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.