Current Research in Career Transition and Outplacement

December 01, 2005
The concept of "career transition" began formally in the 1960s as "outplacement" services. Blossoming as a panacea to tumultuous waves in the U.S. economy, outplacement services were a humane reaction to the turmoil corporations were facing. Downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, reengineering, reorganizing, reduction in force, redundancy elimination . . . created organizational changes which affected the lives of individual human beings. This article will review the current trends in career transition.

Career Transition / Outplacement - Some Definitions

"Consulting with corporate managers on how to terminate employees, remove them from corporate payrolls and support their job search efforts until they found new positions."
"A History of the Outplacement Industry 1960-1997 From Job Search Counseling to Career Management a New Curriculum of Adult Learning
Martha A. Redstrom-Plourd, 1998

"The process of facilitating a terminated employee's search for a new job by
provision of professional services, such as counseling, paid for by the former

The American heritage Dictionary

Career Transition – Current Trends

"Career Transition" Support – the Changing Face of; New Emphasis on Education and Training

Since the 1960s, outplacement services have undergone their own transition. At their inception, and even into more recent times, many people thought of "outplacement" as the services given to someone who lost their job, in order to "get a new job."

In the 1995 study, Effective Downsizing: A Compendium of Lessons Learned for Government Organizations," the National Academy of Public Administration described typical career transition services as a combination of:
  • Career counseling
  • Career transition training
  • Job development
  • Research library
  • Access to computers
  • Secretarial services
Two years later, in 1997 " Serving the American Public: Best Practices in Downsizing," a study by the U.S. government, best practice career transition assistance expanded the list to include:
  • Personal counseling
  • Career/skill training
  • Relocation assistance
  • Outplacement assistance
  • Resume writing assistance
  • Access to office equipment
  • Paid time off
  • Child care

  • Financial counseling
  • Access to job fairs and to Internet job placement sites
More recently, in 2003, a report "Compassionate Downsizing: Making the Business Case for Education and Training Services," by the Conference Board found that companies utilizing "compassionate downsizing" are offering services beyond outplacement. Their survey of 369 companies found that most firms now offer:
  • Severance pay
  • Outplacement/job placement assistance

  • Continued healthcare benefits
  • Priority consideration for internal reassignment
And, some firms are enhancing their severance packages by adding:
  • Educational counseling
  • References
  • Interview coaching
  • Education and training benefits
In fact, 13.6% offer education and training as transition benefits.

Career Transition Services – Gains Recognition

One of the earliest empirical studies which documented the benefits of career transition / outplacement services is "Serving the American Public: Best Practices in Downsizing." This comprehensive study, conducted in 1997 found:
  • Organizations that have successfully downsized provided career transition assistance to both separated and surviving employees.
More recently, in 2003, a Wyatt Company study reported:
  • 87% of 531 restructuring companies used outplacement services, and 49% of those companies rated outplacement as "very effective."

Another 2003 study of over 1,200 HR executives in North America found:
  • 78% believe that outplacement consulting and career transition services improve the organizations’ image, both internally and externally
  • 72% said outplacement and career transition services help reduce litigation

  • 66% said outplacement reduces stress on managers implementing organizational changes
Career Transition Services – Changes in the European Union

With the continued waves of restructuring going on in the European Union, the European Commission recently called for the EU to set up a half-billion-euro globalization "shock absorber" fund to cushion the restructuring efforts across Europe. The fund would help laid-off workers find new jobs by paying for training, relocation and outplacement. This EU commission has been criticized for not doing enough to help those effected by restructurings as companies move labour to countries outside of Europe with cheaper labour.

Additionally, it appears that in the UK, recent budgets have extended the tax-free provisions for outplacement and retraining skills courses for part-time workers as well as for part-time courses.

Internal Career Management – the Movement to Deter Career Transition

With the well publicized "War for Talent" underway, corporate talent management and human capital initiatives are minimizing the exodus of talented employees. Increasing focus on internal career management is occurring among enlightened corporations. Offering internal career coaching and defining internal career pathways for employees are some proactive measures having significant impact on talent retention. An excellent case study shows how an internal career development program, supported by technology, saved one company millions of dollars by reducing turnover and retaining key talent.

Technology – Career Transition

Within the past ten years, technology has become a core component of the majority of career transition programs. It is a necessary, adjunct resource to counseling provided by human beings. Digitizing the outplacement process, technology enables:
  • Customized programming
  • Personal information management (i.e. contacts, schedules, activity tracking)
  • Access to research (Internet websites, databases, etc.)
  • Communication tools (email, chatrooms, listservs, etc.)
  • Automated resume creation and distribution
  • Business process management for the career transition firm
  • Data creation (reporting tools for measures and metrics)

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