Is outplacement the right option now?

A good severance package is a better bet for employees who are laid off, say HR experts.  

Outplacement sounds like salve to lacerated skin. The irony is that the healing is being offered by those very hands that have caused the wound, wittingly or unwittingly. So, animosity may be simmering under the surface, and that can queer the pitch. Assuming the laid-off employee gets past that emotional hurdle, the “goodwill exercise” may still run out of steam due to a mismatch between expectations and opportunities.

“Skillset mismatch; salary mismatch; location mismatch; and lack of timing, which is mismatch between availability of a job and the candidate’s readiness to step into it can derail a job search or an outplacement exercise even during those times when the job market is stable. Now, with the COVID-19 crisis leading to job losses across industries, these factors can prove even more challenging. The options for getting the matching game right have shrunk. Candidates may be flexible in terms of salary, but the other factors can be arrayed against them,” says Kamal Karanth, co-founder, Xpheno, a specialist staffing solutions organisation.

“Outplacement enjoys just a 25 per cent success rate in favourable conditions. The current situation having made the wicket sticker, its strike rate would have now plummeted.”

An unsuccessful outplacement exercise can result in increased frustration for the outgoing employee, and animosity towards the organisation, a scenario that doesn’t do much for workforce morale now.

Good severance package

Kamal believes that in the current scenario, a good severance package would be the best bet in softening the blow.

“There are cases where outgoing employees have been given six months’ to one-year’s pay as severance package, but these are outliers, and the vast majority of the companies wouldn’t give more than what is the formula, which wouldn’t be sufficient,” says Kamal.

Even where the will is present, the quality of a severance package can be determined by an organisation’s health.

Rituparna Chakraborty, former president, Indian Staffing Federation, agrees outplacement support may be far from effective in the current context, but acknowledges that it may be just the life-raft someone may be hoping to latch on to.

“The relevance of outplacement differs from circumstance to circumstance. As a service model, it has not worked much in India, where I have not seen it happen in a big way over the last 18 years. However, those reference points are not relevant to the current situation. As a concept, outplacement support is offered by staffing agencies as a paid service, for companies. It is different in the current scenario, where it is being offered as a free and added help.”

So, the idea suggested here is that it could be tried out as an additional measure to mitigate the widespread unhappiness resulting from job losses.

Kamal points out that during the current COVID-19 scenario, “outplacement” exercises — which he calls a misnomer, and settles for “career transition services” as it is outsourced to agencies — are reduced to “counselling exercises”, as that it is all one could do. Matching jobs just don’t show up on the horizon.

Creative furloughing

Harish Bijoor, brand Guru and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., states that from a branding point of view, attempts at outplacement, though well-intentioned, can prove detrimental to a company.

“If a company’s outplacement exercise turns out hollow, that can erode its brand value, and given the current scenario, where all businesses are in the doldrums, the odds are high that it will turn out hollow,” Harish explains. Harish believes companies would be doing their reputation and workforce morale a world of good by avoiding lay-offs and settling for a furloughing arrangement that comes paired with a reskilling and upskilling programme during the period the employees would go without pay, so that they are ready for the job of the future.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 2:23:34 AM |

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