How Can You Further Utilize Outplacement?

Layoffs and downsizing aren’t the sole reasons to consider outplacement and its potential benefits for your employer brand. You might encounter situations where a skilled employee isn’t the right fit, or an individual seeks a career transition that your organization can’t facilitate. In such cases, maintaining a relationship with an outplacement firm that can aid the employee’s transition is far more compassionate than leaving them without support. Leveraging these modern outplacement processes and principles enables the provision of supportive, successful career transition services, whether for 2 or 2,000 employees.

Many organizations still confine outplacement providers to a single-use scenario, only considering them helpful during layoffs. However, this perception couldn’t be more inaccurate. Recent years have taught the global workforce about the suddenness of financial downturns and market shifts, leading to unexpected job losses. Simultaneously, employees now wield greater agency in choosing their employers. This makes it all the more imperative to view outplacement as an insurance policy against such unforeseen circumstances, while ensuring the employee’s future success and brand preservation.

Engaging with an outplacement provider early, particularly one like Careerminds with no retainer fees, can be positioned as an HR benefit during onboarding that proves as valuable as during the offboarding scenarios we explored earlier. Since most employees are unfamiliar with outplacement, this proactive approach can set your organization apart as one that prioritizes its people from the beginning.

Given the prevailing trend of employees’ transient nature in today’s workforce, and the uncertainty in today’s economy, offering a robust and proven plan for career transitions can enhance your company’s reputation. Providing this sense of security to your employees significantly contributes to fostering a positive employer brand.

Overall, outplacement services transform what is often perceived as a negative event into a positive process. Cultivating a strong relationship with an outplacement firm becomes a logical step in ensuring the happiness and security of both current and former employees.

Outplacement and Employer Brand: Key Takeaways

Employer branding goes far beyond flashy logos and catchy slogans. It’s about cultivating a workplace culture that resonates with both current and prospective employees. However, maintaining a positive employer brand can be jeopardized during times of layoffs and organizational changes.

Fortunately, outplacement services offer a lifeline for both departing and remaining employees, allowing organizations to navigate these transitions with compassion and integrity. By providing support and resources for career transitions, companies can demonstrate their commitment to their workforce’s well-being, even in challenging times.

Here are the key takeaways: 

  • Employer branding is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent and requires careful management, especially during layoffs and organizational changes.
  • Mishandled layoffs can tarnish an organization’s reputation and deter prospective hires, leading to long-term consequences.
  • Outplacement services offer a proactive solution to support employees during transitions, showcasing a company’s commitment to its workforce.
  • Engaging with outplacement providers early and offering comprehensive support can enhance employee satisfaction and bolster employer brand.
  • Prioritizing employee well-being and providing a sense of security through outplacement services contributes to fostering a positive workplace culture and reputation.

If you’re ready to find the right outplacement firm to help you successfully protect and enhance your organization’s reputation through your next layoff or reduction event, click below to speak with one of our experts and learn more about Careerminds’ outplacement offerings.

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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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