In this article we will discuss about the corporate assistance programmes for terminated employees. The programmes include – 1. Outplacement 2. Re-Training and Re-Deployment 3. Job Clubs.
Outplacement can be called cost-consciousness plus conscience or a strategic way to lose an employee, but gain a grateful alumnus. Or even a method for managing downsizing without generating panic. But outplacement is the one tool that every company planning to trim its flab should adopt. It is also, unfortunately, one that virtually no Indian company uses yet.
Scherba (1973) has defined out placement as “a series of services to terminated employees to minimize any period of unemployment following termination”. As this definition implies, outplacement is not a specific programme or service, but instead encompasses a variety of services such as resume writing workshops, career counselling sessions and direct placement assistance.
In the U.S., co-operation between the private sector and public sector has also resulted in some impressive outplacement services. For instance, Bethlehem State Corporation joined the State of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Department of Labour to establish the career continuation centre containing bulletin boards with job listings, twenty-five desks with telephones and other secretarial services.
At the Bethlehem Centre, almost two-third of the employees obtained jobs within ninety days. Outplacement activities can be quite beneficial to laid-off employees. It provides them added stimulus to seek further education, get into more suitable occupations, or move to more prosperous locations.
Outplacement also provides terminated employees with a structure to their day, some companionship and social support, and a signal from the company that they are behind employee efforts to obtain re-employment. All of these can reduce the anxiety levels of downsized workers, enabling them to effectively cope with job loss.
Currently disguised as the other job offer – where companies engage placement agencies to offer a manager another job so that he quits voluntarily – this combination of professional and financial support could soon become a formal device, instead of being a covert operation designed to induce a resignation. And, whether managed by internal staff or outsourced from a human resources development agency, the essentials of the service are the same.
Spread over the first two or three weeks following the breaking of the news that an employee is being asked to go, counselling eases him through the cycle of denial-depression-bargaining-anger-acceptance, helping him overcome despair at losing his job, and shore up the resolve to get a new one.
With daily sessions, as much as 40 hours could be spent on this process alone. According to experts “The first job of an outplacement counsellor is to boost the morale of the person. If he’s successful, half the battle is immediately won”. Typically, the counsellor stresses on the useful role that the manager can still play in business and society, and that it is really your company’s condition or policy that has forced the pink slip on him.
The points that the outplacement counselor must make:
(i) The decision to terminate the employee’s job is business-related, not personal.
(ii) Losing one’s job despite no particular shortcoming is going to be a reality.
(iii) It’s better to be objective and realistic than lose one’s way in self-pity or anger.
(iv) A change of job and a new working environment will probably be better for the employee.
(v) The opportunity for re-examining one’s skills and preferences should be utilized effectively.
Having primed the subject, outplacement now helps the manager undertake an honest and objective self-appraisal, listing the strong and the weak points. The counselling also facilitates an understanding of just what kind of job the employee is best suited for in terms of aptitude as well as temperament. So, if there had been a profile job mismatch in his earlier position, the employee learns not to repeat the mistake.
During this preparation, outplacement counsellors teach the employee to write his resume – don’t forget, he may not have written one in years and applications for different jobs have different requirements. The skills needed to perform well at interviews are taught too: middle and senior managers who may have spent their entire life with your company have obviously forgotten the art of facing a selection interview.
Outplacement counsellors delve into their own or recruiting agencies’ databases to prepare a list of companies with jobs matching the outgoing employee’s needs. Simultaneously, they activate their own contacts to track down job opportunities, while encouraging the employee to tap his own acquaintances to scan for openings.
Outplacement cells of companies in the US and Europe normally maintain a computerized databank of available jobs in the same business – locally, nationally, and internationally – so that locating opportunities isn’t difficult. Containing details of salary, experience, specialization, age et al, these data banks can quickly find fits for outgoing employees.
Once job possibilities have been located – that’s not difficult with employment opportunities for managers increasing rather than decreasing in the country – the outplacement programme performs its last task: helping the employee to make a smart choice. This choice is crucial, since placing him in a job that does not match his abilities will kill his confidence.
Outplacement technique has a number of merits. First, it will dampen the shockwaves that normally accompany any firing – whether of one employee or of 100. Your employees will be assured that even if you have to ask them to leave, they won’t be thrown to the wolves. Without this form of security, they could start deserting you right away.
Following are the merits of outplacement:
i. Establishes your company’s human face.
ii. Eases the pain of managerial retrenchment.
iii. Preserves morale among your other managers.
iv. Smoothens the way for future downsizing moves.
v. Helps you retain your former employees’ respect.
Secondly, offering outplacement will earn you the level of a company that cares, overcoming the resentment that Indian companies planning to downsize normally evoke. Outplacement shows the human face of an organization when it is performing the unpleasant task of retrenching.
Securing a future for him may not be essential from a business point of view. However, the treatment employers hand out to employees who leave them has been found to strongly influence the decision of those you are trying to hire. So, dissatisfied employees may prevent employers from attracting the best talent. By contrast, an employee whose exit helped to make painless will retrain links with the organization, and should you need to re-hire him or her in future, your outplacement services could prove a strong motivator.
Companies in India still do not practice outplacement technique for their employees. Blame the costs, for starters; offering complete outplacement services are much more expensive than merely hiring a headhunter to find the deportee another job. However, the gains could be worth the higher bill.
Following are the demerits of outplacement:
a. May prove both expensive and time-consuming.
b. Maintaining a database on other jobs is not easy.
c. Can work only when retrenching a few managers at a time.
d. Can be turned down by angry, disillusioned employees.
e. Difficult to implement at the level of workers.
Maintaining a databank of available jobs in same profession is very difficult. Outplacement can be refused by agitated and angry employees.
Another useful assistance programme employers can provide employees who have lost their jobs due to downsizing is training for new jobs.
Like many of the other programmes discussed, companies have usually focused retraining assistance on displaced blue collar workers rather than on professional or managerial personnel. Particularly in declining industries and occupations, simply encouraging laid-off workers to go out and find new jobs is a relatively useless exercise. These workers need to get retooled in order to obtain satisfactory re-employment. Such retraining efforts can help employees reduce the amount of time spent between jobs.
Leana and Ivancevich (1987) describe several secondary positive consequences of retraining programmes. Enrollment in training programmes can give unemployed workers some structure to their day. These programmes also provide them with regular activity and some work-related identity.
They also help mitigate feelings of low self-esteem and loss of control, which are often associated with in voluntary in job loss. Kaufman (1982) cautions, however, that retraining may hinder rather than enhance psychological adjustment if the retraining efforts often exhibit high expectations of immediate employment.
Individual and situational differences influence the process of career redeployment. Workers who engage in continuous learning are less likely to experience obsolescence and are easier to retain and redeploy. Those who are achievement-oriented, more willing to take risks, and believe in their own ability to be effective are likely to be more successful in retaining and redeployment. By contrast, those who are “prone to depression and more vulnerable to stress from job displacement may need social support and behaviour modeling job search and retraining.
People need realistic pictures of their own strengths, must prepare for barriers and rejection, and may need to consider new career directions. Those who rear more widely for job and career alternatives are more successful in retraining and redeployment.
The more a profession is affected by changing conditions (e.g. technologies, markets, economies, or political conditions), the more continuous learning is needed to avoid displacement and the more frequently different employment opportunities arise. Networks of friends and colleagues provide advice, counsel and encouragement to displaced workers.
The availability of learning opportunities influences the likelihood of displacement and subsequent redeployment. Also, a favourable view of continuous learning in the organization and or community encourages people to take advantage of learning opportunities.
Business decline and redirection may produce an economic climate in which traditional counselling, resume preparation, interview training and network are inappropriate. Individuals must actively create career opportunities for themselves by negotiating new employment relationship such as contracting, temporary employment, job sharing or part- time work. Organizations are increasingly receptive to those new arrangements because they enhance their flexibility.
Job clubs use a behavioural approach to teach and reinforce job search skills and competence. The club environment offers some emotional and social support that displaced workers might not have their own. A job club for order, unemployed people meets two afternoons a week to help participants set job search goals, receives support and information on job leads from one other, and uses telephones to call prospective employers.