While at an event recently I overheard someone asking whether ‘will outplacement still be here in 5 years’. As the MD of an outplacement provider I very much hope it will be. But it did make me think, what do we, as an industry have to do to ensure that there is still a need and a desire for outplacement services in the future?
Outplacement grew in popularity in the 1950s when ‘jobs for life’ began to disappear and middle management, in particular men, needed somewhere to go on a daily basis. Not only to keep up appearances but to be able to access the latest job opportunities etc and gain advice from experts on how to secure their next role.
Fast-forward nearly 70 years and, in reality, not much has changed. The traditional style of outplacement still prevails with most offerings centred around giving people a set number of hours, over a set time frame with a career expert who will guide them towards their next role.
But the world around us has changed dramatically. How we look for jobs now, compared to 70 years ago, for example is very different. The internet has changed everything and the days of traditional job advertising within newspapers and trade magazines are a thing of the past. Indeed, most printed trade magazines are a thing of the past! E-mail, applicant tracing systems and social media have all transformed the way we find and apply for jobs.
Yet, in my opinion the outplacement sector hasn’t quite kept up the pace. Yes, the internet and all its power has been embraced by most. With online portals housing careers information helping delegates access information they need 24/7/365, however the delivery model itself hasn’t really changed.
The majority of programmes still focus on face-to-face time with a single consultant, over a period of time, normally in a city centre location. It’s my opinion that if we, as an industry, are to survive then we need to change. We need to look at the changes in consumer behaviour and adapt our offering to meet this.
It’s something we’ve been doing for a while at Chiumento, taking steps to ensure that we’re ahead of any emerging trends.
We noticed that delegates were attending our offices less and less, and it wasn’t because we were helping fewer people. Our consultants and delegates were taking advantage of video conferencing and the convenience and time saving it brings. So, we took the decision in 2016 to close our offices, today a large proportion of meetings happen online with the rest meeting in locations convenient to both consultant and delegate and not constrained to where we have an office.
Waiting it appears is a thing of the past. If you look at consumer trends over the past few years, speed is a constant. No more trudging to the high street on a Friday night, checking out the titles in your local Blockbuster before heading home for your movie night. You can download/steam the latest titles immediately without leaving your sofa. The need for speed is reflected in delivery times, next day delivery is available (at a price) from most retailers. Translate this into the outplacement world and why should delegates have to wait a week or two between appointments and take potentially four to six weeks to become job ready. To combat this, we have a number of shorter, speed-focused programmes where delegates will be job ready within a week, in fact that is the aim on all our programmes. As many of the meetings between delegates and consultants happen ‘virtually’ there isn’t the need for them to last an hour each time. Shorter, but more frequent meetings allows for a quicker, more immediate programme.
The profile of delegates is also changing. As I said earlier, originally it was mainly middle management who had potentially only ever worked for one employer. Today, moving jobs every few years is considered normal, and being made redundant has lost its stigma. It can happen to anyone, could just as easily be a 25 year old customer service operator as a 56 year old Finance Director. As delegates, they would have very different needs and requirements, assuming that every delegate can be treated the same and given the same advice and programme isn’t realistic. There needs to be the ability to tailor the programme to fit the delegate and their specific needs, one that goes deeper than simply a standard and an executive programme. All programmes within our outplacement portfolio have a menu of services that can be tailored to the delegate and as our consultants aren’t constrained by location, we connect each delegate to the best team of experts, not just the one that lives the closest.
Do it for me
Historically, our service has been based on a coaching approach. We have coached people to do things for themselves. Like helping and guiding them to write their own CV. There is now a much greater expectation that things will be done for me rather to me. We used to talk about ‘skills for life’ in our tender answers. The difference now is that things change so quickly it’s now much harder to promise a skill for life with any conviction. As we’ll describe later, we rarely run the same LinkedIn learning event twice as it changes so frequently!
Traditionally the first step in most outplacement programmes was to create a CV. This historically could take a number of weeks as the consultant coached the delegate through the process. While there is still some truth in the saying ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. The difference now is that things change so quickly and it’s much harder to give people a ‘skill for life’. So we’ve introduced, for those delegates that want it, the option to have their CV and/or LinkedIn profile professionally written. This allows them to be ready to apply for roles within a week and to focus more of their time on honing all important interview skills.
So to go back to my original question – will outplacement still be here in five years’ time? Yes I think it will be, redundancy isn’t going to disappear and departing staff will still need help and guidance to reach their next career goal. However, I think how this guidance is given will change and evolve. In order to survive it needs to align more with the demands of today’s delegates, rather than trying to fit a younger generation into programmes designed for the past.
‘Will outplacement still be here in 5 years’ time?’ was written by Mike Burgneay, MD Chiumento Consulting. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.