Outplacement: the ultimate ‘guilt spend’?

If you work in HR, you’re probably familiar with the three key justifications for offering outplacement support (when it’s not mandated by industrial agreements): it helps manage legal, PR and reputation risks, it converts exiting employees to ‘promoters’, and it boosts the morale of retained employees. And at $3-5,000 per employee for a conventional service (and much more for executives), it would certainly want to deliver some kind of ROI.

What’s puzzling, though, is that many organisations seem to have neither (a) any useful data about the usefulness of their outplacement program nor (b) any issue with the cost. Instead, we often get the impression that organisations are happy to spend up big on outplacement. Perhaps because it eases the corporate conscience during difficult times?

Outplacement services are expensive because conventional wisdom holds that outplacement support is best provided face-to-face. Accordingly, exiting employees are invited to rounds of seminars and, if they’re lucky, a series of private consultations.

And who wouldn’t want that level of support at such a sensitive time? A lot of people, as it turns out. Attendance rates at outplacement seminars are often woeful, so much so that some employers have resorted to offering financial ‘incentives’ to boost attendance.

So why don’t people want to get with the program, literally? There are many reasons: they’ve heard bad reviews from previous participants, they’ve attended one meeting and found the ‘expert’ uninspiring, they don’t think they need help, they think they’ve already got a new job lined up. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that they can’t be bothered.

It’s this last surprisingly common disincentive to attending programs that digital programs can tackle. (And when we talk about digital programs we’re talking about proper, tailored, up-to-date interactive programs designed for local audiences and not confusing repositories of dated print materials).

A quality digital program can run to as little as $200 per head while appealing to employees who:

  • Know where they need help and just want to focus on that area, for example updating their LinkedIn Account or networking online
  • Want to access information when and where it suits them – often from the comfort of their couch
  • Aren’t impressed by the conservative and didactic approach taken by mainstream outplacement providers.

We’re not suggesting that the face-to-face element of programs be replaced by an online solution: there will always be a need for face-to-face support in the outplacement space. We’re arguing for better live support: the sort of support that goes beyond generic advice and actually helps people get placed. This kind of support is expensive, because it’s delivered by people who are successful and well-connected, like busy recruitment consultants. So, while it might cost $500 an hour instead of $100 an hour, when combined with an affordable digital solution, it is still likely to represent excellent value and deliver great outcomes for exiting employees.

What’s new in resumés?

If it’s time to update your resumé, check out our short video for inspiration.




Are you letting your internal candidates down?

We often hear job seekers bemoaning the advantage that internal candidates have over them. But in practice, it often strikes us as being the other way around: it’s the internal candidates who are at the real disadvantage.

Most companies don’t really have an open market when it comes to human resources. Many managers jealously guard high-performers, and ‘poaching’ talent is often discouraged. In fact, a lot of high-performers find it easier to leave organisations to access opportunities, than to navigate the tricky waters of internal politics.

But even when employees are encouraged to apply for internal roles, they encounter another hurdle: a lack of assistance in marketing their skills.

Consider the employee who has been with your organisation for 20 years. He doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile; he’s never done a video interview; and the last time he updated his resumé it was fashionable to include a list of hobbies. Can he compete with an external candidate who is being coached by their recruiter to impress?

Organisations are very happy to spend money imparting ‘job seeker’ skills to employees who are leaving due to redundancy. But it’s rare for them to invest in helping internal candidates ensure their resumé is up-to-date and their interview skills are sharp. Some blue-chip companies do employ ‘career coaches’ for this purpose, but it’s not something we see at many organisations.

The good news is that we think this is starting to change. Lately, we’ve spoken to a number of organisations wanting us to provide digital career programs to support internal mobility. These programs are designed to give employees the confidence to apply for the internal roles they really want, or to prepare employees to reapply for their own roles. We hope this trend takes off: it makes a lot of sense for organisations to invest a small amount in boosting the career literacy of their workforce before they leave the organisation.



Are managers the problem?

LinkedIn just released it’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, and the results are fascinating.

Apart from the fact that only one-third of talent developers would recommend their own programs (!), we were struck by the stark findings around manager engagement.

While 94% of surveyed employees said that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, most of them also complained that they don’t actually have time for learning. What would encourage them to find the time? Their managers directing them to complete specific courses in order to gain or improve their skills.

What these findings suggest is that employees want their managers to play a role in curating and encouraging their learning. It isn’t enough for an organisation to make learning available, it must work to get managers to promote it.

This resonates perfectly with our own experience of implementing online learning programs. When we scope a project, we usually include a piece of change management or communication work designed to ensure line managers are engaged. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for clients to strike-out this line item and then fail to take care of this important work themselves. An all-staff email is no way to launch a learning program!

So while we would agree with the survey finding that managers can be a barrier to the successful roll-out of learning programs, we would suggest that this is because not enough is been done to engage them.

In the absence of a very compelling business case, it’s hard to imagine any sensible manager directing resources (staff time and sometimes actual budget) towards a learning program that even the talent developer herself struggles to recommend.

Getting more bang for your training buck: does online learning really deliver?

We often hear about the savings that online learning can deliver because it reduces the need for physical training spaces and instructors.

What we often see often overlooked, however, are two other ways that online learning can dramatically reduce training costs:
1. By reducing the actual time spent learning
2. By shifting some of the training time to non-productive time.

Reducing the time spent learning may not sound like a wonderful thing, but it can be. Traditional live training can absorb hours of productive time while delivering minimal result because it’s irrelevant or overly theoretical.
Online learning changes things up. Employers can replace lengthy generic programs with tailored programs that address the needs of small subsets of staff – or even individual employees.

Online learning also facilitates micro-learning: short sharp sessions that drip-feed content and encourage learners to apply their learning in the real world.

When delivered by Learning Management Systems that are web-based and mobile-friendly, these short sessions are also likely to be done outside of traditional work hours. An entertaining learning module that goes for 10 minutes is an appealing option during a boring commute or lunch break.

Of course, producing an entertaining learning module isn’t cheap. There are however, ways to make it more affordable:

  • Find people internally who either have the skills or want to develop the skills to produce content. This can be an excellent development opportunity for them while keeping production costs down
  • Use third-party content. There’s a massive amount of training content out there if you know where to look. You can even buy licenses to broadcast Ted Talks. Finding the right content – with the right tone – for your organisation and integrating it into a curriculum can be time consuming, but it’s definitely an option to consider
  • Partner with an existing provider like 2000 Mondays, who can tailor existing programs to your needs and provide you web-based software that will manage the program for you.


Are you protecting your ecosystem?

Mercer recently published a solid think piece about learning development trends. They observed seven key trends, as shown in the diagram below.

We particularly liked that they included ‘ecosystems’ in their model because we’ve noticed that contingent workers are frequently overlooked by organisations designing L&D or career development programs. (The term ‘ecosystem’ usually describes a network of people that an organisation interacts with in order to tap into as-needed talent, e.g., contractors, freelancers and consultants.)

There is growing demand for quality contingent workers as organisations get leaner and more dependent on technological innovation to compete. And yet, very few organisations do anything to attract, retain or engage members of their ecosystem, other than offering them more money. This is despite the fact that research shows that contingent workers want many of the same things as permanent workers, including feedback and professional development.

Why is this the case? Basically, because most organisations’ people-management culture and infrastructure lag behind reality. In many companies no one is accountable for managing the contingent workforce in any meaningful way. Over-stretched line managers might have nominal responsibility for the contingent workers they bring on, but they are unlikely to invest time or budget in developing people they view as more of a commodity than an organisational resource. An arms-length relationship suits them just fine.

Systems too are an issue. Many contingent workers don’t have access to company networks, and are shut out of learning systems as a result.

We have started talking to some organisations – including recruitment and staffing agencies – that want to change the way they manage contingent workers. Specifically, they are looking at giving contingent workers:

  • Some kind of formal onboarding so that they have context for their work and can form internal networks more quickly
  • Performance feedback, recognition and other forms of career development including being included in succession planning and global talent pools
  • Access to training and development opportunities via web-based learning systems.

This last point – the space where we operate – is probably the easiest of the three to implement. Technology makes it possible to offer learning opportunities to almost anyone, from casual staff on the shop floor to independent contractors based overseas. And doing so sends a clear message: “We are prepared to invest in your development because we value your contribution”. Imagine how compelling this message would be if you were a contractor more used to hearing “We want you to deliver great work and then get out of here”…