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What is Outplacement?

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Thrive Team
What is Outplacement?

Trust is a crucial foundation for any organization's success, promoting productivity, engagement, and innovation within the workforce. It is especially vital during times of organizational change, such as downsizing or layoffs. How an organization handles such changes can either reinforce trust and strengthen its culture or cause lasting damage to employee relationships and the organization's reputation. Mishandling layoffs can lead to significant consequences, including the loss of future talent, a damaged workplace atmosphere, and a tarnished employer reputation.

With increased expectations for corporate responsibility and accountability, companies must handle layoffs in a manner that upholds ethical standards and demonstrates compassionate leadership. Strategic management of layoffs is now a crucial piece in an organization's long-term success, and companies that prioritize transparency, fairness, and empathy during such transitions are better positioned to maintain trust and succeed in the long run.

Source: PwC's 2024 Trust Survey and Keystone Report

What is outplacement?

Outplacement is a service that organizations provide to their former employees who are transitioning to new jobs. This service is often administered by a third-party company and is paid for by the former employer. The outplacement services include practical advice, training materials, workshops, and sometimes even psychological support. The consultants are dedicated to supporting individuals looking for new job opportunities or even those planning to start a new business, retire, or structure a portfolio of activities.

These programs are offered at all levels of the organization, from workers to corporate employees, and have time limits ranging from a few months to a year or more. Outplacement services are a testament to an organization's commitment to its employees and future endeavours.

"The real question is how downsizing is done rather than whether to downsize. Companies that downsize through buy-outs and attrition, that help their workers get new jobs, and that sometimes provide outplacement services end up much better positioned than companies which simply wield the axe. [They have] a better chance of retaining the loyalty of the surviving workers. Trust is one of the most valuable yet brittle assets in any enterprise. So over the long term, it's far better for companies to downsize in a humane way." 

— Robert Reich, U.S. Labor Secretary

The evolution of outplacement services

Outplacement has changed a lot since its creation in the 1960s. It has evolved from a consulting service reserved for executives to a new curriculum of learning resources, job search tools, and career development accessible to all. Modern outplacement now provides tailored career coaching, sophisticated job matching, labour market insights and extensive support beyond the job search. 

Today's best outplacement services aim for a holistic approach to the career transition process, including services such as:

  • Career Coaching
  • Emotional and Mental Well-Being Support
  • Upskilling Providers
  • Resume and Cover Letter Support
  • Interview Preparation
  • Networking Assistance
  • Personal Branding Services
  • Personal Development Programs
  • Labour Market Insights
  • Career Change Counselling
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Retirement Planning
  • Health and Wellness

What outplacement can't replace 

Outplacement services offer a wide range of tools and resources to individuals impacted by layoffs. However, it's important to note that while outplacement services cover many areas of support, certain aspects are typically not included:

Responsible internal management practices

Outplacement services do not involve restructuring internal management or modifying organizational practices. These crucial aspects are internal decisions, emphasizing the pivotal role of the company's leadership and HR teams in shaping the organization's future. 

Authentic communication plans

While outplacement services can provide guidance on handling layoffs compassionately, they do not offer direct assistance in creating or executing an organization's internal and external communication strategies. Authentic and transparent communication plans during layoffs reflect the respect and value the organization places on its employees. Such plans should be created by the organization itself.

Transparent Decision-Making Process

It's the leadership's responsibility to be transparent in its decision-making process regarding layoffs and communication. Outplacement services do not provide guidance on who should be laid off or how those decisions should be communicated. The leadership must ensure transparency in these decisions to maintain employee trust.

Long-Term Employee Engagement Strategies

Long-term employee engagement and retention strategies are critical for maintaining morale and productivity among remaining staff after a layoff. Outplacement support focuses solely on immediate transition assistance and does not address these long-term strategies. Therefore, employing a separate and dedicated career management approach to develop and implement these strategies effectively is necessary.

Legal and Compliance Guidance

Outplacement providers typically do not offer legal counsel or compliance guidance related to layoffs. Organizations should consult with legal experts to navigate the complexities of employment law and ensure that their layoff processes comply with local and national regulations.

The Benefits of Outplacement

Benefits for outgoing employees include skill advancement, emotional support and a smoother, more structured transition.

For outgoing employees

  • Emotional Support: Outplacement can offer emotional support during a challenging time, helping employees deal with job loss's stress and psychological impact. This support is crucial for maintaining mental health and can be instrumental in assisting individuals to regain their confidence and motivation.
  • Smooth Transition: Outplacement services help employees transition to new job opportunities more smoothly by providing the necessary tools and support. This includes career counselling, resume writing, interview preparation, and job search strategies, which boost their chances of finding new employment quickly.
  • Skill Development: Many outplacement programs include upskilling and reskilling opportunities, which are vital in today's rapidly changing job market. This makes employees more attractive to potential employers and helps them pivot to new careers if desired.

Benefits of outplacement for remaining employees include higher engagement, improved talent retention and greater resilience to change.

For remaining employees:

  • Preserves Morale: Providing outplacement services demonstrates that the organization cares about its employees, which can help maintain the morale of the remaining staff. Seeing their former colleagues treated with respect and support in their transition can alleviate fear and anxiety about the company's future and their job security.
  • Maintains Productivity: By managing layoffs compassionately and providing support through outplacement, organizations can mitigate the drop in productivity often associated with layoffs. Employees who feel secure and valued are more likely to stay engaged and committed.
  • Enhances Trust and Loyalty: Even in difficult times, demonstrating a commitment to employee welfare builds trust and loyalty among the remaining staff. This can strengthen cooperation and create a more cohesive, robust team environment.

Benefits of outplacement for people leaders include improved employer branding, lower future talent acquisition costs and lower risk of litigation during exit events.

For people leaders:

  • Protects Brand Reputation: Outplacement services help maintain a positive company image. Organizations that treat their employees well, even during layoffs, will likely be viewed more favourably by the public, potential employees, and business partners.
  • Enhance Talent Retention and Acquisition: Companies that maintain a positive reputation through effective layoff management find it easier to attract and retain top talent. Prospective employees are more likely to join and stay in an organization that they see as treating its staff well in all circumstances.
  • Reduces Legal Risks: Compassionate handling of layoffs, including the provision of outplacement services, can reduce the likelihood of legal challenges from disgruntled former employees. This proactive approach can save on potential legal costs and the negative publicity associated with litigation.
  • Supports Long-Term Strategic Goals: By aligning layoff management with broader business objectives and values, outplacement helps ensure that the organization can quickly rebound and focus on future strategic goals. This strategic alignment helps stabilize the organization during transitional periods.

What is the ROI of Outplacement?

Is outplacement worth it? The return on investment of outplacement services yields tangible and intangible outcomes that make it a sound investment for organizations that value their employees' welfare and employer reputation. By providing competitive severance packages that include outplacement, organizations can emerge stronger than ever and empower their employees to navigate one of the most challenging periods in their careers.

The hidden costs of poorly handled layoffs

Research has shown that poorly handled layoffs can increase quit rates, with a 1% cut leading to a 31% increase in voluntary turnover. The cost of replacing an employee can range from 50% to 200% of their salary. Additionally, employees working in companies that lack adequate support for outgoing staff can experience a 20% decline in job satisfaction and a 41% decline in job performance.

The way layoffs are handled can also affect the company's reputation and relationship with its customers. Studies have shown that 64% of consumers stop purchasing a brand after hearing news of poor employee treatment, which can lead to significant financial losses for the company. 

Companies must approach layoffs with caution and sensitivity, considering the potential impact on the employees and the company. Simply cutting workers without implementing other changes may not lead to better returns in the long run.

The tangible benefits of outplacement

Investing in outplacement services can have a positive and measurable impact on an organization's growth and reputation. When offboarding is done correctly, employees are twice as likely to leave a positive company review. Such services can also help mitigate the negative impact of layoffs on surviving employee morale and the company culture. Employees who witness their former colleagues being supported through transitions are more likely to feel secure and valued. Research shows that 65% of remaining employees who knew those impacted received support viewed their employer in a positive light. This applies to employees and the broader market, including potential future hires, customers, and partners.

Well-managed layoffs can lead to long-term financial benefits for organizations. A study conducted in the United States found that well-designed and procedural layoff identification processes can save an average of US$1.28 million in litigation costs for every 100 employees who are let go. This underscores the importance of a well-planned and executed layoff process that considers ethical considerations.

The Risks of Outplacement

While outplacement services offer numerous benefits, organizations must be aware of potential risks and challenges associated with them. Understanding these risks helps ensure that outplacement efforts are implemented effectively and benefit all parties involved.

Generic Outplacement Programs

One significant risk is the implementation of generic, one-size-fits-all outplacement programs that fail to address the specific needs of individual employees. These cookie-cutter solutions can result in inadequate support, leaving outgoing employees feeling underserved and undervalued. Such an approach can undermine the trust and brand reputation the organization aims to protect and enhance through outplacement services.

Over-Reliance on Outplacement

Another risk involves over-reliance on outplacement services as a panacea for all the adverse effects of layoffs. While outplacement can significantly mitigate these risks, it cannot replace the need for comprehensive severance packages, effective internal communication strategies, and robust support systems for remaining employees. Organizations must view outplacement as one component of a broader layoff management strategy.

Choosing the Right Provider

Selecting the wrong outplacement provider can also pose risks. If the provider lacks expertise, especially in the relevant industry or job market, or if their services do not align with the latest market trends, the effectiveness of the outplacement program can be severely compromised. This misalignment can prolong the job search for employees and potentially damage the organization's reputation if the provider's ineffectiveness becomes public.

Need for Personalization and Care

A lack of personalization in outplacement services can also be problematic. Services that do not consider each participant's unique needs and circumstances may fail to provide the meaningful support necessary for successful transitions. This can leave employees feeling dissatisfied and disconnected, which can reflect poorly on the organization.

While implementing outplacement services has inherent risks, these risks can be effectively managed with careful planning, provider selection, and ongoing evaluation. By doing so, organizations can maximize the benefits of outplacement, supporting their employees through transitions and maintaining trust and reputation.

Tailoring Outplacement Services for Different Organizational Levels

Effective outplacement services are not one-size-fits-all but should be customized to meet the specific needs of different roles within an organization. Each group faces unique challenges and opportunities in their career transitions, from executives to managers to individual contributors. Here's how outplacement can be tailored to each level to maximize effectiveness and relevance.

For Executives

  • Specialized Career Coaching: Executives often require specialized coaching that focuses on leadership skills, industry networks, and strategic positioning in the job market. Outplacement for executives should include access to coaches experienced in high-level transitions and can offer insights into board-level appointments and C-suite opportunities.
  • Networking Opportunities: Networking is crucial for executives, as many senior roles are filled through industry connections rather than traditional job applications. Outplacement services should facilitate introductions and entry to exclusive networks and professional groups that can open doors to new opportunities.
  • Reputation Management: Executives must maintain a positive personal brand and reputation, which are critical during career transitions. Outplacement services should include support for managing online presence and public perception, ensuring that the executive's professional image remains strong across all platforms.

For Managers

  • Leadership Focus: Managers require support that helps them leverage their experience while expanding their skills to appeal to a broader market. Outplacement for managers should include skill assessments and development plans that highlight leadership, project management, and people skills.
  • Role-Specific Workshops: Workshops that focus on interview techniques, negotiation skills, and leadership in transition can be particularly beneficial for managers. These workshops should be tailored to address common concerns managers face when moving into new roles or industries.
  • Peer Networking: Giving managers opportunities to network with peers from other industries can help them gain insights and share experiences relevant to their level of responsibility. Such networking can also provide emotional support during the transition period.

For Individual Contributors

  • Skills Development: Individual contributors will benefit from upskilling and reskilling opportunities that make them more competitive in the job market. Outplacement services should focus on practical skills, such as digital literacy or industry-specific certifications, that enhance their employability.
  • Resume and Interview Support: Individual contributors need detailed support in crafting standout resumes and effective interview coaching. These services should be highly personalized to reflect each individual's achievements and career aspirations.
  • Job Search Tools: Providing robust job search tools, including access to job boards, alerts for relevant positions, and strategies for leveraging social media for job hunting, can empower individual contributors to navigate the job market more effectively.

By tailoring outplacement services to the unique needs of different organizational levels, companies can ensure that all employees receive the most relevant and beneficial support for their particular career paths. This customized approach enhances the effectiveness of the outplacement services and reinforces the organization's commitment to caring for its employees, thereby maintaining trust and goodwill.

This tailored approach ensures that each segment of the workforce feels valued and supported, potentially transforming a challenging transition into a springboard for future professional success.

How to Choose The Right Outplacement Provider 

Selecting the right outplacement provider is crucial for the effectiveness of the service and the overall satisfaction of the organization and its departing employees. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an outplacement provider to ensure that the services align with organizational values, employee needs, and industry standards.

1. Personalization

Look for providers that offer customized solutions tailored to the needs of different employee groups within your organization. The ability to adapt services to individual needs—from executives to entry-level workers—ensures that every participant receives relevant and practical support.

2. Expertise

Choose a provider with a proven track record in your specific industry. Knowledge of industry-specific challenges, opportunities, and networks is invaluable. Providers should deeply understand the job market dynamics relevant to your sector, enhancing the effectiveness of their coaching and job placement services.

3. Technology

Evaluate the provider's technological capabilities. Modern outplacement services should include access to advanced job search tools, digital platforms for networking, and online learning resources. The use of cutting-edge technology not only streamlines the process but also makes the program more accessible and engaging for participants.

4. Success Metrics

Investigate the provider's success rates through metrics like landing rates, satisfaction scores, and engagement levels. These indicators can give you a clear picture of the provider's success in helping former employees transition to new opportunities.

5. Support Services

Ensure that the provider offers a comprehensive range of services, including resume writing, interview preparation, career coaching, and emotional support. Additional services like networking advice and personal branding can also be crucial for participants' success.

6. Reviews and Testimonials

Look for reviews, testimonials, and case studies from other organizations that have used the services. Feedback from other HR professionals and participants can provide insights into the provider's reliability, responsiveness, and the quality of their services.

7. Accessibility and Flexibility

Choose a provider that offers flexible services that can be accessed by all employees, regardless of their location or situation. This includes offering in-person and virtual options to accommodate different needs and preferences.

Selecting the right outplacement provider is a strategic decision that affects not only the displaced employees but also the overall health of the organization. A provider that aligns well with your company's culture and values and offers personalized, accessible, and technologically advanced services can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your outplacement efforts. This partnership supports your departing employees in finding new opportunities and reinforces your organization's reputation as a responsible and supportive employer.


By investing in comprehensive outplacement services, organizations assist their former employees through transitional periods and reinforce their values and commitment to employee welfare, which has far-reaching implications for their business.

Organizations that provide thoughtful and practical outplacement support are often viewed as employers of choice, attracting talent, loyalty from existing employees, and respect from the broader community.

Outplacement should not be viewed merely as an operational cost but as a strategic investment in the organization's future. By supporting outgoing employees, companies fulfill their ethical obligations and position themselves as responsible and attractive employers. This strategic positioning is invaluable in today's competitive job market, where corporate social responsibility significantly influences consumer and employee choices.

As businesses navigate changes and challenges, outplacement services will likely become even more critical. The ability to adapt these services to the evolving needs of the workforce and the changing dynamics of the job market will be crucial to their continued effectiveness. 

While inevitable, change doesn't have to be a point of contention. With Thrive's approach, organizations can turn layoff obstacles into opportunities that reinforce trust and their commitment to ethical business practices. 

As we look to the future, the success of organizational change will increasingly depend on our ability to adapt with empathy, strategy, and a deep commitment to our teams. Thrive is here to guide the journey. Let’s chat about supporting your employees in the next step of their career journeys. 

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