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Outplacement is a long-established service offering in the UK – in fact, Penna was the first organization in London to start offering career advice and guidance to redundant employees back in 1974. Today, Penna works with approximately 30,000 individuals each year. While there is no legal requirement to provide outplacement support to redundant individuals, most organizations see the provision of these services as ‘best practice.’ However, the type of support varies considerably, based on the seniority of an individual, their salary, the role they had been performing as well the generosity of the organization paying for the support.

When an organization goes through a structural change that is likely to result in redundancies there are certain processes that the employing organization legally has to follow. Initially, all employees who may be let go are placed at risk of redundancy. Depending upon the overall numbers affected, the employer then has a statutory obligation to consult with employees prior to any final decisions – this typically takes place over 30 or 90 days. Consultation involves looking at whether the individual might be redeployed into an alternative role, whether the existing job-role can be reconfigured, perhaps by changing the hours worked as well as considering all other options. It is only at the end of the consultation process that the individual’s role is either confirmed as redundant or removed from the at-risk list. Where outplacement is offered, typically, it is either on a one-to-one basis or via group-based learning. There are plenty of occasions where these approaches are entwined, with individual clients able to select the service that most suits them.

Outplacement in the UK is highly developed, with all good one-to-one outplacement offerings based around personal coaching supplemented by a wide range of additional support, including access to online resources (an online tool, offering access to research and job databases, ‘how to’ guides around CV, networking and interview advice), group-based seminars, specialist coaching support and advice and guidance on a range of topics, including self-employment, education, retraining and retirement options. Services are being delivered with an increased focus on social media, with individiuals increasingly utilizing Skype or telephone to access their support.

Penna works across the spectrum of individuals, with services designed to help C-suite executives at one end through to shorter, impactful services designed to help more operative type roles, such as manufacturing or factory-based workers, move quickly back into employment. Where individuals are not offered outplacement support, the Government is able to provide some degree of assistance; however, results and feedback are often modest at best.

As the UK economy continues to grow, albeit relatively slowly, the job market has improved in recent months. This means that good candidates are unlikely to have to wait long to secure a new role – indeed, part of Penna’s service is helping people evaluate the differing offers made to them. Roles in finance, IT, operations, sales, HR and general management are readily available as are very specific, niche roles. While these jobs exist in some numbers, the competition is high, so job-seekers need to have fully prepared themselves for the interview process. Education standards are high and employers will perform thorough checks on candidates, including a detailed evaluation of an individual’s educational attainment, past working achievements, skills-set, and, increasingly important – their future career aspirations, to see how these align with the organization.

Individuals who are unable to provide satisfactory answers to these questions or who appear to have had a series of jobs each lasting 12-18 months will struggle with some employers as ‘warning flags’ are raised. Understanding how to give the optimum response to tough interview questions as well as ensuring that personal career histories are positioned effectively is a key part of any outplacement service in the UK. In very general terms, managers should take no more than 3-4 months to land, executives a little longer, while the demand for lower-level staff can often mean that they have the next role lined up prior to leaving the one from which they are being made redundant.

Employees in traditional industries, mining, steelmaking, agriculture, ship-building and other primary or secondary manufacturing roles can often struggle as their roles are transferred abroad or are becoming increasingly automated. For these individuals, a degree of retraining is often required.

In summary, while the job market is broadly positive, there remains intense competition for roles and the guidance offered via outplacement organizations can often be a key deciding factor affecting not just whether an individual performs well at interview, but also how they perceive the future of their career and how they choose to pursue it.

Owen Morgan, Penna Plc.