Losing a job is universally acknowledged as one of life’s most stressful events. Although a bad economy invariably forces companies to deal with the event repeatedly, most businesses are ill equipped to confront the situation on their own. Those that attempt to deal with things in-house risk making a bad situation worse. To be sure, the stress of job loss hits laid-off employees hardest, but they do not suffer alone. Stress and negativity can permeate the organization as surviving employees feel the pain even if they are not directly involved.
There is no magic bullet to cure these ills, but companies are far from powerless. Specialized outplacement services are readily available and there are compelling reasons, some altruistic and some purely self-interested, to offer those services to departing employees.
At the simplest and most human level, offering outplacement services is the right thing to do. Departing employees have contributed their time and energy to the company’s success and the offer of outplacement services is at least a small acknowledgement of their importance. It provides concrete evidence that the company takes the plight of its laid-off workers seriously.
That evidence is also visible to the employees who remain. The survivors are always extremely sensitive to the manner in which the company is treating their former colleagues. If they see that treatment as uncaring or negative, morale and productivity suffer going forward.
The outplacement services may be as simple as supporting employees’ expenses in the hiring of a professional resume writer and career counselor to obtain a high quality achievements resume, an outstanding resume cover letter, job interview coaching, and job search strategy help.
Inside the company, another benefit of using an outside service is that it lifts a very heavy burden from the shoulders of the company’s own managers. Without third party involvement, the stress of the process can take a toll on those managers, hurting their effectiveness in their regular roles and, given their personal involvement, adversely affecting staff relationships in the future.
In public, the company’s image benefits when it demonstrates that, even in very difficult times, it takes care of its employees. The company’s image is enhanced among customers, investors and future employees, and it is an especially important consideration for regional companies with close ties to their communities.
Finally, offering outplacement services benefits a company as part of its risk management strategy. Layoffs often lead to litigation brought by employees against the company on the grounds of workplace hostility or discriminatory employment practices. Those lawsuits are rarely successful, but defending them, win or lose, is expensive. Companies with outplacement services in place have a significantly lower incidence of litigation than those who fail to offer those services.
Companies may be tempted to forego offering costly outplacement services at a time when resources are stretched thin, but the benefits of improved morale and productivity, good public relations and decreased exposure to litigation make it a cost-effective option. Doing the right thing and making prudent financial decisions do not have to be mutually exclusive motivations. If you run a company offering outplacement services may one day be part of a description of your achievements.