How Outplacement Can Stop Layoff Survivor Exodus

May 30, 2019 by Josh Hrala

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Retaining talent can be difficult even in the best of times. With the tight labor market and low unemployment rate, retention is the name of the game right now. Still, even when the economy is doing well, organizations may have to layoff staff.

However, even though organizations do sometimes have to reduce their workforce for various reasons, they still have to perform layoffs in the proper way to ensure that survivors don’t pack up their bags and leave the organization alongside those impacted by the event.

This is called layoff survivor exodus, and it can be a huge problem during any economic period, though the tight labor market has put increased focus on issues lately.

The good news is that proper layoff procedure and outplacement can seriously decrease the risk that survivors will jump ship after an event.

Let’s explore this in more detail.

First, What Is Layoff Survivor Exodus?

Despite the lofty name, layoff survivor exodus is when a poorly planned or executed layoff event triggers other employees to leave the organization. We talked about this before in terms of the Pied Piper Effect, though layoff survivor exodus is a bit different.

It’s best to use an example here. Say that Company X has to pivot away from a product for financial reasons. After the pivot, a large section of their workforce is redundant and without tasks to perform. These are the ideal conditions for a layoff event to occur.

However, Company X skips steps, calls in their impacted employees at the end of the day and tells them that they are being laid off. There was no warning, no severance, and no outplacement support. These employees were basically just shown the door.

Word of this event and how it played out get back to the larger workforce who start to think about what they would do if this happened to them. Would they be able to find a new job in time to pay rent? What about their healthcare? What about their careers?

These questions can gnaw away at people, eventually getting to the point where they decide that it’s better for them to leave on their own accord than it would be to get suddenly laid off with no options. As soon as the first employee comes to this conclusion, more follow.

Company X now has a retention issue alongside the financial issues that forced the layoff in the first place. Plus, given the fact that they performed the layoff so poorly, their employer brand has likely taken a hit, causing them even more talent issues that are exacerbated by the labor market.

You can see how this can get out of hand pretty quickly. Poor layoff events are a known killer of employer brands and layoff survivor exodus is one symptom of that.

How to Stop Layoff Survivor Exodus

So what is the solution?

This is a good question. Some may say that the best way to get around this issue is to retain staff members as best you can (meaning to simply not have a layoff). This isn’t great advice, though, because – let’s face it – no one wants to hold a layoff event.

Layoffs are one of those things that come up from time to time. They’re stressful for everyone involved. The only thing you can truly do is to perform the layoff event in the best possible way using expert guidance and support during the process.

We’ve covered how to hold a layoff event countless times in the past so we will not rehash everything here. The simplified version is to make sure you alert staff in the proper way, hold a meeting with them to explain what is going on and provide them support after the fact.

That support is what will really help you stave off layoff survivor exodus.

Let’s get into that.

Outplacement as a Tool to Stop Layoff Survivor Exodus

As a refresher, outplacement is a service offered to laid off staff members that provides them with support to land a new role quickly and without all of the stress that can come with a solitary job hunt.

A great outplacement provider uses expert, one-on-one coaching to ensure that individuals let go from companies land a new, meaningful in a short amount of time. They also provide technical expertise, too, such as keyword-optimized resume writing, learning tools, and things of that nature.

In other words, outplacement is a one-stop shop for supporting laid off employees. This is huge for a company’s employer brand. By offering support after the fact, retained employees see that the company cares about its workers.

Let’s revisit that example above. Say Company X had to still perform its layoffs. This time, however, proper layoff protocol was followed: the staff was alerted, they met with HR and management, they were treated with respect, given a severance package, and provided outplacement. Company X has done everything in its power to ensure that its laid off staff have the tools they need to thrive in another organization.

This time around, the retained employees see that Company X has tried everything they can and they feel better about the layoff event, sticking around instead of jumping ship immediately.

Now, it’s important to note that any layoff event can trigger workers to leave an organization. This makes sense. However, the problems really start to compound when multiple people all leave an organization. This hints at bigger offboarding problems that can be fixed, saving possible retention and talent management issues later on down the road.

Layoff Survivor Exodus: The Takeaways

The real takeaway here is that layoff survivor exodus occurs when poor layoff procedure causes surviving staff members to all leave an organization after an event.

The best way to stop layoff survivor exodus from happening is to ensure that you are using all of the proper offboarding and layoff techniques available. The biggest being outplacement, which will help your exiting staff members to get back to work in a new role faster and with less stress.

Your retained staff members will pay close attention to how you treat those going through a layoff. Outplacement support sends a strong message that you will take care of your workers even after they have left your business.

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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