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Guest Blog by Barbara Babkirk, Heart at Work Associates

Perhaps your company needs to cut costs or management has decided to go in a different direction—whatever the case may be, the result may call for a layoff.

The news will be painful for those impacted and you want to do the right thing for employees who have worked hard and will lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. In an effort to ease your employees’ transitions, you may offer everyone a severance package, depending on their length of time with your company.

An important part of a severance may include “outplacement services”—assistance provided by career counseling professionals skilled in navigating career transitions.

Outplacement services not only help the affected employees establish new career directions and professional focus after layoffs, but have also been proven to minimize the risk of a lawsuit.

More than 70% of employers include outplacement services as part of severance. However, only 40% of recipients take advantage of this offering.

As an experienced outplacement provider, I have found that most recipients of outplacement support do not clearly understand the benefit of what they’re offered. Consequently, the generous gift of assistance with a job transition may not benefit anyone in the end.

In order for outplacement services to accomplish what they were intended, employers need to have a plan that addresses all aspects of the services:

  1. Initiate preliminary conversations with one or two outplacement providers to decide on what services and provider would best meet company needs and goals.
  2. Consider how the message about outplacement services will be communicated to the impacted employees (for example, an introductory letter from the provider, plan for the provider to be on-site the day of the layoff, and/or a carefully crafted message from the employer about the intent behind outplacement services).
  3. Clearly identify and communicate the specifics, duration, and benefits of the outplacement services offered.
  4. In the severance agreement, introduce the outplacement provider you’ve select with email and phone number and a date by which employees should contact the firm.

Outplacement services range widely from customized one-to-one career counseling services, professional branding, and LinkedIn workshops and mock interview sessions, to less personal online portals that access job information.

Think about what you want as an outcome from outplacement services and make sure that the provider you select has the experience, qualifications, and up-to-date knowledge you require.

(Barbara Babkirk is Founder and Principal, Heart at Work Associates, a firm based in Portland, Maine that specializes in career counseling and outplacement services for individuals seeking satisfying work after losing a job, changing careers later in life, returning to the workplace after raising a family, or launching a career after college. www.heartatworkassociates.com.)