Repurposing Your Recruiters During Downsizing

Today, Dan Kilgore on my team wrote a great post that I thought would be great to share with everyone:

Okay, we’re now a few years into “The Great Recession”, and despite the predictions of many of the political and economic pundits, a healthy rebound that includes genuine and sustained job growth is still “just around the corner”.  While some industries are showing signs of growth, many more seem to be stagnating or worse, and some are  considering  either initial or continued “right-sizing” (i.e. layoffs).

At the same time, many firms seem to be taking on a wait-and-see, “cash preservation” stance, hesitant to spend with so many variable looming in the economy.  For those companies facing further staff reductions, but who still want to do the best they can for their impacted employees, there is a solution — Outplacement ServicesBut it can be done for no or little cost! This is not stated lightly as an abstract or theoretical concept.  This is based on my own real world experiences, an experienced practitioner who has designed, managed, and delivered these services to over 30,000 impacted employees in a number of global companies — because it works!

Outplacement Services are “career continuation” services typically provided to impacted employees, as part of a company’s strategy to assist those employees in moving on to their next career position elsewhere.  The Outplacement industry got its start back in the 1960’s as an offshoot of the Executive Search business.  While initially it was typically offered exclusively to highly compensated executives, it has since expanded into a service applicable and appreciated by all levels of the labor force.  Historically, Outplacement Services have been delivered through contracts with specialized firms, ranging from boutique consultancies to large international industry players, like DBM (Drake, Beam, Morin), Right Management Consultants, LHH (Lee, Hecht, Harrison) and Challenger, Gray, and  Christmas.  One of the key differentiators that all of these vendors had to offer was their exclusive and unique networking connections and databases of leads and jobs.

More recently, with the explosive growth of technology and the internet, it has become clear that the database advantages for networking and job leads that were once the sole property of those in the Outplacement industry are now available to most anyone and anywhere.  And social networking tools have made the art of extended networking second nature to most workers today.  As a result, many successful companies have now begun creating their own Outplacement Services offerings, using their own internal resources, or possibly a hybrid of those and externally contracted services, depending on the job level of employees receiving the service.

Those firms that have taken advantage of their own internal resources have invariably turned to their own existing experts on career management:  the Human Resources and Recruiting/Talent Acquisition functions.  Who better to teach individuals on the concepts and strategies of finding their next right job than the very people who are involved in that very process on a day to daybasis — the company Recruiters?   While their experience has been from the “other side of the desk”, they are clearly masters of the talent selection process and can readily accommodate the coaching/mentoring role required.

Initially introducing this concept to the Recruiting staff commonly brings mixed reactions, primarily because it is a bit counter-intuitive to most of them.  But as they are exposed to the details, it rapidly becomes apparent how similar the skill set and competencies are for recruiters and outplacement counselors.  It can also have very positive career enhancing potential.  Professional recruiters today are quite accustomed to the vulnerability of their career choice — when the economy turns down, who are the first to slow down and lose their jobs?  With outplacement service experience, a recruiter can effectively make their careers “recession proof”: do the hiring when business is growing, and help with the downsizing when it turns down.

And perhaps most importantly, another additional advantage of this strategy is in demonstrating that the Recruiting/Talent Acquisition function, (which may often be suspected of having less to do during a downsizing event, whether it’s true or not), has stepped up as corporate citizens and addressed a formidable business need, savings thousands of bottom-line dollars in the process.

The most common core service modules that are delivered in both group and individual outplacement counseling are:

  • Individual Career Assessment: To assist the impacted employee with career transition in general, and to identify specific skills, aptitudes and preferences that they will be carrying into the job market.   Don’t HR and Recruiters spend hundreds of hours over their careers doing just this, usually in 1:1 settings with employees?
  • Self Marketing: Usually done in a group workshop, teaches individuals how to research and assess the marketplace, the tools to use, and how to build a logical plan and a successful job search campaign.   Recruiters are exposed to the career campaigns of hundreds and thousands of applicants annually.  Think they are a good judge of what works and what doesn’t?
  • Managing Your Career on the Internet: A workshop designed to point to valuable resources, and to offer advice on advantages and clear pitfalls that may be encountered.  Any recruiter involved in sourcing today, (most), are quite familiar with where to find top talent, and the best/worst practices they’ve been exposed to —incredibly valuable advice for the candidates.
  • Resume Writing: Also done in a workshop, lays out the various common resume formats with pros/cons of each. This is usually expanded to include a number of self-presentation tools (i.e. use of social media, “30 second” and “2 minute drills”, use of bios, etc.).  The workshops are often followed on by 1:1 sessions for fine tuning.  How many resumes does a recruiter deal with in a year?  1000?  10,000, 100,000?  More?   Do you think they have a qualified opinion on what works and what doesn’t?
  • The Art of Networking: Meant to address common misconceptions about it, it’s true value, and guideline for networking mastery.  Most recruiters will openly admit that when you add up all the openings filled in their company, and from which source the candidates came from, those who “networked their way in” is one of thelargest crowds.  Wouldn’t it be safe to assume they have a solid understanding of how it works?
  • Interviewing Skills: Also done in workshop format, and can be followed up with 1:1 sessions or even video practice.  Targets the best in class strategies, and the most common errors and pitfalls.   Like resume reading, how many interviews do you think a recruiter has done over their career?  Might they be in a good position to guide
    applicants on the do’s and don’ts of effective interviewing?
  • Closure: In a workshop format, structured guidelines on how to jump start a stalled process and then negotiate successfully with a win: win outcome.  Most senior recruiters are well versed in the art of effective negotiation, and sharing that experience can prove invaluable for the average candidate.
  • Job Center (Optional): Ideally, all such services are best delivered in a dedicated, non-company facility, equipped with adequate technology resources and workspace to give the impacted individuals a “place to go to and work” on a daily basis. Corporate Recruiters are quite accustomed to working together, often in close proximity, and pooling resources in the endeavor of talent matching, and in offering individual advice and coaching to candidates who are in need.

So, as an HR or Recruiting/Talent Acquisition  leader, if you are currently or will possibly soon be facing the “rightsizing”, “streamlining”, “downsizing” or “force reduction” bug   what are you waiting for?  Can you step up to the challenge and deliver an incredibly inexpensive and much appreciated solution to an immediate business problem, —  or are you going to just send out the RFP’s to the traditional players who are more than willing to take your company’s treasure off your hands?

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