Outplacement Services vs. Career Transition Services

Which Are a Better Fit for Your Company and Its Employees?

If your company needs to initiate a reduction in force (RIF), we know how much concern and caution — and how many hours and weeks — you’re using to plan this effort. You want to care for your employees as your RIF unfolds and shepherd them through it with integrity and compassion.

As part of your RIF planning, you are probably defining the outplacement services that you will offer to your employees who will be leaving.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to crafting outplacement packages. Yet we’ve found that even the most passionate people-first companies don’t evaluate those choices to the extent they could.

And those choices have the power to shape a RIF that you and your employees merely endure (or tragically, suffer through) or one that you both use to your advantage.

Here is one of those choices: should your company offer outplacement services or career transition services?

These two terms tend to be used interchangeably. And while we don’t like to get caught up in terminology, there are important and sometimes subtle differences between the two.

So today we are going to discuss outplacement services versus career transition services. Our goal is to help you decide which is a better fit for your company and for your departing team members.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Outplacement or Career Transition: The Difference Summarized

Core Features of Outplacement vs. Career Transition Services

When to Choose Outplacement and When to Choose Career Transition

Vetting Outplacement and Career Transition Firms

Let’s get started.

Outplacement or Career Transition: The Difference Summarized

First, we’ll briefly define and describe each type of service.

Outplacement Services
Outplacement services are designed to help employees transition out of their current role to a new one at a different organization as smoothly and quickly as possible. The new role is usually a similar one in the same or similar field. Outplacement services typically include resume-writing assistance, interview coaching, job search strategies and tools, and sometimes mental health support to deal with the stress of job loss.

Career Transition Services
While similar in goal to outplacement services, career transition services are designed to go beyond the immediate job search. They focus on broader career counseling and include career goals assessment, skill development, personal branding, and even retraining for a new career path, a different industry, or entrepreneurship.

Career transition services are more personalized. They cater to professionals looking to make a significant change in their career trajectory, not just find a new job in the same field.

Core Features of Outplacement vs. Career Transition Services

The services you can offer to your employees through an outplacement program are different from those you can offer through a career transition program.

Below we’ll look at the key features of each type of program. As you’ll see, outplacement services are more focused on the role that each employee currently holds, and the actions that employee should take to secure a similar role.

In contrast, career transition services are more focused on the person in that role, and the wider range of opportunities available to that person.

Outplacement Program Features

  • Resume and Cover Letter Assistance: Helps employees articulate and present their experiences, skills, and accomplishments in a compelling way to potential employers. Top-quality outplacement services help employees stand out in crowded applicant pools by crafting resumes optimized for the algorithms that read and parse them.
  • Job Search Strategy and Support: Offers employees resources and tools for a successful and targeted job search, including access to job boards, networking opportunities, and unadvertised postings that might be inaccessible otherwise.
  • Interview Preparation: Delivers coaching on interview techniques and practice through mock interviews that improve performance.
  • Market Insights: Briefs employees on job market trends, emerging opportunities within the industry, and the challenges that the industry is facing. This kind of intelligence helps employees align their job preparation strategies with the employers looking to hire.

Career Transition Program Features

  • Career Counseling, Coaching, and Assessment: Guides professionals in identifying their interests, values, talents, and skills, along with the types of career paths that match.
  • Skill Development and Retraining: Identifies and sometimes even provides the education, programs, and resources for an employee to acquire new skills or level up the ones they already have. The goal is to gain and be able to demonstrate qualifications for a career pivot or significant advancement.
  • Personal Branding: Advises employees on how to craft a professional image and online presence, including positioning, messaging, value articulation, narrative development, and collateral development.
  • Networking Support: Leads employees in building and extending their professional network in their current field or a new one. Includes introductions to key industry contacts, influencers, leaders, conferences, and events.
  • Entrepreneurship Support: Helps professionals in leveraging their talent or experience to start their own business. Includes guidance in determining product-market fit, entity formation, business plan development, strategic hiring, and investor pitching.
  • Retirement Support: Helps employees who are considering retirement rather than transition. Includes support for navigating the unique lifestyle changes that come with stepping away from full-time work.

When to Choose Outplacement and When to Choose Career Transition

When deciding whether your company will offer outplacement services or career transition services to departing employees, you want to consider a variety of factors. These include the type of RIF you’re implementing, the nature of your company itself, the type of talent you must let go, and the industry you’re in.

While there are no hard rules here — every company is unique — there are some general guidelines. Let’s break them down.

When to Choose Outplacement Services
Outplacement services are a good choice when your RIF is prompted by changes you’re making at an organization-wide level. This is because outplacement services focus on quickly transitioning employees to new roles. Swift, smooth, and successful job placement reflects positively on your company’s reputation during a time when it’s being scrutinized by the market.

Outplacement services are best suited for:

Types of RIFs
Company-wide restructurings, downsizing, or merger and acquisition activity.

Types of Companies
Larger organizations, because outplacement can be implemented at scale more readily than career transition services can. Also, large corporations can often deploy outsourcing services to find employees new roles within the organization rather than outside of it.

Types of Employees
Those with skills that have a healthy demand throughout the industry, or across different industries.

Industry Ecosystem
Stable industries where the services or products provided, and the skills for providing them, change at a steady rather than breakneck pace. In these sectors, employees are more likely to find new roles that match their existing skill sets. Industries suited for outplacement include financial services, education, real estate, consumer goods, utilities, agriculture, and many areas of health care.

When to Choose Career Transition Services
Career transition services are a good choice when your RIF is prompted by industry-wide transformation stemming from advancements in technology, shifts in consumer behavior, regulatory changes, or global economic factors.

Transformations like these can drastically alter the demand for certain skills and roles, sometimes making entire professions obsolete and giving rise to new professions altogether. The in-depth, personalized guidance of career transition services are in order.

Career transition services are best suited for:

Types of RIFs
Departmental closures, team disbandments, or business pivots that eliminate specific positions.

Types of Companies
Niche SMBs, startups, or even larger companies where parallel job openings are limited and employees must pivot to new careers or new products to open up their opportunities. Career transition services are also an excellent choice for companies who want to offer their employees a truly customized offboarding experience.

Types of Employees

    • Those who need to reskill for emerging opportunities in new job markets.
    • Those who are senior and specialized, with expertise that enables highly visible leadership opportunities, consulting opportunities, or options for serving on boards or in philanthropic endeavors.

Industry Ecosystem

    • Industries like technology, green energy, or cutting-edge health care, which are experiencing rapid change, need specialized talent and benefit from novel combinations of skills.
    • Industries facing long-term decline, where certain skill sets have become stale, and employees can benefit from revamping their talents and interests for a new era.

Vetting Outplacement and Career Transition Firms

As you plan your RIF, you may be considering a partnership with an outplacement firm or career coach. As you vet potential partners, it’s important to ensure that they understand the distinct needs of your company, and your goals in implementing a RIF.

With that in mind, here are the questions to ask your potential partners:

  1. Can you tailor your services to meet the specific needs of our employees?

    Look for firms that offer comprehensive outplacement programs as well as customized career transition programs. Make sure they can create packages that make sense for you and can be personalized for your employees.

    Many outplacement firms offer only standardized packages, or packages that are limited in how they can be modified. This is evidence that your outplacement or career transition program isn’t going to be tailored to your company’s goals. Instead, it’s going to be commoditized for easy delivery. You want a firm that will let your company’s needs dictate their services, not the other way around.

    Also look for firms that include employees staying aboard in the services that they provide. Outplacement services that take these employees into account include mental health counseling and organizational change guidance. Caring for your remaining employees is critical to the success of any outplacement or career transition program.

  2. How do you adapt your services to the latest job market trends and technologies in our industry?

    A firm that offers career transition services must have insider knowledge of, and an insider’s ability to navigate, the industries where they’re working to place candidates. They must also understand employer demands in those industries so that they can position candidates to meet those demands.

  3. How do you measure the success of your outplacement and career transition services?

    Effective firms track and share metrics such as job placement rates, time to find new employment, career progression levels, retention rates for new positions, employee engagement rates in the program activities, number of interviews secured, participant satisfaction, and client ROI. 

  4. How do you deliver your services?

    Beware of firms that offer online portal or call center support for their outplacement and career transition services.

While there is usually an online component to any outplacement or career coaching engagement, a fully online engagement means that your employees will not benefit from personal career coaching, even if that’s what’s on the label, since these services lack a dedicated, experienced consultant to guide the transitioning employee through the entire engagement.

A subpar offboarding experience will negatively impact employee sentiment not only among the employees leaving, but also among the employees staying and the employees you’ll be attempting to recruit in the future.

Can you provide examples of how you’ve supported similar companies or industries?

You want to look for firms that have experience in working with similar companies in similar sectors with similar RIF circumstances.

The needs of individual employees will always be unique, but a successful firm will have a trusted playbook for various scenarios.

If you’re looking for an outplacement and career transition expert, we at Promark would love to answer your questions. We’ll help you envision the kind of program that would best fit your company, and then take it from there.

Reach out to us today, learn more about our outplacement services, or call us at (513) 768-6500. That number is connected to our Cincinnati HQ, which can connect you with the office closest to you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Reach out to us today, or learn more about our outplacement services. Or call us at (513) 768-6500. That number is connected to our Cincinnati HQ, which can connect you with the office closest to you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Outplacement Services vs. Career Transition Services

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