While the country is making moves to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with unemployment rates slowly dropping and job rates slowly increasing, there’s still a long way to go and still a lot that’s unknown as this pandemic morphs and we continue to see the effects on businesses. Unfortunately, this means that there will be more lost business in many industries and more lost jobs. No employer ever wants to have to lay off any of their staff, but as we’ve seen since March, it’s become a common occurrence.
Employers legitimately want to take care of their employees and do all that they can to ensure as smooth of a transition out as possible, but the reality is that these employees are losing their income, health benefits, security, and peace of mind. They feel scared, hurt, upset, and angry. Their whole worlds have just been majorly disrupted, and there’s nothing they can do about it. What a frustrating feeling! This is traumatic not only to the employees directly affected, but also to the remaining employees who have to watch their friends and colleagues leave. All eyes will be on how the company handles the lay-off, especially to those who will remain employed.
The typical severance package offered to an employee being laid off consists of a week or two of pay per year of service with the company, plus the offer of COBRA in order for employees to keep their health care coverage for an additional 18 months. However, COBRA is insanely expensive and many people, especially those who have just lost their income, simply can’t afford to pay the premiums. This is especially concerning during this COVID pandemic. Some employers choose to offer to pay for COBRA coverage for anywhere from a month to 18 months.
The best way that an employer can support these affected employees is to help them transition into a new job as quickly as possible, restoring their income and benefits. Having an outplacement professional in place to help these individuals through this incredibly tough time can help them work through their negative thoughts and feelings and strategize a plan of action to move on Rather than dwelling on the past, they will be focusing on the future. Outplacement services vary, but typically include:
- Group or individual career counseling and advising
- Helping to develop current resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn and other social media profiles
- Providing training and advice on current job search resources and trends
- Help these individuals to define what their next career move will be and how to get there
- Interview training
- Networking strategies
- Help in evaluating and negotiating job offers
- Just being a general support and resource as they navigate the job search waters they have suddenly been thrust into
Offering outplacement services in conjunction with a lay-off has benefits for the employer as well.
- Provides displaced employees with an invaluable resource from someone who specializes in career counseling and transition, easing their stress and the negative emotions that came with the loss of employment.
- Helps the displaced workers to find new work quicker, helping them land on their feet and reducing the amount of unemployment benefit liability that the company is required to pay.
- Reduces the amount of COBRA coverage that employers may be paying the premiums on.
- Increases morale of the remaining employees as they see that the company does care about its employees and that they are doing everything they can to help them through this terribly stressful time. It’s important for remaining employees to know that if something happens where they may end up involved in a lay off, the company will do what they can to do right by them.
- Maintains or increases company reputation; reduces negative publicity and results in more positive company reviews left on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed.
- Reduces lawsuit claims against the company.
- It’s the right thing to do.
So how does a company go about getting these services in place? Once the organization has made the decision to conduct a reduction in force, they should work with legal counsel to determine which employees will be affected and what type of severance package, if any, will be offered. Whether or not to offer outplacement services should be a part of that conversation and if it is decided to offer them, the company should bring in the outplacement professional at this point to determine exactly which services or package they want to offer to the displaced employees.
It’s important to work with an outplacement professional who offers personalized packages and services, knows the job market, and can provide in-depth career counseling.
If you as an employer find yourself in this situation, reach out and I would love to start a conversation about how I may be able to help.