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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family.” With me is my friend and co-host, Susan White, a national HR consultant.
Our topic today is “Offering outplacement? Outstanding.” Our expert today is Catherine Schmidt. Catherine is Purple Ink’s Manager of Career Coaching Services and is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Catherine has a special interest in career coaching and recruiting and finds joy when she can connect the right person to the right opportunity. Catherine joined the team in 2013 as a consultant. She has 10 years of experience managing various HR functions including recruiting, creating training programs, compliance, and performance development initiatives. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University. She’s a certified Professional in Human Resources, a SHRM Certified Professional, Predictive Index analyst, a certified Strong Interest Inventory® interpreter, and anger management specialist. Love that one.
And a Certified Professional Resume Writer. I think she clearly is our specialist for today.
Is there anything you can’t do, Catherine?
Wow. Thanks, JoDee. Thanks, Susan. I’m happy to be here with you today, too.
Yeah. Well, glad to have you on here. And Susan, I don’t know about you, but I remember back in the 90s, I heard a lot more about outplacement. Companies today are struggling to hire and keep enough employees, but years ago, companies would more commonly have large layoffs. Outplacement vendors would offer an office with computers where people would come to type up their resumes in a WordPerfect document. You remember that?
I do, JoDee, and, you know, I do believe that companies are doing outplacement. Now, maybe not as many companies as should. But it’s being done so differently. I think it’s more rare for people to go into an office and use this office space and their computers and so forth. I think that Catherine is going to shed light on today what… what I’m seeing so commonly, which is virtual outplacement services.
Right, right. So Catherine, let’s start at the beginning. Why do you think companies should even offer outplacement services?
Yeah, great question. I think the best reason to do that actually has very little to do with the exiting employees. I think it has to do with retaining current employees, actually. So when employees that are leaving the company are offered outplacement, that can foster a sense of goodwill towards the company, even for employees that are staying with the company. And it shows that the company cares about their employees and wants them to land on their feet in their next position, and maybe recognizes that they’re on this job search for reasons outside of the employee’s control if it’s a company layoff or reduction in force, for whatever reason. So, ultimately, I think it helps the employer’s brand as being a company that cares about its employees and wants to make sure that they’re successful, even if it’s not with their company.
I think that’s a really good perspective. I think just to even piggyback on that employment brand, I think by offering outplacement, you’re taking those employees who could really leave you with a bad taste in their mouth, and potentially make them an ambassador for your brand. So when they go out into the workplace or into the world of, you know, job search, they are going out equipped with skills, and I have to think that that makes them feel better about that employer. Maybe not everybody. Some people hang on to the anger for a long time. But makes them feel better that the company, when they let them go, they tried to equip them with some skills and increase their likelihood of employment.
I know for me, as someone who has had many of those conversations with people, that I’ve really been thankful when I’ve had the ability to offer outplacement to people. It just is… I think it’s interesting, Catherine, the way you worded it, that it’s not always just about the employee who’s being exited, but, like, for me as an HR director, I was… it was comforting to me to be able to offer that and feel better about the process and feel better about my company that was able to offer it, too.
You know, JoDee and Catherine, all of our listeners who are HR people are probably very familiar with the term “outplacement,” but in case we have any business leaders or people from other professions listening today, maybe we should define what is outplacement, and, you know, how… when most companies… when they offer it, what are they offering?
Yeah, great question. Outplacement, in a nutshell, is support for the exiting employee on their job search. So it’s working with an outside vendor, some sort of company, typically a consultant or a career coach of some kind, that can help them with specific tasks related to their job search. Now, that can vary. There are lots of different ways to help people on their job search. But typically, you might find that somebody will help with a resume, cover letter, maybe their appearance on LinkedIn or other social media sites, different skills that that consultant might help that exiting employee with. Interviewing, networking, whatever they might run into on their job search might be part of an outplacement service.
Yeah, I think that makes great sense. I can remember early in my career, managers would say “Now, what is this outplacement?” And I’d say “It’s help trying to place people out of here.”
Well, and I think, Susan, back in our day when… when people needed a space to go to, you know, people didn’t have laptops and computers at their houses, so they needed a place to physically go and get that advice, which is not really needed anymore.
Exactly. I feel the same way. I remember sometimes they would, for… especially for executives who were losing their job, they felt like the routine of still getting up and getting dressed and going into an outplacement site was really healthy for them so they didn’t, you know, all of a sudden find themselves at home. Today’s executives, many of them work from home, there’s a lot more freedom to do it. So I think the need for the in-person may be another reason that it’s lessened.
Right, right. You know, outplacement is also about litigation risk. Most of the time, I think, companies offer the service… maybe in combination with the severance package, maybe not. But it still can be a way to get them to agree to it and then not sue the company for wrongful termination. So if you can get someone to sign for it. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a study projecting that a 1,000 employee organization laying off 100 employees could avoid about $1.4 million in wrongful termination suits by offering strong outplacement services to those employees. So that can be as powerful as anything and one more reason to consider offering those.
Yeah, that’s a really compelling statistic there.
Right. So Catherine, what should an outplaced employee expect from an outplacement services vendor? You… You talked about the specific services you might offer them, but, you know, how long might those last? What kind of relationship is formed with that person?
Yeah, great question, and, again, it can vary, I would say a typical meeting with an outplacement consultant or a career coach, however they’re… they’re kind of defined in their organization, would meet with that individual to get a sense for their career path so far, get a handle on what they’re looking for from their next step in their career search, what their experience is with being on a job search. You know, a person that’s been on a search every couple of years or so actually might be more experienced in that skill set versus somebody that’s been with a company for 18 years or so and hasn’t been on a job search in a very long time. So usually, it would include some sort of information gathering on the part of the career coach to get a sense for what… what kind of help that person might need. Now, the amount of time that that career coach spends with that person really depends on how they structure their outplacement services. Some may have a very specific defined number of hours that they’re able to provide support. They might even define what they do in those hours. It might be the exiting employee gets the choice in what they want help with, if they feel good about their resume, maybe they just need help with an interview, things like that. The way that Purple Ink career coaching and outplacement services are structured is to develop that relationship and really tailor the support and services to the individual. We don’t have a defined set of hours that we work with a particular person, we have unlimited support for 90 days of their search. And we find that that structure can really help… help the candidate or help that person find a job by having their career coach participate in their search actively. Oftentimes, outplacement help is given right up front, right at the very beginning of a search, and there are things that happen, you know, maybe a month or a few months down the line after somebody has been on a search that they’d really like some help with, and… and we want to be able to help them with those things and kind of walk alongside them for at least three months.
Very nice. I love how you tailor it. I think that’s really a kind of a unique approach. I, in my past, I’ve had the opportunity to hire outplacement firms, and I’ve also had the opportunity to be part of an internal outplacement meeting, that inside of a company we tried to do all the things… replicate what an outside firm would do kind of in a cost savings measure. Then I’ve also, even currently, I am doing some career coaching and outplacement for a large company who specializes in this. So, you know, I know there’s lots of different ways that you can come at it. One of the things I think outplacement firms can do is they can actually help managers in delivering the news. And where I’ve seen that really work is where the consulting firm, like in this case, it would be Purple Ink, or really any other outplacement firm can help the organization when they first realize they have to do layoffs. You know, how do we tell our employees, like, what are the words we use? You know, how do we be sensitive and yet, you know, we can move through it in a way that’s treating everybody with respect, and how do we make sure they know about all these kinds of services that you’ve mentioned, Catherine, that are going to be there, the… of how we’re going to help equip them so they’re ready for their next job. So I think that it can really start, your outplacement support, if you’re considering bringing it in, from the moment you decide we have to do reductions in force. Let’s get some pros in here who help other people do it day in and day out.
Well, I think that’s really important. I know one of the questions I was going to ask, so kind of combine it with something you said, Susan, was, why do you think so many people don’t take advantage of this service? Because I’ve seen many times where companies offer it, and then the candidates never show up or never follow up. But I want to combine that a little bit with something you said, I think sometimes employees hear… hear the news, and they kind of freeze up and start thinking about their personal bills and their family situation. And then outplacement is offered to them and… and they’re they’re not even hearing it, almost. But I don’t know what both of you think, why wouldn’t employees take advantage of this opportunity?
I have to tell you that my husband, whenever he hears I’m getting a new career coaching client and obviously it’s the company that hires, you know, career coaches, it’s not usually not the individual. My husband says, “You know what, if I heard that my old company hired a career coach to work with me to get a job, I would not return that call. I would be so mad.” And it’s funny, I always say, “Are you kidding? This is a gift.” Yeah. And I know that if somebody will let me work with them, I can help them through this journey. Yeah. Catherine, what do you think?
Yeah, both of those. I can understand that perspective of the employee or the exiting employee that, you know, they might not even hear that as an option. They’re so shocked that they forget and maybe don’t ever remember that it was offered. I have had outplaced employees reach out to me and they were… they were concerned that their former employer would know that they had initiated services, and I’m not sure why they were concerned about that, but that was the reason why she wasn’t planning on reaching out, but she ultimately did over time. I’ve also had… had people reach out, perhaps months down the line after their exit, and they… it was because they… they hadn’t reached out earlier, because they thought they could do it on their own. They thought they didn’t need help and that they… they, you know, would find a job more easily than they had. So, down the line, they realized that a little bit of help would be helpful and reached out.
That’s interesting. I know, too, Susan, what you said your husband commented on, I had employees before who, in previous careers, where they felt it was almost like a spy on them, that… that we were trying to figure out what they were doing or how they were going about it. And I was like, “What?” That didn’t even cross my mind.
I think…I think they want to see, like, where did we land, are we at a competitor, you know, that type of thing. But, you know, Catherine, I’d be interested in your perspective, because… because in the career coaching that I have done, that I’m currently doing, you know, it’s… it’s confidential. We do not discuss, ever, with the client where the person lands, because for… just to guard their confidentiality.
I agree about confidentiality. I think that that’s extremely important. I think that that’s a point that companies should stress when they’re offering the outplacement services, because I… I agree that that’s a fairly common concern.
And I think, too, Catherine, I know you have… whether it was you personally, or had someone else actually be present during the termination so that the outplaced employees could sort of have a visual on a person that would be helping them. Can you maybe share the importance of that as well?
Yeah, to… to kind of piggyback again on Susan’s point about outplacement services also being a help to the employer, that can be help before the day of the notification of the exit for the employee, it can be actually on the day of the exit, we’ve had… or we’ve gone on-site when there’s been a group reduction in force, more specifically, to give an overview of what the services are that they would get, you know, how they can initiate those services, set just a kind of a baseline expectation for them without sharing too much information, because again, there’s a lot coming at them on that day, but having a presence, having some documents outlining the process, and, you know, who they’d be working with specifically from a career coach. I think the more information that they can take and digest later, the better, and I definitely think having a… an outside presence can help not only the exiting employees, but also the employees that are are giving those notices out.
I think that’s very smart practice.
Well, my thought, and you guys chime in on this, is that maybe many companies don’t offer outplacement, A: because they don’t even think about it or they’re not aware of it, or B: because they’re afraid that it might be too expensive. So I wonder if you guys have other thoughts on why a company wouldn’t do it and how much might it cost someone to pay for outplacement?
I’ll be curious, I know Susan’s got some more background knowledge on pricing, but I… I do think that employers are concerned about the cost and perhaps they think historically it has been more expensive. Usually, I would say the typical way that the fee for outplacement services is structured is by the number of employees that the services will be offered to, and there’s likely going to be a flat fee per employee that the company will pay regardless of whether the employee actually uses the services. It’s, you know, paying so that there is somebody available should the employee reach out. At Purple Ink, the way we price that is the same way, except that we only charge when an employee reaches out and initiates services, so the company only pays for the number of employees that actually use our services. And so the… the costs, I, again, I don’t have a lot of outside knowledge of what other outplacement companies are charging, necessarily, but I know for us, our services are fairly affordable per employee. They’re around $500 per employee, and that includes career planning assessments, you know, that unlimited support for 90 days, that’s really all of the career coaching services that we offer at a pretty affordable price.
And I think the reasons that you cited as to why companies who don’t do it, I think it’s a lack of awareness, or they just don’t realize the impact, the positive impact, they could have, not only with the person leaving, but as Catherine said, with the rest of employees seeing how, when people unfortunately have to be separated, how the company works so hard to treat them… treat them right. So I think those those reasons are real, and sometimes I think it could be the cost. But what I would encourage any employer who’s thinking about it, is to really do a wide search and talk to different types of firms, because there’s really large companies who do this as their bread and butter. There’s other firms who do it just once in a while. There’s individuals out there who do it. And I think that you really want to figure out how much service do you need, how much do you want, and then negotiate the price. You can certainly do it per person. You can certainly do lump sum packages. I think it’s great that yours is you only charge if somebody makes use of it. Some companies have that, other companies don’t, they’ll just do it by… whatever size company you are will dictate how much they charge. So it’s hard to just give a price on it. I think it’s just… know that your ability to negotiate is fairly good, because you can decide how much or how little outplacement you want.
Catherine, we mentioned in your bio that you are a Strong Interest Inventory® interpreter. Tell us what about what that means and why might someone be interested in doing the Strong Interest Inventory®?
I’d be happy to. Yeah, the Strong Interest Inventory® is a really widely used career planning assessment, and it’s applicable to anyone at any stage in their career from early, you know, entry-level career to, you know, being in your career for mid-level, even up to deciding what you might do as a second career in a retirement, for example. The assessment includes a piece about personality, similar to other personality assessments out there, like StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs and others like that. But where it’s different from other assessments people might have taken is that it compares somebody’s personality and traits across the personalities of people in 130 different occupations, and it gives a high-level overview of the positions that you are most similar to people in those kind of positions. So, in a nutshell, it tells you where people like you are working and are satisfied. So it can be helpful for an employee who’s not really sure what their next step might be, and they want to consider other options, it can be helpful to have confirmation of a certain path that somebody’s chosen. It can be helpful just to give… a job… or a job change can be a difficult time period for anybody, and so this assessment gives an opportunity for some introspection, some dialogue with a career, you know, planning consultant, the person that’s interpreting the report, and kind of wrap your head around what’s next and give you some tools about how to take the next step and figure out what that may be.
That’s great. It really is, the… the companies that I’ve worked for as a career coach, they have different types of instruments that use. bBut there’s times where I… I’m not allowed to deal with individuals who would come to me through the company work that I do, but I will have individuals who want service that are totally unrelated to the company I work with. And when I meet with them, I have to tell you, the question, like, “I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up,” will happen. And I, at that point, there’s a couple times I’ve sent them to Catherine, who’s done the Strong Inventory with them, and it has been so enlightening for them. I think it’s really a wonderful service to be able to offer individuals to help them sort out their thinking about what they want to be, right, when they grow up.
Yeah, I think that’s very powerful. I know I used to feel like… I was… when I was doing more of that individually, that I could be helpful to people who were, say, an accountant looking for an accounting job. But if they were an accountant who didn’t want to be an accountant, I didn’t know what to do. And so I think this is a great tool to offer for that.
I love having those conversations with people. Oftentimes, they’ll say things when they see their occupations list, that, “Oh, that was what I went to school, to major in,” or, you know, “My dad’s a lawyer, and so I’ve always kind of considered that as an option.” And it’s interesting to hear, you know, where people’s passions come out and how they use them at work.
Yeah, yeah. Susan, you kind of alluded to this, but so can individuals just hire a career coach to get the same assistance? It sounds like you don’t just have to be outplaced in order to get this help. So, Catherine, maybe talk about that, and then Susan can share her experiences with that as well.
Definitely. So now, at least with Purple Ink, I know for sure that, you know, you don’t have to be a part of an outplaced… or, you know, you don’t have to be outplaced to get our career coaching services. We work a lot with individuals who reach out and say they’re interested in a career change, and so they use our Strong Interest Inventory® assessment. And we have others that… I’d say probably, most commonly, I get clients that have been in their current position for a decade plus and just have no idea how to approach their search anymore. So really, we take a full… kind of full picture of what they might need, everything they might need from a search, you know, down to perhaps an interview outfit, you know, I’m happy to help with whatever questions they they might have.
I agree, and you probably don’t want to call it outplacement when you’re helping these folks, but I would call it career coaching. And I truly do believe that most people could benefit from having somebody be their, I like to say copilot or advisor, during a career exploration period. Because especially if you’ve not looked for a job in a very long time, it’s a very different today than it was probably when they got that last job. So I think having a guide just makes such good sense. And although not every company… every company who does outplacement will allow that, because their… their real clients they see as businesses who feed them their employees or their former employees. There are a lot of outplacement firms out there who welcome career coaching business, and then there’s a lot of independent consultants who do as well.
Very good. In preparing for this podcast, we found a study called “The Value of Outplacement” that had some interesting data. They reported that 65% of employers believe that providing outplacement improves staff morale, motivation, and productivity, and that’s, as Catherine mentioned, that’s the employees who are staying.
Not to mention that the outplaced employees, you know, feel good about it. Also, 78% of employers felt the provision of outplacement could improve the organization’s reputation, and 55% of employers believe outplacement could help it to be seen as an employer of choice. So I think if you’re at a company that is not offering it, this, you know, could be a valuable service to think about offering for displaced employees. It can also, of course, be a tax benefit for the employer. If those outplaced employees are filing unemployment claims, the longer they go unemployed, the higher your unemployment tax rate will be, so the quicker they can find something can help that.
You know, I… I never thought about that, but it sure makes good sense. Yeah. Yeah. So Catherine, if a listener would like to get ahold of you after today’s podcast, how could they reach you?
Well, I would love to hear from them, first of all, and they’re welcome to reach out to me by email or phone. My email is on Purple Ink’s website, it’s Catherine at Purple Ink LLC dot com, and my phone number, if they prefer to give me a call, is area code 616, 260-2725.
And I would just mention Catherine is with a C. So don’t be trying to put a K in there.
It is, it’s a C. Yeah.
That’s great. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Catherine. I know I learned some things about outplacement, and I really want to think more about recommending this to our clients. So, very good.
Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed chatting with you ladies this afternoon. Thanks.
Gut + Science is a weekly podcast hosted by Nikki Lewallen, an employee engagement enthusiast and advocate. She interviews CEOs every week to help companies build successful people first cultures. I don’t miss an episode. Gut + Science, the podcast that explores employee engagement insights you can act on from CEOs you can trust. Thursday mornings on gutplusscience.com.
So, JoDee, we’ve got a listener question today. It’s from Kara, an HR professional from Spokane, Washington. She called in with a concern. She’s worried that her employer is disregarding immigration rules, specifically the I-9 documents. What should she do?
Well, I think we’ve talked about different issues around the I-9 before, and it just is so important that employers understand when they hire a new employee, the form I-9 has got to be completed in full in the first three days of employment. So you can just Google “Form I-9,” it’ll pop up and tell you. But, you know, of course, we’ve been hearing a lot in the news in the past year about immigration, and President Donald Trump’s administration has promised to quadruple workplace enforcement actions, and in the last six months immigration officials have made good on that promise. So if you’re not in compliance or have any questions surrounding your form I-9, give us a call so we can help you through that process.
In our in the news segment today, a recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found two thirds of full-time workers experienced burnout on the job. And they have a list of some of the effects of those employee burnout. The first one is, employees who say they very often or always experienced burnout at work are 63% more likely to take a sick day.
Yikes. These employees are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager.
They’re 23% more likely to visit the emergency room. That one was crazy to me!
Do you think it’s because they’re trying to get out of work or it’s because they’re hurting?
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
Interesting. Well, they’re 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer.
And they’re 13% less confident in their performance.
Those are statistics that really are very scary for employers.
Right. So what should employers or employees do about it? Well, the five factors leaders should focus on to reduce burnout include, number one, just unfair treatment at work.
Number two, avoid having unmanageable workloads.
Right. Number three, a lack of role clarity, that employees don’t understand what’s expected, maybe they don’t have a job description, or their role has just not been defined well.
Number four, they cite lack of communication and support from the manager.
And number five, unreasonable time pressures. So, Susan, I don’t know about you, but I think if you’re a leader with limited resources to spend on reducing this burnout, I would focus on those five factors to yield your best return on investment.
It makes sense.
All right, please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, or wherever you listen to podcasts by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” That’s all one word. If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.