Tech Insights: The Disruptive Changes in Outplacement Technology

Jan 28, 2014

At last October’s HR Technology conference, I caught up with Careerminds, which is one of several players disrupting the outplacement space.

My first reaction was simply to be pleased that companies are still paying for outplacement services; we read stories about callous layoffs so it is nice to see companies treating laid-off employees well.

In the old days of outplacement, the main offering was giving the job seeker a cubicle, a phone, and some coaching on how to find a job. I can’t help but envision a rather dispiriting grey cubicle, but in the pre-Internet world, it was a great service.

What’s interesting

While there is still value in getting out of the house from time to time, going to a cubicle is out of whack with how people search for jobs these days. Everything is online and the new generation of outplacement firms have built their services around that.

  • It is interesting that Careerminds’ virtual offering is “disruptive,” and not just one of many competitive virtual outplacement services. Recruiting is probably the fastest moving domain in HR; some outplacement firms struggle to keep up.
  • The consumer world is setting the expectations for what a system can do. These new outplacement tools are fun (and “fun” is not traditionally a word we use to describe HR tools). There are pictures and videos, not just text, and you can customize the look of your portal. For a consumer application, that sort of look and feature set would be expected; for business applications, it is striking.
  • The outplacement tools are deeply social. It was not that long ago that people were asking, “What the heck is Web 2.0?” Now, it is natural to have tools to share ideas with your coaches and fellow online job seekers by text, voice, and, in some cases, video.

Where the real value-add is

  • Searching for a job can be a miserable activity. A laid-off employee gets enormous value from a system and a coach that helps them with the job search. Companies are right to fund these outplacement services.
  • The means of job search are changing rapidly; having professional coaches who keep up with the latest tricks adds value. That was always true; what is interesting is how a virtual outplacement service, with all the sharing of ideas, enables the coaches to build their expertise much faster than before.
  • Taking it one step further, it used to be that the coach was the source of all wisdom; now the other people on the platform matter just as much. The hive mind of coaches and fellow job seekers will be much smarter and up to date than any one expert. Furthermore, you are more likely to find someone with knowledge relevant to your very specialized individual situation from other job seekers than from a single coach.

Careerminds likes the phrase “better, faster, cheaper.” All three matter a lot in the outplacement world. What excites me is this tangible demonstration of how web technology can help people in a time of need.