Why helping your redundant workers is the right thing to do

2008

Using outplacement plans is not just morally the right thing to do when it comes to shedding staff but can, contradictorily, act as a useful retention and motivation tool for those left behind as well as being hugely valuable in reducing stress and angst among managers doing the chopping.

A survey by HR consultancy Reed Consulting has found that the bleak economic climate has, unsurprisingly, led to in an increase in the number of workers receiving outplacement support.

The past few weeks has seen a raft of surveys and company announcements on both sides of the Atlantic suggesting that we are seeing a sharp increase in job losses.

Just yesterday, the UK's deputy governor of the Bank of England, Charles Bean, suggested the current downturn could be at least as challenging as that faced by the world in the 1970s and that there was no end in sight anytime soon.

Aside from the moral obligation most managers and employers feel towards their workers in this situation, the Reed poll has also concluded that offering such assistance to workers being managed out the door can bring real benefits later on.

With reputations able to be trashed in an instant these days, firms need to tread very carefully when cutting back on staff numbers.

A badly handled redundancy programme can lead to resentment and fear among the remaining employers and concerns from customers, it warned.

In fact the Reed poll found that more than three quarters of employers felt the provision of outplacement services could improve an organisation's reputation, while more than half believed it could help it to continue to be seen as an employer of choice.

While, given that the employer is cutting back its headcount, this might seem a contradiction in terms, longer term it can provide real benefits in helping to keep staff motivated and engaged, the research argued, as up to a quarter of top performers left an organisation within 90 days of a major change announcement being made.

Nearly two thirds of those polled by Reed agreed that offering outplacement support for staff being made redundant generally helped to retain those who remained.

And, while outplacement is normally assumed just to mean the support provided to those whose jobs are being made redundant, the study also demonstrated that outplacement support can be valuable for the managers tasked with dealing with redundancies.

More than seven out of 10 employers believed that offering outplacement helped their line managers implement redundancies with a clearer conscience, and nearly nine out of 10 of those interviewed felt it eased the pressure on them.

People being made redundant were most often given help with their new careers by outside specialists, the poll found.

About half of the employers questioned used only external providers, while more than eight out of 10 engaged some help from outsiders.

Stuart Lindenfield, head of transition services at Reed Consulting, said: "Our study shows that organisations recognise the value of outplacement support to help improve their reputation, increase their ability to retain key staff during times of change and support line managers to deliver the message with a clearer conscience.

"The findings reveal that the provision of support is expanding, with 78 per cent stating that the need for outplacement would grow in the coming year or stay at current levels," he added.

"Successful transitions need careful planning and the engagement of all stakeholders as early as is feasible.

"When engaging an outplacement provider it is important to appoint an experienced partner that can help you to achieve your transition goals whilst increasing morale, motivation and productivity, which is vital during times of change," he concluded.

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