Daily Telegraph - January 2015

For those who lose their jobs the world of "outplacement counselling" can offer a different view.

Telecity revealed on Wednesday that chief executive Michael Tobin was to leave the data centre business, with the announcement detailing the terms of his “termination payment” which included up to £45,000 plus VAT for “outplacement counselling and assistance”.

To the many employees such a payment – more than one and half times the national average salary – might sound like a huge amount. However, similar arrangements, though not necessarily so large, are common in the upper echelons of business, according to those who work in the careers industry.

“Senior directors have all probably asked for outplacement services to be written into their exit packages,” said Frances Cook, director of the senior directors unit at HR services group Penna. “At a PLC, board-level staff, or the equivalent at a partnership or law firm, you will generally see [an outplacement payment of] £25,000 to £30,000 plus VAT.”

But for those who find themselves with this money to spend, what can they expect from outplacement support?

“The main thing is that each person has a service that is tailored to them,” said Ms Cook. “But what they can expect is a healthy dose of analysis and reflection on their competencies and capabilities and what future direction will be best as a long-term strategy.”

“A very important part at the beginning is reputation management,” she added. “You have to think about what will be possible in the future: you might have left an organisation because you are an executive of your time and now the business has changed and has different requirements.

“You have to think about how you will deal with the questions that will be asked [about why you left]. The answers have to be real and authentic.”

For such top-end roles out of work executives can expect advice and introductions from professionals that will help position them for the future – whether this is moving job, considering the international market, other industries, entrepreneurship or building a portfolio career of directorships.

Two other points they will be told to consider are that they are not alone and that finding the next position that’s right will take time.

“If they ran a specialised business and want to do the same thing there might only be a few roles that come up every year,” said Ms Cook, who warns executives to be prepared for a waiting game. “Outplacement counselling works but it’s difficult to get people to talk about it though they will quietly refer their friends.”

The industry sprang up in the US more than 30 years ago to give jobless managers an office to work out of and lessen the stigma of redundancy but has since grown into a multi-billion-pound global industry that serves all levels.

Away from the boardroom positions, outplacement and career counselling is much misunderstood by the general workforce according to Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.

“A lot of people think it is something for school leavers and not professionals,” she said. “But if you have been a decision-maker at company and suddenly find yourself out of a job and becoming a seller rather than a buyer then it is emotionally a very difficult situation to adjust to; outplacement helps with that.”

People who have been in one job or business for a long time will also benefit from getting a career professional’s help, according to Ms Mills. “They might not have written a CV for years or had an interview. They might think they know what to do but the world has changed. Career coaches will teach what recruiters look for now and new techniques such as using social media.

“The value outplacement brings is it makes job searches more time efficient.”

Talking to an outplacement consultant can also open up new fields, according to Liz Sebag-Montefiore, a director at consultancy 10Eighty.

“There’s an ‘evolution curve’ when you get made redundant – it’s the worst thing ever, there’s shock, anger, denial, acceptance,” she said. “But if you talk to a career coach you could discover your strengths and skills that allow you to do something else you never thought of.”

She added that people need to think of a career "lattice" rather than ladder and consider sideways moves, rather than concentrate on total salary of a new position. “Three months down the line most people say losing their job wasn’t the worst thing, it was the best,” she said.

From an employer’s point of view, offering outplacement counselling is also advantageous.

“There’s an element of corporate social responsibility to it,” said David Cairncross, a director at recruitment group Hays. “When a workforce is going through transition there can be some material risk to the business. But there’a also a misconception that it’s just for those who are leaving the business. It can help in restructuring where you are assessing people who might be moving internally.”

Offering such treatment can also protect against bad PR and employment tribunals.

“It is a salve to corporate conscience,” Ms Mills added. “It also helps those staff who are left behind. If they see someone has been treated respectfully when they leave they are far less likely to be resentful.”

Article by: Corinne Mills, managing director, Personal Career Management

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