Skip DeVilling, president of DeVilling & Associates, LLC, a Sarasota, FL-based executive employment search firm, recently spoke with MDM Associate Editor Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier about how companies can help laid-off employees through outplacement programs.
MDM: Many companies are having to turn to layoffs in order to survive the recession. What are the broader impacts of these moves?
Skip DeVilling: Labor is the easiest thing to cut. It can be done at any level and the results are immediate. Executives aren’t immune, and if you cut one high level executive position, the savings there can be significant. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be done better. Communication is important. Providing support after the lay off, such as severance packages or outplacement programs, can help send the message that the company cares about helping employees get through the experience.
MDM: What is an outplacement program?
SD: Outplacement programs are programs – usually 60 or 90 days – that help revitalize the career continuation search. And what I mean by that is, take a person who has been in a career for 10, 20 years who is told that they’re being laid off. They’re like a deer in the headlights, not knowing where to go or what to do. It’s a traumatic experience.
These people haven’t had to search for a job in those 10 or 20 years, which means they haven’t written a resume in 10 or 20 years. Outplacement programs help relearn the resume and cover letter writing process, sharpen interview skills and adapt the job seekers’ attitude to how to find a job in the current climate. The company that did the layoffs pays for it, provides it as a benefit to its workers.
MDM: Why would a company offer these types of programs?
SD: It sends a message to the employees who are still there that the company really does care about its workers. Circumstances are just what they are. Layoffs are way up. Unemployment is more than 8 percent. And that’s just the people who have filed for unemployment. The real numbers could be higher. Workers are not isolated from the news.
Huge companies have been offering these programs for some time now. Now we’re seeing more of an uptick, not only in companies offering them but from more individuals using these programs. Previously, we saw more executives looking for different jobs using the service. Now, it’s more people at more levels. Instead of just a president or CEO, it may be a regional sales manager in Denver who discovers she can’t find any jobs on her own.
MDM: What about companies that may not have the resources to provide a full outplacement program? Are there things they can do to ease the transition?
SD: There are a lot of things that can be done by management. The layoff of employees is the single most devastating blow to an organization for those being downsized and for the employees remaining. First and foremost, a reduction strategy should be formalized. Who? Why? And how? Make sure that all the information is available at the time of the action and for later conversations. The reason for follow-up conversations is because the employees will hear little other than you have been laid off.
Needs of the laid-off individuals should be discussed and a plan, no matter how big or little, should be made available: i.e. resumes, assistance in locating employment, help with computer research into local networks, etc. You can be creative and every little bit of effort helps. Remember, the remaining employees are watching. How you downsize will affect how you grow in the future.
MDM: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see being made by people reentering the workforce after being laid off?
SD: It all depends on the person. I’ve had a person bring in a resume that looked like a 2-year-old put it together. That’s not going to get anyone a higher level job. But another person may have problems with interview skills. The interview process today is very different than it was 25 years ago. Now, applicants have to take competency tests, behavioral tests, personality tests, and so on.
Even how to dress for an interview is something that sometimes gets forgotten. You may have come from a very casual work environment but that’s not going to work in the interview scenario. It’s a very competitive market right now. Companies can’t stand a bad hire anymore. Programs like ours can help potential employees refine and remember how to be in the job market.