Opinion Piece: Why outplacement is a smart strategy


Few could argue that today’s world of work is radically different to what it was even ten years ago. Sophisticated technology, shifting demographics and tighter margins are forcing business leaders to change their strategies. In SA, while small and medium sized businesses are undoubtedly transforming, it is the large corporates and business models that are undergoing a radical shift to more streamlined business practices.

Sadly, this shift is often translating into higher rates of retrenchment. So while retrenchments used to be a fairly rare occurrence among major corporates, it is becoming far more commonplace. This trend is impacting senior and highly qualified professionals, although junior employees are also facing the threat of retrenchment more often than before.

There have been several high profile examples of widespread retrenchments in recent months. Worryingly, many companies implementing cuts are neglecting to put processes in place that take into account the needs and wellbeing of the outgoing/retrenched employees.

Often, they are simply seen as a compliance process (to Section 189 of the Labor Relations Act) in order to mitigate the risk of legal action by employees. As a result, major companies are being tarnished by severe reputational damage - as retrenched staff members go out into the world armed with a negative sentiment towards their former employer. In addition, media pick up on stories of unfair dismissals; and current employees start to fear for their own futures.

Although retrenchments cannot be avoided in today’s corporate world, there are strategies that can mitigate the negative side effects – for both the departing staff members and the company doing the retrenching. One tried and tested strategy is the implementation of a comprehensive outplacement programme.

It is important to note that the public and press only hear about retrenchments within a company when they have been poorly managed. Business leaders often don’t recognise that it is far more difficult to repair a tarnished reputation as an employer than it is to plan ahead and protect their brand equity.

Outplacement initiatives can be invaluable with regards to maintaining brand equity and guarding reputations. From a commercial point of view, an outplacement programme also reduces the cost of labor action through the CCMA and large out of court settlements.

Smart outplacement initiatives can also help people to understand and recognise the need to reinvent themselves in the workplace - and how to go about doing so.

The key elements of a successful outplacement programme will therefore include:

  • A formal debriefing, during which the retrenched worker is encouraged to take stock of his career in relation to his stage of life
  • A profile assessment which covers technical skills, experience and personal factors; this should provide clear insights into how the individual is perceived by the marketplace
  • A re-evaluation of goals, ambitions and dreams
  • An understanding of what drives change and new ways of working
  • A focused plan: acquiring new skills/education, personal branding, CV writing, interview and negotiation training, etc.
  • Learning Effective Career Management:
    • Doing what you want to be doing – because it inspires you
    • Doing what you should be doing – according to your inherent strengths

While it should be one element of a larger strategy, effective outplacement can provide companies with a valuable way in which to nurture trust and spread goodwill amongst both former and current employees – as well as within the broader business community.

For more information, contact www.tuesday.co.za

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