Navigating Layoffs and the The Role of Outplacement for Recovery

by | Aug 3, 2023

This article outlines how to prepare for a Reduction in Force (RIF) with integrity and business sensibility. More often than not, remaining employees are the focal point for companies facing a Reduction in Workforce (RIF). While critical, ignoring the transition plan for those impacted can be catastrophic to a company’s bottom line and employer brand alike. 

As a result, outplacement services have become increasingly important in today’s business landscape. They provide impacted employees the option to opt-in for career transition support – career coaching, resume writing and so on.

According to 2023 Crunchbase data, more than 157,517 workers of U.S.-based tech companies alone have been impacted by  layoffs as of June 2023. Meanwhile, employer sentiment and leadership integrity are leading indicators of a productive and engaged workforce. When downsizing efforts are at play, outplacement can increase operational efficiency and recovery time for companies and impacted employees alike. 

Understanding the approach and outcome goals of a reduction in force (RIF) will drive the strategic planning and execution. On average, it takes 10 weeks to plan a layoff strategy and prepare for execution – longer if one is looking to downsize and restructure the remaining workforce in parallel, so thinking ahead and anticipating the needs at large is key.

There’s much to consider. What resources do your impacted workers need in order to exit with fair, sound support? What resources do your remaining workers need to focus ahead on the goals and mission at-large?

When facing a Reduction in Force, preparation is key. 

Determine Approach and Outcome Goals of Company’s Reduction in Force Ahead

Start with the problem.
What problem is the company solving for and why is a RIF part of the solution? What are the intended outcomes?

RIFs take place for a myriad of reasons, but they are often deployed by companies that need to eliminate a function or reduce overall costs.

Select the stakeholders.

Who influences the approach and defines the goals? Who executes the plan and on what timeline? Without clarity across critical leaders and executives, a RIF can spark more confusion and concern across the workforce. Your best approach is one that ensures stakeholders and supporting characters are steadfast and aligned at all times.

Typically, a RIF will require alignment across: 

  • C-Suite 
  • HR / People
  • Legal 
  • Finance
  • Marketing / Public Relations 
  • Selected Vendor(s) for Outplacement Service(s)

Decide what selection criteria you’ll use to determine layoffs.

With more objectivity in the selection process comes more legally sound and ethical decision making. 

Starting with the problem(s) you are solving through the RIF and what workforce priorities are critical for the company’s future can help.

Hopefully, your company has strong performance management and documentation practices. If not, prepare for this to take more time and require more inputs across teams. Consider using:

  • Evaluation of functions and criticality 
  • Documented performance reviews
  • 9-Box Grid
  • Skills of employees to determine internal workforce mobility 

Assess risk and impact.

Now that your selection criteria and associated workforce have been identified, assess your selection criteria and impacted people once more. Look for things like: 

  • Adverse impact (the percentage of the protected class scheduled for layoff with the percentage of the protected class in the employer’s entire workforce or the workforce subset selected for evaluation) 
  • Attrition anticipated based on who is leaving and who will remain
  • Skill Gaps and leadership gaps that will arise
  • Assess unique support needs of the impacted workforce (ie: based on level and employment terms)

Prepare to mobilize your remaining workforce. 

Once you’ve determined who will be impacted by the RIF, it’s time to look at your remaining workforce and mobilize employees based on company goals, priorities and individual skills/capacities. Things to consider: 

  • Internal mobility of workers, adjustment in reporting structures and promotional opportunities
  • Timeline of changes ahead
  • Adjustments in pay structure, bonus or compensation packages
  • Availability of leadership for managers and mid-level leaders
  • Appreciation  for remaining employees and support for their own change management
  • Anticipated FAQs and how to address those upfront
  • Opportunities for 1:1 and 1:many questions they may have
  • Speaking points and messaging for the company’s narrative to be steadfast and clear

Get a transition plan and communications in order.

Consider two audience segments – the workforce that remains, and those exiting your company. Secure Outplacement Services to catch those impacted, and protect your bandwidth for the remaining workforce – they need your steadfast attention and direction.

To show appreciation and value of displaced employees, you can alleviate the stress of your impacted workforce and remaining workforce alike. Beyond Outplacement Services, this can include: 

  • Exit interviews
  • Extended benefits coverage
  • Documented communication of the offboarding plan

We recommend engaging Outplacement Services once you know the approximate size of your RIF and what experience level the RIF will impact.


Written by Marcia Needels