Five Things Your Former Employees Won’t Tell You About Your Outplacement Provider
Over the past four and ½ years we have completed considerable primary and secondary research to support the evolution of our outplacement and career transition coaching business model. The perspectives below came directly from our 2012 research “Two Perspectives on Outplacement: The End User v. the Purchasing Executive” in conjunction with collaboration from industry and academic HR leaders. The research was conducted in an anonymous fashion making it possible to receive sobering commentary on the “dark side” of the outplacement industry.
The purchase decision for these critical career transition services usually occurs in a time of great need and pain. Unfortunately, as we have learned over the years, the pain for the severed employee is not often assuaged by traditional outplacement services.
“I felt like I was a number and had no advocate. The service was terrible.”
Both our clients and survey participants often express this sentiment when engaged by our firm. We hear how stretched our competitors are to provide individualized service. The number one thing expressed about this viewpoint is that the career coach/consultant was not available for one-on-one meetings. In our research only 58% responded they were satisfied with the services received from their previous experience with outplacement firms. Even more concerning was that only 38% felt the services were useful in finding a job.
“It was lots of templates for everything. My resume was very cookie cutter.”
When you are dealing with hundreds of people on a 60:1 client to consultant ratio you have to focus on delivering services in a setting that is dictated by a one-size-fits-all approach to career transition. Our clients comment that previous providers put little time into individual professional branding, social media consulting or client-centered problem solving.
“The consultants seemed like they lacked expertise or even the interest to help me with my search.”
This is the number one thing that affects client perception of the outplacement offering. If the organization has the wrong career advisors the program will fall flat before you pass “Go”. Many firms hire adjunct career consultants who have backgrounds in human resources or training. While this might not seem overly offensive at face value, it can play very poorly for end-user perception if the consultant is not “invested” in the success of the individual. This business is still about people.
“The support group environment was very depressing. It was like grief counseling.”
Many outplacement providers have designed their offering around group counseling and “networking sessions” that give clients the opportunity to tell their story through an elevator pitch. Some participants find solace in getting to meet with others who have also lost their job. The paradigm has shifted; participants want privacy and one-to-one service. More importantly, clients want networking opportunities to be focused on business leaders who can actually help them land.
“Outplacement providers need to be re-trained for the current economy. They work with 1980’s ideas and skills.”
It is interesting when we meet a new client who has been referred to us by a previous client. This often happens after the referral has become disillusioned with the “big box” outplacement services their former employer provided. How do we end up figuring out that they were working with another provider? Well, sometimes they tell us. Alternatively, we know as soon as we see their outdated, generic resume. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and curiosity to keep up with current trends in career search, professional branding and job markets. Participants have to feel like they are accessing knowledge, expertise and technology they can’t get anywhere else for satisfaction levels to be high.
Including outplacement in severance agreements and reduction in force programs has been proven to reduce litigation by former employees. However, your company reputation is still at risk if your chosen outplacement provider falls flat on the expectations of our modern workforce. Our research at Barton Career Advisors has revealed significant gaps in traditional outplacement programs and we are making headway in changing this industry for the better. The court of public opinion moves to “summary decision” rapidly in our hyper-connected world. Where will your company stand after your next separation event?
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