Actively Caring for Those You Exit

Actively Caring for Those You Exit

“Layoff” “Reduction in Force” “Outplacement” “Early retirement”– all have one thing in common: they focus (only) on one part of the equation: the employer action to separate employees from the organization. This one-sidedness continues when “outplacement support” is offered.  It checks the corporate box of “we helped”.  Well, while resume support is necessary, it’s woefully insufficient to really help people navigate this difficult period of transition.

For employers, it’s a moment of truth and a time to show whether they actively care for their people, or if they are just checking the box saying we did something.

People are upset by the implications for them, their families, and their livelihood. They are navigating pressures from family, expenses, mortgages, children, and aging parents. In their most honest moments, many will admit they were ready for a change and find even a kernel of positivity in the unwelcome circumstance that allows them to make changes they had been wishing for anyway.

How employers assist their soon-to-be former colleagues impacts how those employees finish, leave, and land.  It also impacts those who stay.  When done well, separation events strengthen the company’s brand and culture, and demonstrate to those who stay, the company really does value its colleagues, even in times of transition.

Encouraging reflection 

People have the ability to do much more than their job history conveys.  When employees are exited and simply given resume and job search services (aka “outplacement support”), without being encouraged to pick their heads up and ask new questions, they often land in a role with all the same trappings, disappointments, and frustrations they had in the job they left.

Alternatively, employers can offer transition support that encourages employees to pause and be discerning as they pursue their next job: what they would choose to replicate and what they’d prefer to do differently. They can reflect on questions such as:

  • What new areas are they now qualified for given their most recent experiences?
  • What passions or prior experience do they have that they would like to reignite in their next role?
  • What do their current life circumstances suggest is best for them in their next role?

Such actions are not only helpful to the individuals transitioning, but they go a long way and inspire those who remain, by witnessing how their employer actively cares for colleagues in authentic, discretionary, and helpful ways.

As an organization dedicated to helping companies and their employees through critical periods of change, MyNextSeason recommends three key steps to set employees being transitioned out, up for success:

  1. Provide clarity
    So many people experience stress when information needs go unmet. Only HR can provide such answers. It is critical to communicate clearly and thoroughly about the timeline, compensation/stock/benefits treatment, and implications. This step should be “table stakes” for supporting your colleagues well. Ambiguity adds more stress to an already stressful situation. It also engenders anger and resentment from employees and their family members—who will then share their experiences with others.
  2. Provide support navigating the transition
    There are many steps to leaving a company and finding the next role. Enable your employees to travel on that journey with the support of someone who cares, can help, and is confidential. Support from a caring advisor helps individuals:
  • Manage stress. There is no physical health without mental health. There are proven strategies to manage life’s trying events successfully.
  • Maintain a professional environment. Communicate internally and externally about the change in a way that ensures barriers/uncertainties are not created with colleagues, customers, and other key stakeholders.
  • Recognize opportunities that come with career transitions. Taking time to pause, reflect, and reinvent as they discern what they want to do enables people to make informed choices that consider their career stage and life circumstances.
  • Showcase their strengths. Update their resume/CV, bio, and/or LinkedIn in a manner that positions them best for target job opportunities and facilitates networking with people who can be helpful to their efforts.

3. Demonstrate respect for all they have done for the company—by how you treat them and enable them to land elsewhere

  • Provide resume support and job search assistance as a minimum.
  • Use your network to help them search for their next job.
  • Launch a site that posts jobs and companies that are hiring.
  • Demonstrate that you care by checking in with them and monitoring their needs and situation—so they feel respected and appreciated.

Companies will always need to flex their workforce size and composition commensurate with strategy, market needs, and business performance. That fact is as old as time. Providing (only) outplacement for employees being let go is also outdated, disrespectful, and does not set up employees or companies for long-term success. People are the lifeblood of organizations. They deserve better—even as they leave your company. Wherever they land next, and on the road there, they will speak often about their former employer.

What do you want them to say?

How a company supports employees during challenging transitions will be the most recent data they have on whether the company truly values its people. That’s what they’ll remember and discuss. Empower your HR leaders to change the narrative and processes around employee exits. How you care for them, and truly help them transition, can draw them closer to your company. Real respect is demonstrated by actively caring for your people at this stage of the employment lifecycle.

Treatment of soon-to-be former employees matters not only to them but to those who stay—and to your brand. Exits do not have to end unwell. You have the power and the obligation to ensure colleagues impacted by job loss Finish Well, Transition Well, and Are Well in their next season.

It’s so much more than outplacement.