Thursday, August 1, 2013

Career Development After a Downsizing

What's Next? Career Development After a Downsizing

While the fears of the newly-unemployed are understandably large and overwhelming, let’s shift gears a bit to consider an often-ignored group: the employees left behind after the downsizing is over.

Their fears aren’t negligible. Not only is there the fear and anticipation of one day being made redundant as well, there’s also the stress of:

  • Losing their friends and colleagues
  • Taking on a heavier workload to compensate 
  • Having to navigate a new organizational structure and new lines of communication
  • Learning exactly where they fit into the still-shifting structure, and what their roles are
When asked to give reasons for offering outplacement services, one of the most frequent answers is “because it’s the right thing to do.” And it is. There’s no question that outplacement services helps former employees move past the fear of the unknown by creating a more solid future for them to move into.

But the survivors of a downsizing also need a more solid organizational future to move toward for two reasons:
  1. The confusion of roles, communication channels, and purpose that often follows a downsizing can lead to a weakened organization. 
  2. Those confusions and fears often cause those employees to start to disengage.

Dispelling Fear after a Downsizing with Career Development Opportunities

You might argue that there isn’t really an equivalent to outplacement services for these employees. I will argue that there is, and that it takes the form of career development offerings.

Why? Career development can offer three invaluable things at this crossroads:
  1. The means for employees to grow in their careers, increasing their skill sets and their confidence in themselves as talented individuals
  2. The means for employees to move within the organization, given the resources to recognize the opportunities that still exist after the downsizing within the new structure
  3. The means for the organization itself to grow and develop by using its existing talent differently
Earlier this month, Phillip Roark and Matt Adams discussed the importance of organizational transparency in any career development initiative, especially around ideas such as the Career Matrix, which allows employees to see what positions and roles there are in the organization and what it takes to fulfill those roles. Organizational transparency in career development is perhaps even more necessary after a downsizing, considering the fears and doubts the organization and its employees are dealing with at that time. It’s a simple enough equation: organizational transparency builds trust in the organization’s motives and future. That trust builds employee engagement and company loyalty.

Downsizing brings huge upheaval and cultural change, to be sure – but instilling career development attitudes into that new culture can create stability and promote growth.

Strengthen and Grow Your Organization

Career development after a downsizing has the potential to do more than just provide transparency and career development tools, however. Post-downsizing, organizations are structurally weak. Remaining employees always end up wearing several more hats than they’d previously had to, and may not be aware of their own or others’ new official roles and responsibilities, or what the new lines of communication are.

Developmental efforts can strengthen the organization by targeting points in the structure that may now be weaker than they previously were. Depending on the size and scale of what areas need development and strengthening, you may want to use:

  • Self-directed career development for promoting organizational mobility
  • Mentoring for knowledge-sharing efforts, including building the succession pipeline, developing leaders, or strengthening cross-functional teams
  • Coaching for high-potentials and leaders
Downsizings may seem all about the present – but it’s time to start planning for the future.

Learn more about Insala's career development solutions.


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