Look after your employees, even on the way out

05 May 2016

UNFORTUNATELY there often comes a point in every business where a measured, critical look at income vs expenditure will be made as a result of variables such as contracts being lost, tenders failing or the economy slowing down.

These can be a result of poor management or may be entirely outside the span of control of the organisation. Either way, when this happens hard decisions will have to be made and often this will result in job losses: from downsizing at the current location to relocating abroad or even closing down altogether.

And let's not think this is something that happens elsewhere, as despite the move away from the worst of the recession we are still not immune here, as evidenced by the recent job cut announcements in Harland & Wolff and Bombardier.

So what about those who are put on notice? It's an emotional time, especially for employees who have spent a lifetime working for the same business or in the same industry.

It's at times like this the company needs to show some loyalty, some compassion and offer some repayment against the dedication employees have demonstrated over the years.

What does that mean in practice however? Essentially we are talking about companies providing ‘outplacement' services for their employees, either in house or through an external provider.

Outplacement involves helping prepare themselves for taking the next step in their career and finding new employment. It might be as basic an activity as helping them scan the job market for opportunities or teaching them how to engage with job agencies. It could involve helping them understand the skills and experience they have gained to date and what they can subsequently bring to new roles.

Don't forget that employees who have been in one role for a long time may not know how to define and then ‘sell' their skills, taking what they have done over the years for granted. They may not have applied for a job since joining the company and so will need help writing cover letters, or filling in application forms correctly. Have any of them got a current CV? Do they know what information to put in it, how to structure it and how to tailor it for specific roles? It's not as easy as you might think.

Then there is the dreaded interview. Daunting enough at the best of times but terrifying for someone who hasn't been to one in ages. Even those employees who have been through interviews in the past few years can still benefit from critical, constructive feedback and practice.

What about assessment centres? Successfully negotiating these is a whole skill in itself. Can you offer practice sessions, provide practical examples of the types of test that will be used and perhaps advise on techniques to successfully complete them?

Maybe some employees will look to become self employed, or start their own business using the skills and experience they have built over the years. Can you provide them with information to help them progress down this route? Is it possible to help them develop an elevator pitch or introduce them to people who have their own success stories to tell?

Essentially outplacement is about helping your employees understand the skills and experience they have and how to market and utilise these. It's about providing a supportive environment, helping them understand and identify the best career paths available to them and how to navigate their way through.

And remember; those who are staying with you will be watching to see how you treat their colleagues and can you really expect your employees to go the extra mile for you if you don't do the same for them?

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