At the end of 2019 Australian employment rates were as high as they had been in some time. The government was getting ready to announce its first budget surplus in over ten years. People had high hopes for the new decade.
Then COVID hit. Many industries were impacted immediately, while many more have found themselves increasingly affected as the months have gone on. Which leaves many of us facing a tough situation: Downsizing organisations and saying permanent goodbyes to employees.
In such an overwhelming and unprecedented situation, how do you go about carrying out a restructure? Logistically it can be hard to exit employees en masse. But it is also challenging from a human point of view – how can you lift these valued members of your team up at the same time you have to let them go? What will be the impact on the remaining employees?
COVID has made everything more challenging – including outplacement
This hasn’t been a merciful situation. While industries like travel and aviation, retail and hospitality have been incredibly hard hit, more traditionally secure industries like finance, media and education are also experiencing mass redundancies.
Businesses have already laid off more than 700,000 workers who aren’t eligible for JobKeeper. And as JobKeeper goes into its second, more reduced, phase, that number will continue to climb.
It’s a situation this generation of employees and leaders have never known, meaning very few are prepared for how to deal with it. Not only has it created a situation in which organisations are required to let go of staff, but the environment in which it’s happening presents even more challenges:
Mass redundancies do occur, but the amount of organisations experiencing the economic pain of the pandemic at the one time is highly unusual. Strategically and effectively handling this won’t be easy and defaulting to what you’ve usually done in similar situations won’t cut it.
Unemployment is high
There is always the hope and well wishes that those who are leaving will be able to find a new role quickly. But with unemployment growing to over 7% and heading up (and an average of 18 job seekers for every role advertised), the chances of staff finding a new role on their own are slim.
You need to maintain business reputation
Right now, retaining customers and market interest is vital for business survival. Even though downsizing may be a necessary evil, handling it in the wrong manner can severely damage much-needed reputation.
You genuinely care about employees
This isn’t a case of removing redundant roles or an employee not being the right fit for the organisation. In many cases, it’s employees who are valued and hard-working members of the team that are leaving.
Many organisations have processes and programs in place to help in the event of exiting staff or redundancies. But few of them would have been created with this sort of situation in mind nor such a bleak economic environment.
Suddenly, outplacement means something new and has a whole new set of requirements attached – and organisations are finding their current methods can’t stand up to the challenge.
What do exiting employees need to succeed?
This might sound, so far, like a lot of extra doom and gloom that no one needs. But it’s important to recognise the new challenges that are arising from COVID-related redundancies to be able to ensure you handle it correctly.
The added challenges of these times can show us what we need from an outplacement strategy to ensure its success.
So, what does good outplacement during a pandemic look like? In order to uplift employees at one of the hardest times they’ll face, you need to consider what they need right now:
A next step:
Losing your job is never a positive experience, but right now, it will be even scarier. Exiting employees need to know what their next step should be – something that is appropriate and realistic – and many will need some help in narrowing down what that is.
A way to get there:
It’s one thing to know what you want to do next, and another to get there. With so many people vying for so few jobs, they’ll need more than some job applications – they’ll need guidance, connections, application support, training information and more.
Understanding & support:
Individualised support is important to ensure each employee has their individual needs met. A ‘one size fits all’ approach does little to help them determine step one or step two. Similarly, it’s important to consider benefit of using independent experts. Outplacement should offer ongoing support; both immediate and longer term, so you need to ask yourself if the organisation can offer that and if ex-employees would feel comfortable utilising it.
Change your approach, change the outcomes
Losing your job is hard. Letting someone go is hard. Trying to maintain an organisation during a global pandemic is hard. But when the effort is put in to handle these situations correctly and with care, some positives can come from them.
If we consider the points mentioned above, it’s a lot easier to determine what sort of features you need from an outplacement service or provider. Your outplacement strategy should be:
- Customised to your organisation, and individualised to your employees
- A one-on-one service
- Ongoing, valuable support
- Lead to measurable transition outcomes
Most importantly of all, your program should focus on the human impact of this situation. If you want to support your employees and really lift them up, that is the best way to do it.
The next question to ask is if this is something your organisation can deliver. If not, it is worth looking for external providers who can deliver the services for you – providing the benefits without the added stress.
At Choice Career Services, we specialise in managing the human impact of change and are experts in managing large scale outplacement.
We’re set up to deliver the kind of outplacement services COVID calls for, with everything from customised programs, to industry connections to aid with re-employment, the skill to balance the needs of employees with the needs of your organisation.
You can learn more about our services here, or click here to get in touch with us.