[Second of three parts.]

Partnering with an outplacement solution firm is a better idea than ever these days. It’s important to know what to look for, however, to ensure that you’re providing quality services to exiting employees. It doesn’t do organizations any good to offer services that provide more misery to laid-off employees. The quality of the outplacement solution does reflect back on the organization that provides it.

Here’s a checklist to help you decide.

Resume services

Resumes are a very personal thing, and should, therefore, be personalized. “One size fits all” resumes don’t work in the real world, and so the outplacement service you choose should have a real world philosophy to resumes.

Some companies might offer a critique of the employee’s existing resume, and offer suggestions for layout and for optimizing it for computer-based keyword searches. Still others provide a complete consultation with a Certified Professional Resume Writer, who then works collaboratively with the former employee to create entirely new documents.

Counseling

Outplacement counseling is a much-debated issue, and what you get for transitioning employees should reflect your own organization’s thoughts on the subject. Understand your goals for partnering with an outplacement service, and then choose a solution that matches those goals.

Are you trying to help your former employees feel better about having lost their job, or do you want to help them get back to work and get on with their lives? In the days when outplacement was considered employer guilt relief, it was natural to gravitate toward grief counseling. In today’s marketplace, however, grief counseling has a separate place from career assistance.

Current thinking is that outplacement should have at its core helping employees find new jobs quickly rather than to help them get over the last one. So, rather than the outmoded notion of counseling, successful outplacement companies now tout job-hunting training.

Education

Look for an outplacement solution that offers solid career advice, and one that assigns a trained transition specialist to work one-on-one with each employee to determine goals, create a job search strategy, and provide personal coaching to help prepare for individual interviews. Since the key to successful outplacement is individualized, personal service tailored to the needs of each employee, it’s wise to check whether the career counseling an outplacement solution provides this level of service.

It’s also important to check out the curriculum: make sure that the counselors are qualified, and are dispensing useful, practical advice, and are working from a road map that you can see in advance.

Jobs

This is the make-or-break point for most outplacement companies. Laid off employees want to get back to work as soon as possible, and resume their lives. If the outplacement solution you’re considering doesn’t offer solid job leads that match an employee’s qualifications and preferences, they’re considered a waste of time—an insult to the injury of layoff.

Make sure you know what “job search aids” the company provides.Will your transitioning employees get nothing more than a list of resources—online job boards, local career centers, and suggestions for networking groups to join? Or will they have access to results from personalized, semantic-based searches run by a powerful web mining engine to find positions listed on more sites than any employee could visit in a single day?

This sort of technology does much more than root out jobs. The concept of semantic search—that is to say, an intelligent search that understands the meanings of key words and phrases and matches them to job seeker preferences much in the same way other types of online relationship services work—can predict with much greater accuracy the chance the job listing will be a good fit for the seeker.

It’s vitally important for you as a buyer of outplacement services to understand that technology alone is not the differentiator. It takes professional human interaction with the technology to weed out undesirable results, such as whether the job is too junior or senior for a candidate, whether it’s too far from the candidate’s stated willingness to travel, whether the results are duplicative, or whether the job has already been filled.

Look for an outplacement solution that combines semantic search with human filtering to ensure your laid-off employees are getting only the most relevant, best-matched positions, with no fluff.

Convenience and Availability

Early in the days of outplacement, agencies provided participants with office space, stationery, mailing equipment, and sometimes, an administrative assistant with the idea that it would be easier to find a job in an atmosphere that already resembles a familiar work environment. The advent of the Internet rendered such ideas—and in some cases, the very concept of offices—obsolete.

In an era when telecommuting is commonplace and business hours are blurred, office amenities seem more an annoyance than a leg up to the next job. People want to job search from anywhere, online, at any time of the day or night, and even on the go from smartphones.

Make sure that the outplacement solution you choose provides participants with “always open” availability online. Some offer a personalized dashboard from which job seekers can get their job leads, apply online, research, and network with colleagues and friends over social media sites, all from within a single interface. This is especially important in companies where layoffs have occurred across multiple sites.

Really effective outplacement pays no attention to borders or distance—it’s available online, at any time, through a combination of online technology and human, one-on-one interaction over the phone, email, chat, or videoconference.

[Tomorrow: More things to look for in an outplacement provider.]

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