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Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

Easing the pain of redundancy

Redundancy can be a brutal process and providing people with the tools they need during this challenging time is critical. Ali Hunter explains how a good transition programme can make all the difference, and save your reputation.

Providing outplacement support to employees whose roles have been disestablished is nothing new. Organisations have been offering assistance to help transition people from their positions since the 1960s, when the industry was first established and the term outplacement coined.

Back then, it was as much to do with easing employer guilt as it was about supporting people into new positions. Office space to use and grief counselling were on offer, but often the more practical components of job search support were lacking.

There is no denying that redundancy can be a brutal process, and while there is now less stigma attached to being made redundant, the effects on those who find themselves without a job can’t be underestimated.

Jobs are a significant part of our lives and identity and, for some, the process of being made redundant can trigger a personal crisis. Often people need to deal with this first, but for many what they really want is to find a new job, and fast.

Providing people with the tools they need most during this challenging time is therefore critical. Marketing themselves with a re-write of their CV and cover letters; assistance in how to use online social networks; effective job search techniques, including how to use their own networks to best effect; interviewing skills; and how to prepare for salary and package negotiation are all important aspects that help people land their new position more quickly.

While these more practical components of a good transition programme are vital, that’s not to say there is no place for more supportive, empathetic coaching—there is.

Often people aren’t in the right head space to start hearing about how to network or CV best practice from the get go.

They need time before they are ready to look for a job and don’t want to be pushed to do things they are not ready to do. Coaching to get to the heart of an issue or to allow people time to grieve is just as valuable to transitioning employees as how to interview effectively.

With this in mind, having ongoing guidance from a transition specialist until a new position is secured becomes essential to the success of an outplacement programme.

Too often, time limits are placed on transition programmes that do not work for the employee, particularly when they are not ready to start the job search.


Changes to the way in which we work are also having an impact on career transition programmes. Remote working, flexible schedules and the gig economy, are just some of the trends having an impact on HR and the workforce today. Traditional transition programmes are finding themselves having to change to reflect this.

As a result, virtual coaching in career transition programmes is on the rise. A joint Massey University and AUT study of over 1700 employees across 50 Australian and New Zealand organisations found that 89 percent worked remotely at least some of the time during the working week. The convenience factor of virtual coaching as opposed to in-person meetings only therefore cannot be ignored.

Virtual coaching reflects the way in which so many people already work. It offers accessibility and flexibility for those who either cannot make office hours, or who may face a long commute to meet their coach. Significantly, people tend to also feel more comfortable in their own space. Instead of worrying about appearances or arriving at an office in the city centre on time, virtual coaching creates an environment that allows people to feel safe and focus on what matters most.

This approach can also be useful in helping those workers who have not yet experienced remote working adapt to the possibility of joining a more virtual workplace.

It’s fair to say too that the ability to access their coach more easily not only enables people to work at their own pace, but can mean the difference between a long drawn-out job search and securing a new role quickly.

Programmes for employees seeking non-traditional avenues such as joining the gig economy or becoming an entrepreneur are also on the rise. The definition of employment is changing, and people now want and expect greater work-life balance and a more dynamic and flexible workplace. That might either mean starting their own business or merging together a few different things to provide full-time work for themselves or to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle.

Having an outplacement provider that can guide people through this process, help them to build their personal brand and navigate the complexities of establishing a business or working in an on-demand workforce is invaluable.

Gone are the days where outplacement was offered to only those at the highest level. Increasingly we are seeing outplacement support being offered across the board and not just at large corporates either. More and more small- to-medium sized businesses are seeing the value of supporting their employees through the restructure process.

There has been a shift whereby organisations are offering transition services, not only during restructuring but also when employees are moving on for other reasons, either retirement or simply because it is time to make a change. This focus on the entire employee lifecycle is something organisations are paying more attention to and the benefits to the organisation can be huge.


Reducing legal issues is often a reason organisations invest in career transition support. Mitigating the possibility of legal action and unexpected pay-outs to disgruntled employees is key, but perhaps even more importantly, providing support shows you care about your transitioning employees.

Knowing and hearing the message that we are sorry your job is being eliminated but we have these fantastic services to help you win your new role makes it a little easier to both deliver and receive this news.

Not only does providing career transition show good will, but it can also boost morale and limit attrition with remaining employees.

It can be easy to forget the survivors, but how they feel about the way their colleagues are being treated can have an impact. They need to see that they are being treated well.

This is significant in an increasingly digital world, where it’s important for organisations to maintain their brand reputation. A poorly executed restructure can impact your employment brand, your retention and your ability to meet future talent demands.

Today’s candidates are astute and typically spend 1-2 hours researching a company before they apply for a position. This can include reading online reviews on Glassdoor and comments on social media from employees affected by restructuring. If what they find is overwhelmingly negative, it can cause potential skilled employees to search elsewhere.

A lack of outplacement support can therefore play a significant role in both talent management and brand reputation. This isn’t just relevant for new talent, the number of people who leave jobs (either voluntary or involuntary) and then return with newly gained skills is on the rise.

The Boomerang employee’s decision on whether or not to return often hinges on whether they left on good terms and how much they like and respect the work culture. An employer who is genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of people during a restructure can help solidify that decision.

The benefits of providing outplacement aren’t just for the organisation. There are clear benefits for the employee too. Having a coach to guide them through the best practices of a job search, particularly given the job search process has changed so dramatically in the last few years, is crucial.

Job search is now more mobile than ever, more technology focused and people need to know how to stand out in a crowd, including how to create an incredible brand for themselves on LinkedIn and other social media sites.

A transition coach can help with all of these things, as well as helping to figure out what’s next, navigating a career change, and to craft a powerful CV and messaging to help people stand out in the job market.

All of this helps with how long an employee will take to land their next opportunity. And for the employer, that’s a great measure of success.

Employee career transition success is good for everyone. Having a clear process is critical to help you execute your restructure with dignity, resulting in little or no damage to your digital reputation.


One-size-fits-all solutions rarely work. Find a provider who is willing to create a customised programme that meets each individual employee’s needs as well as organisational budgets.

Time is of the essence. Engage with your outplacement provider before the restructure is finalised and make sure they can contact employees soon after final notification is made (or even earlier, if appropriate). Waiting too long for the programme to start is not ideal for someone who needs to find a new job quickly. It can be useful to have your outplacement provider on-site during the notification to help support employees as they are hearing the news. This touch point early in the process can help to build rapport and can be instrumental to increasing employee up-take of the programme.

Don’t be too prescriptive with timelines. Sometimes employees aren’t ready to engage immediately, either because they are still in shock and need time to clear their head, or maybe because they are planning a well-deserved break.

Be clear on the outplacement and career support available to employees. Having clear resources and information available to employees to help them plan their transition is important. Work with your provider to put together a pack that has everything they need to know and explain how working with an outplacement provider will help them find another position quickly.

Keep in contact with your provider to get an understanding of which employees are engaging with the programme and how they are tracking with their job search.

Restructuring and redundancies are unavoidable in almost every industry. It’s a difficult time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be handled with dignity nor must it result in resentment on the part of the employee. If handled well, it can result in brand advocates in both your team and your former employees.

ALI HUNTER is a career and outplacement specialist at Career Insights. Visit:

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