Imagine a world where you only had one make and colour of car to choose from irrespective of your individual tastes or needs. People would be disappointed, disengaged and even outraged. So why do we think a one size fits all approach is okay for outplacement?
In recent years, as in many other sectors, there has been a shift towards a technology driven solution to outplacement. Largely, automated approaches assume that everyone going through the process face the same challenges and require the same type of support. But as we know, this is clearly not the case.
While big data and algorithms have certainly helped to automate aspects of the outplacement process, namely job search, and may evolve to help automate other aspects of outplacement support in the future, there are elements crucial to the individual outplacement journey where technology is simply not yet sophisticated or reactive enough. This is why outplacement has to be blended, with a high focus on the human element, personal interaction and the individual. Put simply, technology is not yet sophisticated enough to respond to body language, tone of voice or what’s not being said in the same way that a coach can.
Time and time again, those that have benefited from outplacement support will talk about the human interaction with their coach as being one of the most beneficial aspects of the support, not the tools or technology. Skilled at providing the right balance of support, questioning, challenge and motivation, they help each individual contextualise their situation and objectives, analyse the specific elements where they need greater support and solve their challenges in a way technology heavy programmes simply cannot do at this point.
A responsible approach
Redundancy is an inevitable fallout of modern working life. Thankfully most organisations, through an increased focus on corporate social responsibility, are more attuned with the needs of their employees. They are committed to the ongoing development and success of those that have worked for them and ensure those leaving the business as a result of organisational change are supported. However, as with cars, there are lots of options and in an era where technology is evolving rapidly, it’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that it provides the empathetic, flexible, accessible and individual support employees facing redundancy need.
Making the case for a blended solution to outplacement
People by their very nature are unique, no two individuals will have the same needs. We see this repeatedly when it comes to their outplacement support. Sadly, there are too many examples to list in an article, however by focusing some of the more common needs of individuals at different career stages we are able to highlight the importance of this personalised approach that allows for human interaction in helping employees to successfully transition.
With millennials or Gen Z, at the beginning of their career, we see a range of challenges that require careful support and challenging of opinion.
This is the generation of digital natives. Online communication is their world. They are connected, very connected in fact. Yet when it comes to outplacement, we find that they often struggle in taking this communication offline and often need support in understanding the importance of developing strong personal, face-to-face connections in a job search scenario. Telling them this on yet another interface is unlikely to resonate, but through the human element of an outplacement programme we can react to the traits the individual demonstrates and help them to see the value in real-life communication, building their confidence so that it feels less alien to them.
Likewise, individuals at this stage in their career tend to have very clear career goals in mind, yet they sometimes need help evaluating the best way to get there. This is where one-to-one coaching with an experienced coach can really make a difference, helping them understand that there is not always a direct route to their desired end goal and that they may need to break down these goals into achievable stepping stones in order to get there.
Those at the mid-point in their career generally fall into two camps; they are either happy with where they are and the trajectory they’re taking, or ready for a change. For the former, outplacement coaching is very much about helping them to identify the skills they have now, how they can build on them in the future and exploring the opportunities that will allow them to continue with their career trajectory.
Generally speaking, this generation tend to be more settled in their role and confident about their ability. That said, for those who have been with their organisation for some time, being back out there on the job market can be quite daunting. This again is where the human interaction with coaches makes a real difference; helping them regain control of the situation, realise their value and build the confidence necessary to flourish.
For those who view redundancy as an opportunity to do something completely different, conversations tend to focus on the financial flexibility they have to pursue these options. Open and frank discussions that explore their ideas, the drivers behind making such a significant change and their levels of motivation generally take place to ensure that individuals make the right decision for themselves and those who may be dependent upon them.
Those at the latter stage of their career are assumed by many to be ready to hang up their boots and retire. However, this is rarely the case. Over a longstanding career, journeys can be hugely varied as can levels of hunger and expertise. The notion that each individual will be looking for the same outcome is flawed. While these individuals may be in a position to explore their options more freely, they are often reluctant to give up working life completely. With such a breadth of possibilities and experience to explore, taking the time to listen and provide relevant guidance can be of significant value as opposed to being channeled in one direction by a less personalised approach.
One of the challenges often facing these individuals is a lack of confidence. They are frequently unaware of their value and what they have to offer. Again, this is where skilled coaches make a real difference; helping to tease this out and help them to see for themselves the value of the skills they do have and what they can offer organisations – experience and a proven track record.
These individuals may also be less comfortable using social media to find roles or network, so it is up to us to help show them how they can build connections, develop these relationships and market themselves effectively.
Working together for success
Outplacement is very much a personal process – while experience has given us insight into some key trends across the spectrum of career stages, it is important not to enforce these assumptions.
It’s imperative to recognise an individual’s unique challenges and move towards a resolution which they are happy with whether it’s a new role, a career break or a complete change of direction.
Facing the prospect of redundancy can be an initially daunting and uncertain period for many people but by providing the right type of outplacement support, challenges are turned into opportunities.