Executives looking for a new role naturally require a much more specific kind of outplacement service than other employees. This blog article explains how executive outplacement is different from general outplacement.
When anyone individual leaves the business, it can be a challenging time — for them, for the employees left behind, and also for HR. Outplacement support is designed to ease a person’s journey out of an organization. Effective support can help them to move on to their next opportunity while maintaining morale and productivity for remaining employees.
It doesn’t matter where people sit in the organization either — this is something that can benefit everyone from new employees with just a year or two of experience under their belts to senior executives with 20+ years in the workplace. It stands to reason though, that their needs and aspirations will be completely different, so a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be ideal. Experience, objectives, and stages in a career all mean that each person is unique. As such, the outplacement support provided needs to reflect this.
In fact, executives have told us they have been left frustrated by the standard offerings in the market place, which have resulted in them feeling ‘processed’ rather than considered and supported. They want a service that reflects their unique skills and experience, as well as being tailored to their unique objectives.
Tailored, peer-level support
So just how might an outplacement service that’s geared specifically towards execs differ from others?
No time limitation
At a senior level, planning and executing your next move can be a lengthy process — whether it’s the fact that you’re chasing a smaller number of opportunities, aiming to court the right organizations, or setting up your own consultancy, it’s not going to happen overnight.
Outplacement that is time-limited or only provides a fixed number of sessions introduces an unhelpful and unnecessary challenge to overcome. As a finance director has told us: “Knowing your help wouldn’t end until I found my new role was incredibly reassuring.”
It is also helpful to keep the support going as executives take up their next position — having an experienced mentor at hand can be invaluable as they negotiate challenges they may not have previously encountered, such as setting up a new business or attempting to deliver meaningful change to the new organization.
The right coach
Though here at Connor we are always careful to match every candidate with a consultant that is right for them, it is especially important to do this with executives. They need someone with similar experiences and achievements, who can mentor them in their next step and can work with them as their equal.
This is because at the senior level, the support that executives need is far more complex and challenging than that required by junior staff members. Execs have complex needs and unique skillsets; it takes careful coaching to bring about the right outcome for them.
That is where the concept of ‘peer coaches’ for executives comes in. This doesn’t mean that they’re not proper coaches, but it does mean that they’re on the executive’s level, both intellectually and professionally, and know exactly how to challenge them and hone their thinking.
It is vital for there to be good chemistry between the exec and their coach — there will be a strong element of counseling and mentoring in their interactions, so it’s important to be able to open up. That’s why we ensure we take the time at this part of the process to chemistry match executives with the right consultants and build a detailed and accurate brief for the task ahead. We get to know each individual, work to provide a select list of suitable coaches, and give the exec time to consider who is the right coach for them.
Opportunities for continued development
Given that executives are more likely to be moving into a new leadership role — whether that is in a corporation, starting their own business, or taking up a non-executive director post — it’s going to be important for them to ensure they are fully prepared for every aspect of the move. At a senior level, this is often less to do with tools, techniques, and skills. Instead, executives will usually benefit from being challenged in their thinking and from focusing on developing their mindset and behaviors to lead and thrive in today’s complex and changeable world.
Indeed, these skills will also help executives manage their own transition, which is often a complex matter. Adapting to a new environment after long service with their existing employer or transitioning from full-time employment to something more flexible can be very challenging. Every individual can benefit from revisiting skills and learning to apply them to new situations. A resilient mindset that enables executives to react to change and uncertainty in a positive manner will help them manage the transition much more smoothly.
My belief is that these leadership behaviors could be best developed in groups — perhaps on a weekend retreat with other executives transitioning to a new opportunity. Executives will benefit from hearing about other people’s experiences, and working on their development in a safe and constructive space. And of course, a retreat would also open up networking opportunities that could be incredibly valuable for executives.
Access to a network
At a senior level, it is often the case that roles are not even advertised before they are filled. Organizations are increasingly keen to leverage their networks to find ideal candidates at this level and so it follows that executives looking for their next opportunity should be looking to build and develop their networks as quickly as possible.
Of course, most executives have already accomplished networkers in their own right. But one of the ways an outplacement service can help is to plug executives into an existing network of contacts. That network should include senior executives in desirable organizations — enabling executives to directly target key individuals at organizations they want to work for. An outplacement provider’s network will of course also include everyone who has been through outplacement with them before — and if they specialize in executive outplacement, that network of ‘alumni’ with similar experiences of the service could be very powerful indeed.
Keep it human
I am excited to see how executive outplacement services continue to evolve into the future. Already, we’ve seen an evolution in the types of roles that execs are looking to transition into, and a redefinition of what it means to retire. So many execs are looking at part-time work or portfolio careers that allow them to keep working as much or as little as they want, instead of setting themselves a concrete retirement date.
Whatever the future holds, I do know that it’s going to be essential for those of us providing outplacement services to keep the human element of what we do front and center. Whether you’ve been in an organization for a few months or several decades, leaving can be a tough experience. It’s important to recognize the deep and sometimes complex emotions that people might experience at times of change, and which might influence what they do next.
If we don’t acknowledge the human side of the transition — and in this respect, it doesn’t matter how senior or experienced the leaver is — there’s a danger that the support we’re offering will be rendered ineffective at best, damaging at worst. This impact also risks spreading to those remaining in the organization. Offering the right support to those leaving the business has a knock-on effect on those remaining, increasing engagement within roles and with the company brand itself.
A bespoke service and a human approach are key. Every exec has unique career and personal goals; executive outplacement needs to recognize this and provide a service that can map to their unique skills and talents, to get the best possible outcome for them.
Tim Kemp – Head of Executive Outplacement
Tim joined Connor in 2019, after a career including being HR Director for Unisys and headhunting for the likes of Korn Ferry and ZRG Partners. Tim ensures that our outsourced hr services continue to lead the market in providing high-touch, high-impact bespoke outplacement support.