The sad truth is sometimes employers have to make the difficult decision to layoff their employees. No one ever likes when this happens, but fortunately the use of outplacement services lessen the burden of being laid off. An outplacement service is a service that’s supplied by companies specializing in assisting an individual’s job search following a layoff or job loss, usually contracted by the employer.

Employee RelationsIn 2009, more than two-thirds of 265 U.S. employers with layoffs during the past two years offered outplacement services. Outplacement services can be used in conjunction with traditional severance packages for laid off employees, in addition to continuation of health benefits and a severance check.

Critics of outplacement services suggest that offering such benefits are a waste, as many laid off employees don’t utilize these services. While there’s always the possibility any service isn’t well received by your employees, it’s important to understand your employees’ needs. In other words, don’t offer services they won’t find beneficial. So how can you assess your current outplacement protocol?

Here are some great ways to assess and improve the quality of your employee outplacement services:

1. Conduct an exit interview to assess each employee’s outplacement needs.

If you’re truly not sure what services would be most beneficial to your employees, and you don’t want to waste time or money on unnecessary packages, you should utilize the exit interview. I know what you’re thinking, “Yuck, no one likes exit interviews.” This might be true, but in the case of a layoff or firing, an exit interview is your time to show some appreciation despite the unfortunate circumstances. It can also help you to learn more about each employee’s feelings about your layoff process and outplacement benefits.

2. Offer a variety of options.

For most people, a set package won’t be exactly right. We’re all individuals, and that’s why offering individualized options might benefit you. Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach, explore a variety of options that can be purchased on an as-needed basis. Many packages include options for resume preparation, career assessments, interview preparation, job search management tools, referrals to financial advisors, retraining strategies, and much more. You can see how all of these might not be necessary for every employee.

3. Ensure the services you provide offer clear and useful tutorials, how-tos, and customer service.

You want your employees to get the most out of these services. That’s why it’s important the services you choose offer quality customer service. Along with ease of use, this will increase the chances your employees will utilize these service and find them useful.

4. Offer these services to your laid off employees for an adequate amount of time.

Many of these outplacement services aren’t going to show your laid off employees an immediate return or advantage. They take time and curation. Don’t cut your employees off of the service before they’ve fully been able to reap the benefits. The amount of time that you provide for your employees to use these services will vary depending on the service. A minimum would be for one to three months.

5. Consider providing software packages to help in the job search process.

Too many employers release workers without helping them to get on their feet to prepare for the next phase in their lives. But there are plenty of software packages that can help employees to organize their job search. Plenty of outplacement firms offer this type of software to help misplaced workers self-direct their job search, but individual companies should offer it, as well. Many of these programs provide access to networking connections, job boards, and tools for organizing resumes and cover letters. Consider purchasing these programs for outplaced employees to show you care about their future and want to help them get back on their feet.

What outplacement services have you found most beneficial to your employees?

(Image courtesy thetaxhaven, Flickr)