Examining the Top 10 Outplacement Firms: What We Learned

January 01, 2021 by Aley Brown

Learning more about the outplacement industry can be a daunting task. There are tons of different firms ranging from boutique, location-based providers all the way up to the old-school juggernauts. To better help you understand what sets these firms apart, we decided to look into the top 10 outplacement firms to see what makes them all tick.

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Our first step in this evaluation was to find a list of the top 10 outplacement firms, which was harder than we thought it’d be because everyone thinks they’re a top 10 firm.

From this list, we sorted all of the firms into different categories. To create these categories, we used a number of sources:

  • Google search terms (to see the different qualities people are searching for in outplacement).
  • Forum discussions surrounding outplacement on Yelp, LinkedIn, and Quora.
  • Word of mouth research from our sales staff.

Here’s the list of categories we pulled together based on that research that we can use to dig into how the services are different:

  1. Robust Technology Capabilities
  2. Virtual and In-Person Coaching Capabilities
  3. Dedicated Career Coaching Relationship
  4. Until Placement Support
  5. Cost
  6. Industry Specializations
  7. Viable Product Extensions

In each category, we reviewed all of the top 10 outplacement firm’s capabilities. Then we used the firms’ performances to develop an overview of offerings currently on the market.

Let’s see the results.

Evaluation of the Top 10 Outplacement Firms

1. Robust Technology

In this category, we looked at each of the top 10 outplacement firms’ technology offerings to determine if they were cutting-edge. To our (sorta) surprise, we found that many traditional firms were lacking in the tech department because many of them still perform old-school services, such as using brick-and-mortar locations, not having an easy-to-use digital platform, and not be able to provide support for clients anywhere in the country.

The best firms utilize all of the technology they can to offer their services. For example, Careerminds uses digital platforms, e-learning techniques, has a custom-made social network, provides keyword analysis, and more.

So, when it comes to looking for a provider, make sure they are really leveraging technology to give you the service you want and need.

2. Virtual and In-Person Coaching Capabilities

The outplacement industry has a brick-and-mortar foundation like we briefly mentioned above. This means that participants in brick-and-mortar outplacement programs would have to drive into an office location to receive assistance.

Over the last ten years, several startup firms have entered the scene, disrupting this narrative by offering 100% virtual outplacement delivery. This is amazing! (We should know we pioneered it.)

But tastes have altered once again and some people are beginning to crave the face-to-face contact of in-person coaching. This is why any outplacement firm worth its salt should offer both if the participant wants it. Flexibility, above all else, is what makes an outplacement service successful. If a client doesn’t want to drive, they shouldn’t have to. If they do, they should have that option, too. Pretty simple, right?

Sadly, the firms on the list had one or the other – but not both. This isn’t providing the highest level of quality for clients, which results in substandard levels of delivery and placement. After all, a great way for outplacement to fail is to make it hard for a client to use.

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3. Dedicated Career Coaching

A dedicated career coach is someone that sticks with a client throughout the entire outplacement process. This is a relatively new feature of outplacement programs, so not many providers offer it yet.

Several brick-and-mortar companies in the industry coach their participants with whoever is in the office that day. This is super ineffective for participants. Participants need dedicated support from someone who understands all the nuances of their particular job search to be successful.

Consider this: you are the one receiving the service. You go into a location and there is a part-time coach there working with a bunch of other clients. How are you supposed to get the ideal level of support if their attention is divided. Not only did you – most likely – waste a trip to a city, you also aren’t getting the help that you signed up for.

To solve this, make sure your outplacement provider has coaching staff that are available around the clock to support your ex-employee as they transition into another role. This typically involves leveraging technology again, using virtual platforms, Skype, and other tools to pull off.

4. Until Placement Support

Here’s something that 9 out of the top 10 outplacement firms didn’t have: until placement support.

What does that mean?

Well, “Until Placement Support” means that an outplacement firm helps a participant with their job search until that participant finds a new position. Most outplacement companies place a time limit on their support of usually 1-3 months.

Think about your own personal job searches. One month is barely enough time to manage just the first steps in the process (writing a resume, networking, doing initial phone interviews). Time limits on outplacement are a horrible practice and should be considered a substandard service.

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5. Cost

The most buzzed about category! Everyone wants to compare the costs of the top 10 outplacement firms because, at the end of the day, a RIF most likely occurred because a company needed to align talent with goals, making room for a budget. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why companies don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for outplacement.

Our research shows that the brick-and-mortar providers on this list (as well as most of the virtual startups) charge way too much for the service and even charge an additional retainer fee on top of that.

If you have a provider that charges retainer fees, has an antiquated service, and also uses term limits, you can almost feel your company’s bank account bleeding money.

Sidenote: We didn’t just analyze the cost in this section, but more so paid attention to the value. It is okay for a service to cost more as long as it provides substantially more value. Since the traditional brick-and-mortar providers have the most expensive services with the least value, it was safe to say that they lost in this category.

6. Industry Specialization

Most of the top 10 outplacement firms don’t specialize in any one area. Several industries have their own nuanced job search processes, so this lack of specialization was a failure for a lot of the firms.

Providers should have coaches for specialized fields like healthcare, higher education, financial services, and others. By doing so, they make sure that they can place any client from any industry with the same degree of expertise. Without having all of the bases covered, how are you supposed to trust them to even find a job in these areas.

Basically, a lack of industry coverage comes with a lot of downsides. You need to make sure your staff member is using the right firm or a firm that has specialized coaches in many different industries if you want them to be placed quickly and accurately in a new role.

7. Viable Product Extensions

What do we mean by this? In this category, we were looking for firms that had services beyond just outplacement that they could provide to their clients.

For example, outplacement firms should be thought leaders in the HR space, providing more than just one service. These services may include leadership development training opportunities, workforce planning assistance, and retirement lifestyle planning.

By providing more than just one service, outplacement firms become strategic partners with the organizations they help, allowing businesses to lean on their expertise when they need to.

The majority of the top 10 outplacement firms did not provide these extensions.

Top 10 Outplacement Firms: A Summary

When it comes to evaluating the top 10 outplacement firms, it’s hard to find one that ticks all of the necessary boxes.

So, when you start to seriously shop around, you want to find one that fits your needs and the needs of the person being let go from your organization.

Here are Careerminds, we live on the cutting-edge of technology, implementing all of the above requirements. We don’t charge retainer fees, and we work with clients until they are placed.

Want to learn more about how we can help your organization?

Download Our Top Outplacment Firms Guide


Aley Brown

Aley Brown

Aley is a versatile global business leader with proven experience managing high-performing teams and engaging a data-driven approach to strategies that exceed company objectives.

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