The economic impact of Covid has forced many organizations to make workforce reductions. Offering outplacement services at any time —  and particularly amid the pandemic — is a compassionate and insightful way to help those workers, both contingent and staff employees. In return, your brand may hold on to its hard-earned reputation as a great employer that cares about its workers, which will help put you in the catbird seat in the hunt for talent when the economy rebounds and your organization seeks to ramp up its workforce.

Remember, social media and online review sites like Glassdoor can influence a candidate’s decision whether to bring their skills to your organization or take a position with your competitor. Contingent workers can actually have more influence than traditional employees because of the multitude of touchpoints they have.

“Once someone is leaving, they could interview 10 times. They could be giving an impression about your brand to 10 different business out there,” says Simon Church, a board member of The Recruitment Network, a global organization comprising more than 4,000 members. “It’s a multiple; it’s an exponential number of people who are going to hear about your company.” The Recruitment Network recently released Outsourcing in a Box — a free, white-labelled outplacement online solution for its members to offer clients and anyone else affected by redundancy.

Another benefit of offering outplacement is mitigating risk of litigation. Offering outplacement services when they reduce their workforce enables companies to provide clear benefits and clear severance to minimize litigation risk from disgruntled former workers.

Market Growth

SIA in its Outplacement Landscape 2020 report estimates the global outplacement market garnered revenue of $3.2 billion in 2019, an increase of 7% over the prior year. And as more and more outplacement firms provide upskilling and reskilling solutions, outplacement will increasingly be an important component of workforce planning and a useful tool to facilitate total talent solutions.

And this year, the global market for career transition support services such as outplacement is expected to grow by up to 10% this year and support more than 2.5 million individuals, according to research by the World Employment Confederation, which represents the global staffing industry, and the Association of Career Firms International, an organization representing outplacement firms. Single-digit growth is expected in 2021 in North America and market growth in Europe will be in the 20% range; growth will be the slowest in the Asia Pacific region, with this year’s increase expected in the single digits.

“Career transition services become more important in a labor market that is momentarily quite difficult with the Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent economic downturn,” according to the organizations. “This situation is reflected in the forecast by the sector’s main professional associations who underline that the challenges of the situation can be offset by quality services.”

Pandemic Shifts

The Covid-19 pandemic era has brought changes to the way organizations are offering outplacement services.

Reskilling and upskilling. Perhaps the biggest shift in outplacement amid the pandemic has been in digital reskilling. Many of the jobs people are leaving no longer exist because of digital disruption and the economic impact of Covid. “The ability to help people with digital reskilling and help get their skills positioned for brand-new work has been a huge part of the work that we are doing — much more than pre-Covid,” said John Morgan, COO and executive VP, Americas of outplacement provider LHH. Rebranded from Lee Hecht Harrison in January, LHH is part of The Adecco Group and works with more than 7,000 organizations in more than 60 countries, helping about 500,000 people in job searches annually.

Emotional wellness. Providing career coaching in a fully virtual format instead of in-person is another change brought on by the pandemic. Career coaches are finding that support is needed for emotional and psychological well-being as well as career guidance. Displaced workers are often sequestered and isolated in their homes due to Covid shutdowns and need mental-health support through this difficult time.

Customer base. Outplacement was previously a service offered mainly by larger firms that routinely had to adjust and shift their employment numbers, but providers are now seeing a big influx of smaller and midsize firms seeking services. Organizations of all sizes have been affected by the pandemic in the past year and many are letting workers go, and often for the first time in the business’ history. Given that owners and operators of smaller businesses have more direct interactions and closer relationships with their staff, they are looking for ways to minimize the impact on them. Additionally, they want to keep the relationships strong should they want to rehire them when conditions improve.

Transparency. Companies were much more transparent last year with communicating their plans and the business strategies behind them, which has destigmatized the label of being unemployed. Before Covid, the already jobless were often a disadvantage when applying for jobs; now, so many are in the same boat that laid-off or furloughed workers are no longer considered less-qualified talent.

Contingents count. While many organizations don’t treat contingent workers in the same ways as employees, some do. Randstad’s global outplacement and reskilling platform RiseSmart over the past year has seen strong interest from buyer customers that want to provide some sort of outplacement services to their contingent talent. It often comes down to social responsibility, says Lindsay Witcher, VP, global practice strategy and solutions at Randstad RiseSmart. “We are in unprecedented times, and there is some level of social responsibility, I think, on employers to take care of people if they are having to leave. And I think part of that is considering offering something to contingent workers.”