From the Outside In: Considerations When Using an External Vendor

John Challenger, CEO of outplacement services provider Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., provides his best tips for maximizing proper outplacement when using an outside vendor.

Ask for metrics. According to Challenger, the two most important statistics that any external outplacement provider can offer are:

  1. How long, on average, does it take clients to land new positions?
  2. What percentage of clients found equivalent or better jobs?

Challenger said his firm provides clients with data related to a wide range of metrics including utilization, or number of job seekers participating in services; status of each employee; percentage who have been placed; average placement time; percentage landing better or equivalent positions; and a satisfaction survey.

Plan ahead. Almost everything that can go wrong in a separation is rooted in the first 48 hours of action, Challenger said. Use your provider to help you define the critical junctures of the process well in advance. For example, who will act and report on what as events unfold? Does a separation agreement need to be signed? Is the work or job going away or will it be replaced? Who will inform the remaining employees who “touch” those affected? Who will need what reports when?

Most important, companies shouldn’t call their outplacement provider on the eve of a workforce reduction, Challenger said. Consider the outplacement provider to be a partner throughout the entire process.

Have an open dialogue with your provider. Communication is paramount when it comes to outplacement. It needs to happen between the company and the outplacement provider, between the company and those affected by job loss, and, perhaps most important, between the company and those who remain in the workforce.

Challenger said it is important to have well-planned and well-defined messages that explain what is happening, why it is happening, who it is happening to and how the company is helping those being separated and those remaining on staff.

Make sure the outplacement provider has its priorities aligned. A good outplacement firm should do the following, according to Challenger: Put the needs of the job seeker in transition first, even above the needs of the company that hires it to provide outplacement; provide measurable goals and outcomes; and be responsive to any conflict or complaint that arises from an individual going through the program.

This article is a sidebar to Talent Management's October 2014 feature, "Outfitting Outplacement."