Many businesses within the automotive industry are flourishing and unemployment is at its lowest rate in seven years. Despite one or two high profile casualties in the sector, the mood in the market generally is buoyant for an industry that is going through some of the most radical changes the industry has seen.

But the difficult reality is that there is always a case for reducing headcount somewhere within a businesses. Whether due to functional, Board or other restructures, regional downsizing or whatever, there will always be somebody that is exiting the business involuntarily. When these events occur it may not seem like the best possible time to work on your company’s legacy and brand, but, as with everything, there are always opportunities.

Outplacement assists in maintaining your brand reputation amongst employees, and can do a lot for the feelings and state of mind of people who are exiting the organisation. There is no questioning the importance of maintaining good relationships with ex-employees and a good outplacement programme is one of the best possible ways of doing this. Outplacement is a good way to ease someone’s exit from a business when they have been in it for a significant amount of time – and it is the right thing to do to help them transition.

What is outplacement?

In short, it’s a service utilised by organisations who are divesting staff and want to help those staff to progress through the challenging transitional period. Relevant services can include anything from assistance with compiling CVs and the provision of target lists of appropriate companies, to coaching, strategic introductions and assistance with personal marketing. Outplacement is used by good employers in any sector or industry; the armed forces in particular are known for their outplacement programmes.

Outplacement services should be flexible depending on the level of support an individual needs – and this is turn is affected by the level of seniority they held in their role. A junior manager typically might need an introduction to the job board market, help with their CV, some guidance on marketing themselves and some target companies to approach. A more senior individual may not have been on the other side of the interview table for a very long time, and may require all this and more – interview coaching, production of a CV and professional profile, help with networking and advice on how to market themselves without recourse to the more faceless sphere of job boards and application forms – strategic networking can be very valuable at this level.

Seniority tends to have an effect on the longevity of the service provided too, as the more senior professionals often require a longer period of support.

The outplacement market has become fragmented in the last ten years or so, and with that has come a commoditisation of the service. This includes a proliferation of remote, desk-based services which are marketed as cheap (though not that cheap) and allow for a sort of “self-service” version of outplacement. There is a place for everything, and while I am sure there is a demand for this, for me, it misses the key point of the service which is about rebuilding an individual’s confidence – something I believe can happen only through face to face coaching and the support of ongoing human interaction. Senior professionals in particular need this, and I have witnessed people’s confidence returning as a result of the process on many occasions. It’s a fine thing to see and one of the most rewarding parts of our job.

It’s a good idea to use an outplacement provider who has a strong knowledge of the end-user’s sector (or relevant and similar ones) because networking is an important part of outplacement activity. Experience of operating credibly at a senior level is also useful, especially when the service provider is acting as a career coach to senior individuals.

Outplacement service providers are not accountable for getting people a job per se, although they are of course about maximising the chances of that happening. They are also about adding value and easing what can be a difficult transition.