Singapore bounced back from the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 more quickly than many people expected. Following the recovery, the country enjoyed healthy economic growth, the job market was picking up and the latest unemployment rate reported was one of the lowest in recent years.

However, with the debt crisis situation in America and Europe, the outlook is becoming uncertain again. 

Companies — both big and small — will have to continuously upgrade and restructure to remain competitive. Even if they are financially healthy, they will continue to restructure to do even better, and sometimes this means reducing headcount.

As a result, employees are affected and have to leave the organisation despite the fact that they have met the KPIs or have even exceeded them.

The least an organisation can do for those affected by such situations is to engage outplacement or career transition services for the displaced employees, be it due to redundancy or an agreed parting of ways.

Outplacement services typically include helping the individual cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of the situation, exploring career options, fine-tuning documents such as the resumé and sharpening interviewing skills. Job search strategies are discussed and marketing plans implemented in the process.

In other words, this is a full suite of services that supports the affected employee to transit into a new job or career. It is about maximising the options ahead and minimising the trauma associated with unemployment.

The benefits of outplacement also accrue to the organisations that offer such services to their displaced staff, as they are perceived as “being humane”.

An organisation’s management certainly appreciates a smooth transition process for all parties, especially from the angle of minimising any costs from lawsuits. It has also been proved many times that even the “stayers” — employees not affected by the cuts — feel more comforted, knowing that help will be provided should the same thing happen to them.  This results in improved morale, and more unity in moving forward together.

What are the factors to take into consideration when selecting an outplacement firm?

Personalised services

The best choice for such a programme is a customised one-to-one and face-to-face approach. Each individual’s circumstances can be very different within the same career transition situation.

Some employees may take their job loss more emotionally than others and career options and aspirations can also be wide-ranging, despite similar experience and qualifications. A hands-on and individualised plan cannot be compromised, and hence, the cookie-cutter approach should be avoided.

Employers should look for flexibility with less bureaucracy. Firms that go the extra mile in the provision of such services are a good choice. 

Complete package

Helping outplaced employees move forward involves more than just tips on CV writing and coaching on interviewing skills. To add value to an individual in a career transition, it is critical to incorporate career assessment tools and practical job search support, including networking for leads. Information and research support, plus the use of office facilities, form part of the overall package of services.

Coaches’ credentials

Ask for an initial first meeting to assess the coach or coaches and understand better how services are offered. Check out the experience and background of the coaches, who should have good job market credentials.  A good coach is instrumental in helping retrenched employees move ahead. Also, ensure that there are dedicated coaches who see an employee right through the outplacement process. Avoid a “production chain” approach where outplaced employees work with different coaches at different stages of the process.

Getting a headstart

Success does not just mean quick placements. It is useful to get references and testimonials from people who have received outplacement services to find out how positive the experience has been, in terms of engagement, the independence of the coaches and the observance of ethics.

Career transition coaches help people get a headstart in exploring career options so that they can move forward after a difficult period in their lives. With renewed confidence and practical support, they will be able to start a new chapter in their lives more quickly.