Life after a layoff — coping strategies

Chitra Narayanan | | Updated on: Aug 01, 2019

Outplacement agencies like RiseSmart help retrenched employees get back on their feet

It has been a brutal year for employees in both start-ups as well as traditional companies. In July, there were reports about hospitality start-up Treebo laying off 120 employees. The same month saw stories about Nissan Motor Co restructuring and intending to fire 12,500 employees globally of which 1,700 would be in India. A recent Reuters report has quoted the president of India’s auto components association as warning that a fifth of the country’s 5-million-workforce in the auto parts industry could lose their jobs if the slowdown persisted.

Conditions are such that fear is palpable that one’s job could be in line next. And nowhere to go. However, talk to Joel Paul, General Manager, RiseSmart India, a leading outplacement agency, and there is some sense of reassurance. He says, yes, outplacement is taking longer. But he feels there has not been a general reduction in volume of hiring — it’s just the time taken to hire has got prolonged. “Something that would take a month earlier is now taking six months,’ he says.

Dony Kuriakose of Edge Executive Search, too, says the job market is still robust — he says there are multiple positions across various levels in different sectors open with them. “It’s true that there are a lot more people sitting at home without jobs. But on the other hand, there are plenty of openings,” he says. Also, unlike before, companies are not averse to talking to candidates who have been laid off or have been sitting at home unemployed for a while. “Earlier they would question why there was a break in career. But now they are relying on their own assessments. They only want to make sure there were no ethics issues in earlier separations from companies,” he says.

Helping with transitions

More and more companies that are forced to lay off are hiring outplacement agencies, says Paul, pointing out that there is no mandate for them to do so, but they are doing it as it is the right thing.

Is there any benefit from outplacement services for the laid-off employee? Paul points out that there are three components to outplacement. The first is a discussion on career mobility (coaching about what to do next), the second is working on personal branding (rewriting the resume, etc), and the third is the actual job or gig hunt, which could not only be connecting the candidate to the job but also doing a bit of interview coaching. Typically, how the outplacement service works is when an organisation is downsizing it engages the agency’s services for the employees for a period of three months. “You may be in an industry that is shrinking. That’s where career mobility counselling comes in,” says Paul. “Can the person use core skills to do something different – or should the person invest time in reskilling?”

A trend that has been observed, says Paul, is that those with job experience of less than 15 years seek out another job but those with over 15 years experience are increasingly preferring to opt out of the employment race and do something on their own. “The sub 15 years work experience person often has liabilities, loans to pay and prefers to move to the next job,” says Paul. On the other hand, he says, senior executives show higher receptivity to start something on their own.

Both Paul and Kuriakose say future-proofing yourself is the need of the hour. Says Kuriakose, “We are in the middle of a big shift in jobs. Work itself is changing.”

Three things are happening, he says. One, work is being broken up into parcels. Two, gig work is taking off. And three, the pace of movement of skills is so rapid that companies are now giving up on the concept of skilling up. “More and more reskilling responsibility is falling on the individual,” says Kuriakose.

How successful is outplacement? What percentage of employees end up being placed? Kuriakose believes the figure is quite low. He points out that he has so many jobs listed on open forums and outplacement agencies have rarely reached out to him.

Paul of RiseSmart, however, feels the coaching services offered by them are useful. Indeed, they help reposition the person’s mindset vis a vis skills and transitioning to something else, agrees Kuriakose.

But outplacement agencies are only able to help a small percentage of people rendered jobless as they mostly work with companies. And the period of services to the laid-off employee is barely three months. Ask Paul why they don’t open up career coaching for individuals too and he says they are evaluating it. “It’s not something that we don’t want to do. It’s on our books and we want to launch it,” he says.

Published on August 01, 2019
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