The Role of Outplacement in Building Organisational Trust and Maintaining a Social Licence to Operate

A report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) highlighted a concerning trend – organisations across Australia (in line with their global counterparts) are facing a serious and undeniable “crisis of trust”.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer (a global survey on institutional trust conducted by public relations firm Edelman) found that trust had fallen across all four of the groups it covers – government, media, business, and non-government organisations (NGOs) – with trust levels at five-year lows and below the 50% threshold denoting the point they are classed as ‘distrusted’.

While ‘trust’ is a wide-ranging concept that can apply to the way an organisation is viewed both outside and within the business, one thing that’s clear is that building and maintaining trust is crucial to the way in which businesses operate. In fact, the AICD survey completed by almost 600 directors found that over 95% agreed or strongly agreed that trust was important to their organisations’ sustainability.

What’s more, trust is one of the key components of maintaining a ‘social licence to operate’ – a core consideration for any business wanting to remain sustainable and trusted by the community in which it operates.

In this article, I’ll be looking at why organisational trust is important, what it means in the context of a social licence to operate, and how outplacement can play a key role in building and maintaining trust within your company.

Institutional Trust and Social Licence to Operate

Firstly, it’s interesting to examine the concept of a social licence to operate (SLTO) – a term that’s been in use for around twenty years and used to describe the ‘non-formal responsibilities’ of an organisation.

According to The Ethics Centre, the social licence to operate refers to “the acceptance granted to a company or organisation by the community”. While we’re all aware of the many formal legal and regulatory license requirements that need to be met for businesses to operate legitimately, SLTO could be described as an informal license given to an organisation by the stakeholders on whom their activities have an impact.

The Ethics Centre identifies three key components of SLTO:

  • Legitimacy: Adherence to the accepted standards or ‘rules’ of the community – whether these are legal, social, cultural, formal or informal.
  • Credibility: The provision of true and clear information to the community and the capacity to fulfil any commitments made.
  • Trust: “The willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another”. Trust and confidence are key pillars of SLTO; they are hard to obtain and all-too-easy to lose.

With growing public expectation for businesses to demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility, maintaining a social licence to operate should be a key focus for any company. And that means taking a proactive approach to ensuring high levels of institutional trust.

The Importance of Internal Practices in Organisational Trust

Two key findings of the AICD report showed the importance placed on maintaining trust at an internal level:

  • 81.6% of surveyed directors see “employees” as one of the two most critical stakeholders to maintain trust in an organisation (a close second to “clients or customers” at 82.3%).
  • “Internal culture and practices” was seen as the most critical issue relating to trust, with 74.1% of respondents selecting this issue as part of their top three.

Taking a bigger picture approach, prioritising trust at an internal level is logical given that individuals within an organisation will inevitably interact with external stakeholders and make decisions that reflect the credibility of the organisation as a whole.

The Role of Outplacement in Building Organisational Trust

With ‘internal culture and practices’ seen as a critical issue relating to trust and more than 90% of directors surveyed by the AICD stating they were making efforts to improve the corporate culture of their organisation, a practice such as outplacement can play a critical role in building organisational trust ‘from the inside out’.

In fact, making outplacement an internal practice that forms part of your organisational culture can go a long way in building trust at both an internal and external level. Here’s how offering outplacement services can positively impact trust on various stakeholders:

1. Outgoing Employees: Outplacement can increase trust and reduce negative feedback

By showing your willingness to act with fairness and respect, providing outplacement support to departing employees following redundancy or retrenchment helps to protect the relationship between an outgoing staff member and your organisation.

This will help to maintain their trust and confidence in your brand even under difficult circumstances. Aside from minimising any resentment on the employee’s part, this is also beneficial should you wish to recall them in the future as a ‘boomerang’ employee (which is particularly relevant in our COVID-19 era when current cut-backs may be reversed as the economic landscape changes).

2. Existing Employees: Outplacement maintains trust and engagement

For your surviving employees, providing outplacement to departing staff members demonstrates your company’s commitment to upholding its brand values at every stage of the employee lifecycle.

This will help to ensure a positive perception of you as an employer, which will have a knock-on effect on internal trust levels, as well as ensuring surviving employees remain motivated and connected with your brand.

3. External Stakeholders and the General Public: Outplacement protects brand reputation

A study by Career365 found that 95% of people would be “far less inclined” to post adverse comments about their former employer had they been offered an outplacement program.

By providing outplacement support to departing employees, you can help safeguard organisational trust in the wider community by reducing the chance of negative feedback being shared online or via word of mouth from unhappy former employees.

Career365’s affordable online outplacement programs – delivered via online training modules and video-based coaching – coupled with video conferencing via Zoom, Teams or Skype can be accessed from any location, at any time, on any device, making them ideal for a COVID-19 environment.

If you need support or advice on outplacement services for retrenched employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.career365.com.au to find out more about our fully online outplacement programs.

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

How Outplacement Can Minimise the Risk of Reputational Damage

With the inevitable cut-backs arising from the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, many organisations have no choice but to reduce their staff numbers. Whether it’s a case of retrenchment or redundancy, providing outplacement services to outgoing employees helps to ensure they receive the support they need in these challenging times.

However, outplacement programs can also offer significant benefits to employers – one of which is the reduced risk of reputational damage to their employer brand. Maintaining a positive brand reputation should be an important consideration for any company – according to research conducted by LinkedIn, 60% of professionals aged 40 and under associate employer branding with job consideration.

If you’re having to let go of employees due to COVID-19, here are some of the reasons that offering outplacement support will help minimise the chances of your organisation facing a ‘branding backlash’.

Employees offered outplacement are less likely to spread negative feedback.

Ever noticed that online reviews are more likely to be shared when the person’s suffered a bad experience? Well, a study undertaken by ZenDesk revealed that respondents who experienced a bad service interaction were 50% more likely to share it on social media than those who had a good experience. If we put this into an employment context, this would suggest that disgruntled employees will be far more likely to share negative feedback about their employer.

Providing outplacement can help to leave outgoing employees with a positive impression of their former employee, by demonstrating they are still cared about and will be treated with dignity even on their departure. In fact, research conducted by Career365 showed that 95% of people would be “far less inclined” to post adverse comments about their former employer had they been offered an outplacement program.

Outplacement helps to maintain a healthy relationship between employer and employee.

Providing Outplacement is not a legal requirement. It is a service that is offered by employers who truly care about their employees, even as they depart the company. By this one tangible act of support, the employer’s reputation is reinforced in the eyes of the participant.

So, why is this important? Aside from making it less likely that the outgoing employee will share negative feedback about their employer in the short-term (as outlined above), it also helps to maintain a positive relationship going forward. As well as minimising the chance of employers talking badly of their former employer in the future, this can also be very helpful if circumstances change and the employer wishes to re-engage the person as a boomerang employee.

Worth noting: At the first meeting with a new participant in one of our outplacement programs, I make a point of giving kudos to the employer. By explaining that the former employer is being immensely helpful in providing the support they aren’t legally required to, the participant is consciously made aware of what it means to be offered Outplacement.

Offering outplacement can help you be recognised as an Employer of Choice.

Employer brand reputation is particularly important when it comes to attracting new talent. And with employer review websites such as Glassdoor and Seek being used extensively by job seekers to gauge the suitability of potential employers, ensuring your brand is seen as an Employer of Choice can go a long way in securing top talent.

Supporting outgoing employees via an effective outplacement program demonstrates your brand’s commitment to upholding its values and treating staff members fairly at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This will be viewed favourably by future employees and helps your organisation to stand out as an attractive place to work.

Providing outplacement support presents a positive brand image for surviving employees.

Your brand reputation isn’t just based on the way people outside your organisation view your company. The way you’re perceived by current employees – particularly during a period of higher than average job losses such as the COVID-19 era – is equally important. As well as reducing the chances of your own employees spreading negative word of mouth about you, providing outplacement can be highly beneficial in terms of keeping existing employees engaged and productive.

When remaining staff members can see their former colleagues being treated with dignity and respect through the provision of outplacement support, they will feel reassured and have greater confidence in their employer. This will help ensure surviving employees view their employer in a positive light, remain connected and motivated in the workplace, and be less likely to suffer the impact of survivor’s guilt.

Career365’s affordable online outplacement programs – delivered via online training modules and video-based coaching – coupled with video conferencing via Zoom, Teams or Skype can be accessed from any location, at any time, on any device, making them ideal for a COVID-19 environment.

If you need support or advice on outplacement services for retrenched employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our outplacement page to find out more about our fully online outplacement programs.

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

How Outplacement Can Minimise the Impact of “Survivor’s Guilt” in Remaining Employees

When we consider the impact of job losses – such as recent redundancies or retrenchment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s natural to focus on those directly impacted by the cut-backs, i.e. those employees who have lost their jobs.

However, the effect of job losses on remaining employees can be particularly traumatic, especially if they experience what’s known as ‘survivor’s guilt’ or ‘survivor’s syndrome’ – a feeling of guilt over the fact that they kept their jobs, while colleagues and friends were not so lucky.

In this article, I’ll be looking at the effects of survivor’s guilt on remaining employees, and how employers can minimise the impact of this syndrome – in order to maintain engagement, motivation, and trust – using a solid outplacement strategy.

What is survivor’s guilt?

Survivor’s guilt can occur in relation to a traumatic event in which someone survived when others did not. As a result, the survivor may feel guilty that they escaped the effects of the event, question why they survived when others didn’t, and wonder whether there was something they could have done to prevent the event from happening.

On a more extreme level, survivor’s guilt is often associated with events involving major trauma, such as death arising from terminal illness, war, or an act of terrorism. However, any event which is traumatic – such as seeing those around you losing their jobs – can result in a degree of survivor’s guilt in those who escaped the direct impact of the event.

The symptoms of survivor’s guilt can include the following:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Fear and confusion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Obsessive thoughts about the situation
  • Feelings of helplessness and disconnection
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea

What is the impact of survivor’s guilt in the workplace?

Considering the symptoms of survivor’s guilt, it’s not hard to see why employees experiencing this syndrome would struggle to work productively and maintain focus in their jobs.

In fact, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) of more than 4000 workers who kept their jobs following organisational lay-offs, reported that over 75% had experienced a drop in their own productivity. The study also revealed that:

  • 87% were less likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work
  • 81% believed customer service has declined
  • 77% saw more errors being made in the workplace
  • 64% said their colleagues’ productivity has declined

As a result of survivor’s guilt in response to job losses, workplaces are likely to face problems ranging from reduced engagement and productivity, lower motivation, less trust between employees and their employer, and higher overall levels of anxiety, stress and fear.

In our current climate, the trauma of redundancies or retrenchment will be compounded by the fear and disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. More than ever, the feeling of uncertainty over what the future may hold – and the sudden nature of these changes in the workplace – is likely to add to the anxiety, confusion, and guilt experienced by surviving employees.

How can employers use outplacement to minimise the impact of survivor guilt in remaining employees?

Offering an outplacement program to departing employees can be extremely effective – not just in terms of supporting outgoing staff members, but also in the positive message it communicates to those remaining in employment.

Outplacement offers reassurance to surviving employees

For employees who have not suffered job losses, seeing their former colleagues being treated with fairness and respect during their departure period will provide reassurance that they too will be treated well and receive adequate support should they face the same circumstances.

An outplacement program shows employers are committed to upholding their values

Remaining staff members who witness outgoing employees receiving outplacement support will also have greater faith in the values of their employer. Offering outplacement sends a clear message that the employer is committed to upholding their values at every stage of the employee lifecycle, which will lead to employees feeling more trusting of their employer.

Seeing their colleagues receive outplacement provides peace of mind

Witnessing the level of support their departing employees have received via an outplacement program is likely to contribute towards greater peace of mind for remaining employees, leading to lower levels of fear and anxiety. By supporting the mental health of employees in this way, they will be able to work more effectively, have greater focus, and feel more engaged and connected with their employer.

Outplacement can result in higher levels of motivation and productivity in surviving employees

As a result of making surviving employees feel more reassured and confident, employers can help their staff members work more productively and feel motivated to continue performing their jobs as normal. By lessening the impact of survivor’s guilt, outplacement can help ensure surviving employees aren’t held back by anxiety, fear and confusion following redundancies or retrenchment.

Career365’s affordable online outplacement programs – delivered via online training modules and video-based coaching – can be accessed from any location, at any time, on any device, making them ideal for a COVID-19 environment.

If you need support or advice on outplacement services for retrenched employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.career365.com.au to find out more about our fully online outplacement programs.

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

How to Prepare Stood-Down Employees To Return To Work

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the workforce, many businesses have faced tough decisions on whether they can hold on to staff or must let them go. However, the introduction of the Australian government’s JobKeeper initiative in March enabled many businesses to choose a ‘middle ground’ – standing employees down rather than laying them off.

Since JobKeeper was introduced on March 30th, Career365 has interviewed 112 HR directors and business owners to gauge how employers are feeling about this unusual situation. In this series of articles, we’re exploring the insights our survey uncovered, and taking a look at how employers can address their stand-down concerns and support employees during this time.

Part 3: How to Prepare Stood-Down Employees To Return To Work

In the course of our stand-down survey, it became apparent that a number of employers and HR Directors were concerned about employees being ill-prepared or ‘rusty’ when the time came for them to return to the workplace.

The Managing Partner of a suburban law practice who’d had to stand down 16 of their 20 employees was worried that staff “were not considering how they could add value to their roles and business relationships” once they were back to work. Similarly, the HR Director of an events business believed it would take at least 6 months to bring their staff back to any sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.

Yet with 60% of those surveyed stating they had not provided any framework or expectations to their stood-down employees for up-skilling, personal and professional development, or using the time productively, there is a clear need for a structured approach to help stood-down employees prepare for their eventual return to work.

Supporting employees to remain proactive and self-motivated during stand-down is a key focus of Career365’s Horizons program – an online support program for employees stood-down due to COVID-19. By providing structured training and guidance, the program helps employees avoid becoming ‘rusty’ at their jobs, as well as supporting them to not only be prepared for their return, but to go back to work as the best versions of themselves.

Here are some of the ways you can support your employees to ‘hit the ground running’ when they return to work:

Support stood-down employees to develop themselves professionally or personally

Whether it’s learning a brand new skill or improving an existing skill-set, the combination of being stood down from work and self-isolating at home due to COVID-19 provides an ideal opportunity for skills development. And in terms of mental wellbeing, keeping the mind active and productive makes this a beneficial activity for stood-down employees.

While it’s important that employees don’t feel pressured into upskilling for their role without an incentive, many will see the benefits of using this time to develop themselves on either a personal or professional level. Whatever the activity, learning a new skill can boost confidence and will help employees stay proactive during stand-down – both of which will be an advantage upon their return to the workplace.

Encourage employees to reflect on their role and performance

Having some distance from their typical day-to-day work routine can be a great chance for stood-down employees to look back on their job and reflect on how they’ve been performing. As a way of preparing to return to work, they may wish to spend some time really thinking about their role – what they want to focus on, how they can improve, and what they might do differently after this time away.

This type of reflection can be a very positive exercise when undertaken in a proactive, structured way, such as by supporting employees to develop a plan of action for when they return to their role so they can get the most out of their jobs.

Get employees thinking about ‘who they want to be’ when they return

Following on from the point above, the stand-down period can be a good time for employees to give some thought to the type of person they want to be from a broader perspective. Using this time for self-reflection can help to identify personal areas they’d like to work on, which can have a positive effect on their role and workplace interactions.

By guiding employees through exercises that help them focus on their personal development, you can equip them to return to work in a better frame of mind, with more focus, greater positivity, and a clearer vision for the future.

Show stood-down employees the value in proactively maintaining client relationships

While there should be no expectation for stood-down employees to spend time focusing on work-related areas, remaining in contact with clients and suppliers during stand-down should they wish will help employees maintain the valuable relationships they’d developed and could facilitate a quicker return to normal once business picks up again.

If your employees want to be proactive about maintaining these relationships, knowing they have the support of their employer will help them to stay connected and engaged – which could be as simple as reaching out via email or text message or calling a client to check in.

The Horizons program from Career365 is a 4-week or 8-week online support program specifically designed for employees who have been stood-down to COVID-19. By providing structured training and guidance via webinars and online resources, Horizons helps employers keep their stood-down employees engaged, productive, motivated and connected.

If you’re an HR director or business owner who would like to find out more about supporting your stood-down employees with our structured online program, please email horizons@career365.com.au

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

Developing and entrepreneurial mindset

The Benefits of Teaching Stood-Down Employees to ‘Think Like an Entrepreneur’

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the workforce, many businesses have faced tough decisions on whether they can hold on to staff or must let them go. However, the introduction of the Australian government’s JobKeeper initiative in March enabled many businesses to choose a ‘middle ground’ – standing employees down rather than laying them off.

Since JobKeeper was introduced on March 30th, Career365 has interviewed 112 HR directors and business owners to gauge how employers are feeling about this unusual situation. In this series of articles, we’re exploring the insights our survey uncovered and taking a look at how employers can address their stand-down concerns and support employees during this time.

This article is part 2 of a series. You can read part one here.

Part 2: The Benefits of Teaching Stood-Down Employees to ‘Think Like an Entrepreneur’

When questioned about their concerns regarding the stand-down period, 85% of employers expressed worry that their stood-down employees would be using the time as an extended holiday rather than a period of self-improvement. An HR Director of a software company who had stood down 30 staff members stated he was worried that “employee motivation would be down upon returning to work”.

Employers would clearly prefer their stood-down staff members to remain motivated and proactive during this period. But with more than half of those surveyed admitting they had provided no framework for personal or professional development while on stand-down, making this happen seems unlikely unless employees are given some form of structured guidance.

Career365’s Horizons program enables employers to support their stood-down employees by helping them remain productive, engaged, and motivated. One of the ways we achieve this is by helping participants develop an entrepreneurial mindset – which in turn helps them to build motivation and confidence, become more solutions-focused, and take control of their own destiny.

The benefits of developing an entrepreneurial mindset

Adopting the mindset of an entrepreneur – or an intrapreneur within an organisation – offers a wide range of benefits in both a personal and professional context. And the great news is, anyone can learn to think like an entrepreneur or business owner with the right guidance.

Getting into this entrepreneurial mind frame can result in greater confidence and resilience, as well as becoming more motivated and proactive. These attributes have obvious advantages in the workplace, but can also have a very positive effect on mental wellbeing, which will be hugely beneficial to employees facing the emotional pressures of being stood-down while facing the social restrictions of a COVID-19 environment.

Here are some of the ways that developing an entrepreneurial mindset can benefit stood-down employees and, indirectly, their employers:

Helping employees become more solution-focused

One thing that separates successful entrepreneurs from others is their attitude towards challenges. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset will help stood-down employees improve their problem-solving skills, enabling them to return to their roles with a newfound enthusiasm for overcoming challenges they encounter.

This solution-focused attitude can help to tap into creativity and encourage stood-down employees to ‘think outside the box’, which will be a great asset in their return to regular work. What’s more, this creative mindset will also be beneficial during self-isolation – enhanced creativity will help stood-down employees look beyond the next Netflix binge and seek out more fulfiling, healthy ways to spend their time, such as learning a new skill.

Supporting stood-down staff members to be more confident

Thinking like an entrepreneur can help to improve decision-making skills and self-confidence. As your stood-down employees learn to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, their confidence is likely to grow and their ability to make fast, qualified choices will improve.

While these capabilities have clear benefits for performance in the work-related arena, skills like these will come in very handy during the stand-down period, as emotions such as fear, uncertainty, and doubt take hold. Having confidence in themselves will help stood-down employees to navigate these concerns and remain in a positive headspace.

Encouraging stood-down employees to be accountable

A key aspect of developing an entrepreneurial mindset is learning to take accountability for your actions. During this stand-down period, this could mean stood-down staff members take some time to reflect on their role and performance, in order to identify areas they’d like to improve upon.

Encouraging employees to be more accountable in both their work and personal lives will also help them be more open to feedback and increase their willingness to upskill or improve their existing skills-set.

Support employees to ‘take control of their own destiny’

When you think like an entrepreneur, you begin to take more control of your life and your future. People with an entrepreneurial mindset tend to be more motivated to succeed and feel inspired to give their all.

In a work context, thinking like an entrepreneur will help employees to take ownership of their roles, and strive to perform at the best of their abilities. Meanwhile, in their home environment, this capacity to take control of their own destiny will help them stay on top of the current situation and be better equipped to cope with the challenges they face.

Develop self-motivation skills in stood-down employees

By guiding your stood-down staff members to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll be supporting them in developing key skills in self-motivation and proactivity. This may result in finding ways to maintain relationships with clients or suppliers during their stand-down period or actively seeking opportunities to learn new skills that will help them in their return to work.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset will encourage employees to become confident self-starters with a more disciplined approach to work. In addition, this ability to self motivate will be of great benefit amidst the turbulent COVID-19 environment, when staying motivated and positive can help people rise above the negative emotions they’ll inevitably experience.

 

The Horizons program from Career365 is a 4-week or 8-week online support program specifically designed for employees who have been stood-down to COVID-19. By providing structured training and guidance via webinars and online resources, Horizons helps employers keep their stood-down employees engaged, productive, motivated and connected.

If you’re an HR director or business owner who would like to find out more about supporting your stood-down employees with our structured online program, please email horizons@career365.com.au 

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.