Do you Really Understand Outplacement in Canada?

CPC Employment Consulting

By Sharon Graham.


noun: the provision of assistance to laid-off employees in finding new employment, either as a benefit provided by the employer directly, or through a specialist service. – Google Web Definition.

OutplacementEmployee outplacement is the process of facilitating a terminated employee’s transition by providing company-paid assistance. Career development occurs throughout a career – not just after a job loss, however when employees are terminated, they have very specific needs. There is great value in outplacement services – but only if employers offer it and employees use it.

What is Outplacement?

Organizations offer outplacement services to employees when the employment engagement has ended. When the employer needs to restructure, lay off, or terminate an employee, they often offer third-party services to help the individual navigate their career transition.

Employee outplacement is an affirmative and humane approach to organizational change that allows the employer and the employee to transition through the separation with dignity, understanding, and mutual respect. It is a winning proposition for all concerned parties:

  • the organization terminating the employee
  • the people charged with the unpleasant task of terminating someone
  • and the employee being transitioned out of the organization

Across Canada, a range of organizations – from one-person career transition service providers to large multi-national firms – offer outplacement services. Employers retain these career professionals to help them carry out a compassionate and effective transition.

How does outplacement help employers?

In Canada, there is no legislated requirement for an employer to provide employee outplacement. However, for many employers, offering outplacement is the “right thing to do.”

Outplacement helps organizations to triumph over change. It helps mitigate damages to the company by helping the employee to obtain other employment or a new career direction as quickly as possible. In most instances, there are actual savings in finances, reputation, and business friendships as well as the preservation of company morale, goodwill, and trade secrets.

Offering outplacement services is a good business strategy for companies, because it helps their transitioning employees to:

  • Understand the business reasons for the company’s decisions.
  • Vent their angry feelings in a consultant’s office rather than with their network of friends, associates, and clients.
  • Keep their focus on the future and shift it away from possible expensive lawsuits against the employer.
  • Cope with feelings of shock, anger, loss, and sadness and stop the psychological fall into depression.
  • Raise their self-esteem and hopefulness by making their future look as good as the past.
  • Evaluate their careers and create a strategic plan for their future.
  • Take practical steps to replace their income by finding a new career direction.

Who is offered employee outplacement?

Outplacement can benefit any worker who is in career transition. However, since employers typically pay the cost of services, companies tend to be quite selective about who they offer outplacement to and the type of service they will receive.

In decades past, outplacement services were reserved for executives. It was believed that, because they lost their “corner office,” they needed an office space and an assistant in order to perform an effective job search. Now, the rapid pace of our world, innovations in online access and technology, constant fluctuations in our labour market, and our ever-evolving workplace have changed everything. These days, most people have access to career transition resources directly from their home computer and through various other employment services offered across Canada. To keep up, the landscape of outplacement has transformed.

Today, in Canada, employees who are terminated “with cause” typically do not receive outplacement services through their employer. Senior-level professionals and older employees are most likely to receive in-depth, person-to-practitioner outplacement services that encompass many areas of career transition. When a company downsizes or performs mass layoffs, it may offer “group” workshops.

Unfortunately, many terminated employees in the Canadian market do not receive outplacement services through their employer. As a result, proactive job seekers take it upon themselves to engage a professional and pay for help in their career transition. These individuals typically understand the great value in accessing a career professional to help them succeed in their career endeavours.

Why should employees take advantage of outplacement when offered?

There are approximately 1.5 million unemployed individuals in the Canadian labour market. Job seekers are competing for opportunities against many other experienced people. Terminated employees, in particular, have unique needs which can be best supported by a formal outplacement program.

Employees who have been working in one company or job for a lengthy period have highly specialized skills which are not easily transferable, at least on the surface. They cannot conceive of doing anything other than what they have been doing in the past.

Long-term employees typically have limited exposure to job search. Just because a worker is an experienced professional, we cannot assume that “they know” how to perform an effective job search. Many experienced professionals have not had exposure to the current job market for many years. They are out of touch with the realities of today’s marketplace. Their job-hunting skills are virtually non-existent. The market has high expectations of how job seekers present themselves. Yet, many of these same individuals may not have the necessary skills, nor are they adequately prepared for an effective job search at the level that is necessary to secure a position for which they are qualified.

Many employees who are terminated have not felt the need to develop a resume for a number of years and, because of their lack of experience in this area, they are unable to develop appropriate material that will initiate a response from their targeted prospective employers.

What kinds of services are offered to employees through outplacement?

In the last decade, the scope of outplacement offerings has changed and expanded tremendously.

Employers might request and use a range of termination services covering legal consultation, termination letter development, and communication of the termination directly with employees.

Programs across Canada offer any or all of the following services which they often customize, tailoring it to the needs of the employer and the employees. Depending on the outplacement service provider’s model, they may provide in-house, offsite, or virtual services. Support may be provided in group workshops and/or direct one-on-one sessions with affected employees. The duration of the services can range from one-time support to a full-blown ongoing program.

Coaching, counselling, and/or consulting support is provided with the goal of helping the employee transition and establish the next step in their career:

  • Career strategists can perform an in-depth personal review and formal assessment to enable the individual to understand their value, think in creative ways, and consider all options.
  • Resume strategists can help create innovative self-marketing documents including a resume, cover letter, professional biography, and a portfolio of peripheral material.
  • Employment strategists can provide job search advice and assist in taking advantage of social media and job search technology.
  • Interview strategists can provide coaching on interview techniques and role-play sessions to help the individual gain confidence and articulate their strengths in employment interviews.

Qualified outplacement providers maintain a set of resources to refer clients for special needs such as financial advice, legal assistance, or other professional services.

Selecting an Outplacement Provider

When an employee is terminated and provided with outplacement services, it is crucial they work with an outplacement service provider who has a full understanding of Canadian Employment Law.

Canadian Career Practitioners specialize in different competencies. There are many competent and ethical service providers who offer a range of outplacement and career transition services. Employers and transitioning employees should ensure that the professionals they select and retain have the competency, qualifications, and experience to provide the service they are requesting.

There is a potential concern with outplacement, which employers and service providers always need to be aware of and address upfront. There is a danger that the organization will pay for a service and the employee does not use it because:

  • The organization has selected and is offering a service that is not appropriate for an employee.
  • The service provider is not trained or qualified to provide effective outplacement services.
  • The individual does not understand or appreciate the value of the service being offered.

To mitigate this concern, it is important that all parties do their homework when selecting a service. Prior to engaging a service provider, it is completely appropriate for the employer and employee to ask for, and receive, a detailed explanation in writing that outlines the scope of services offered and deliverables.

Sharon Graham is CANADA’S CAREER STRATEGIST and author of the top-selling BEST CANADIAN RESUMES SERIES. Founder and executive director of CAREER PROFESSIONALS OF CANADA, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment and career transition, Sharon provides career practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians.

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