Despite last week’s report that the unemployment rate had tumbled to 7.8% in September, companies continue to downsize. OI Partners has seen this steadily. As we discussed in The vOIce last month, unfortunately, corporate downsizing is sometimes necessary for the survival of business.

outplacement-servicesGiven that fact, compassion, dignity and simply “doing the right thing” in corporate downsizing have taken on a greater importance. Compassionate outplacement services are simply, good business.

Fortunately, many basic corporate downsizing guidelines are becoming commonplace:

  • Avoid terminations on a Monday or Friday
  • Have both the direct manager and human resources present
  • Conduct the discussion in a neutral, private office
  • Provide a pre-prepared severance document

As a participant in hundreds of outplacement engagements every year, I’ve seen progressive organizations continue to “raise the bar” when it comes to offering compassionate outplacement services. Following are 5 thoughtful strategies that are effective:

1. Provide direction versus choices

Although empowering individuals who have just lost their job with choices may seem compassionate, this can actually be a counterproductive strategy. Asking someone during an emotional time to make choices regarding a process with which they are unfamiliar (i.e. “would you like to return to your desk to collect your belongings, or would you prefer we bring them to you?”) is not the best approach.

The leaders conducting the termination need to carefully plan a compassionate strategy, lay out an agenda and provide clear direction regarding all of these decisions.

2. Keep conversations brief

A termination discussion is not a performance review or a justification of the decision. It is the delivery of a difficult message and should be direct and informative. The manager’s message should last 2-3 minutes, and the HR representative’s discussion should last no more than 5-10 minutes. A lengthy discussion can lead to negative emotions and encourage additional debate that is not beneficial.

3. Avoid an immediate office clean out

Experience has shown that co-workers witnessing a “clean-out” or watching a former employee escorted back to their office can destroy dignity. Alternatively, if an individual is allowed to go back to their desk alone, emotions can set in, and tears, anger or anxiety can surface in front of ill-prepared co-workers. Bringing an employee’s immediate personal items (keys, coat, etc.) to the termination room and having them leave directly from this room can facilitate a much more dignified departure. Arranging another day during after-work hours to handle the emotional task of cleaning out their office is a better way of treating the employee with the respect they deserve.

4. Utilize the expertise of a reputable career transition provider

Progressive companies partner with a career transition provider or outplacement professional in the planning/logistics of termination day. The professional’s experience and objectivity facilitates a more seamless and compassionate process. It is best for the employer to have an outplacement counselor on site to meet with the employee immediately after they receive their notice. An experienced outplacement professional provides the care, assurance and support needed during this emotional and stressful time.

5. Provide next-steps coaching

Ensure that your outplacement provider coaches the former employee on how they should communicate their termination to their spouse, children or parents when they return home.  How this message is delivered at home will impact how the message is received.  Informing family about the severance and outplacement support provided can greatly reduce stress and anxiety both on termination day and during weeks of transition ahead.

How have you witnessed or even experienced compassionate outplacement services? Is there anything you would add to this list?

If you are in need of a compassionate outplacement professional, OI Global Partners can help. Call us today.

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