One of the effects of the ongoing financial crisis is redundancies. What I noticed is that many organisations that have not been severely hit by the crisis, have jumped the “difficult times” bandwagon and used it as an excuse to trim the waistlines.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it makes perfect sense. What I am having difficulties with is seeing the aftermath of that in terms of the skills pool, capability and confidence of the employed market and the unemployed market.
The employed pool is living in a constant state of stress, afraid to be next in line for the chopping block. I see this with colleagues, family, friends, friends of friends, etc.: everyone is doing their utmost to impress, to over-achieve, to out-do. They don’t have lunch breaks, they start work earlier, they finish work later. They are so focused on doing better than the invisible Jonses, they forget about things that will actually make them more creative, more productive – like taking a couple of methodical breaks in the day, or having a conversation by the water cooler, or talking to a colleague in another department because cooperating with them would get the project going at a much faster pace.
The unemployed pool suffers greatly from lack of confidence, which, in many cases is leading to mild depression (if not more than that). The days of “walk off one job straight into another” seem like a faded, distant memory. In certain industries/levels, the average time span to find a new job is surpassing 18 months. Many are feeling trapped in a hopeless situation where their efforts constantly amount to nothing (firstly, having failed to impress their employer enough to keep them, and then having failed to impress a potential employer(s) enough to hire them).
Both of these have a significant impact on the capability and talent available in the employee market as a whole. The amount of stress both groups are under results in them disengaging from their true capabilities, their real talents and the ways they can truly add value to any organisation. Taking this to a caricature extreme, the employee market will become a neurotic mess of people who are more worried about making their employer happy in the short term than building an on-going and lasting, positive impact.
What’s the solution? There are many possible solutions. In my view, outplacement is certainly part of the solution.
Outplacement as a means of building lasting economic stability
The recent (and by “recent” I mean “the past 3 years”) wave of reorganisations that swept every corner of the economic spectrum, very few organisations chose to use an outplacement solutions. “Time are tough”, organisations are saying, “we can’t afford the luxury of outplacement”. Especially when there is no sense, as far as they are concerned, to invest in an employee that is about to leave the company. In the world where every penny needs to see a return, outplacement has become a bit of a pariah, an “Ugly Betty” of services. Only once you got to know it, it made sense and its value was enormous. But looking at it from afar — it isn’t very convincing.
I wish I had some academic data to show this, but very little is done in the means of the long terms effect of outplacement. From a short term perspective, based on the experience of working with clients in these tumultuous times, increased confidence in one’s personal and professional abilities has a significant effect on their success in job hunting.
The result is less people are unemployed. Those that are unemployed, are unemployed for less time. The stress I accounted for earlier is gradually being reduced. The end result: less strain on funded government services, organisations perform better, all of which boost the economy.
The financial crisis, social responsibility and outplacement
The academic information I did find has to do with the social aspect of the financial crisis. I had immersed in a number of philosophical readings about how business ethics had influences this financial crisis.
There is a fascinating paper about the three dimensions of the financial crisis by Antonio Argandona from the University of Navarra, a powerful post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, analysing the crisis from a different angle and an article from the University of Western Australia following a panel they held about ethics in business in the new world, the post crisis world.
All three call for increased social responsibility and are highlighting the social, moral and ethical disconnect of the money-making-machine and its surroundings. True, this goes farther and deeper than outplacement being part of the solution, but having mentioned in previous posts that outplacement is a responsible way of managing redundancies, I truly meant it.
So – yes – outplacement is an odd looking service that seems expensive with no direct return on investment. But think about where you can help the employee pool as a whole how you can reduce stress and increase productivity. It’s time to make the academic conversation real and take responsibility for the social impact of doing business.
Believe it or not – outplacement is a cheap and easy way to start.