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Downsizing With Dignity – And Perks!

In November 2008, the Victaulic pipe plant laid off nearly 260 workers. After the workers were laid off, the United Steelworkers union applied for special unemployment benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, citing that the company produces products that also are imported from other countries. The benefits will give the workers up to two years of unemployment pay and re-training.Unfortunately, not every company is eligible for benefits that will allow laid-off workers access to re-training or other valuable perks. But perhaps it’s time for companies to consider offering ‘perk packages’ for laid-off workers.

In November 2008, the Victaulic pipe plant laid off nearly 260 workers. After the workers were laid off, the United Steelworkers union applied for special unemployment benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, citing that the company produces products that also are imported from other countries. The benefits will give the workers up to two years of unemployment pay and re-training.Unfortunately, not every company is eligible for benefits that will allow laid-off workers access to re-training or other valuable perks. But perhaps it’s time for companies to consider offering ‘perk packages’ for laid-off workers.

Why? Because the economic situation we’re sitting in is temporary. Sooner or later the economy will edge its way back to normalcy and we will return to our panic-stricken state as we face an ever-widening talent gap due to retirements.The U.S. Census Bureau predicted a shortfall of 10 million workers in the U.S. by 2020. Furthermore, the U.S. is woefully behind other countries in our efforts to bridge the gap.

If employers would really stop to consider how fragile our workforce is, they would become more concerned about stablizing it and preserving it.Layoffs, large or small, force organizations to cut loose the talent in which they have invested salary and training dollars. While talent released during a layoff today may seem like little more than an expense, tomorrow it could be the difference between success and failure.Here are a two perks to consider when downsizing:Career CoachingInternal Relations, a professional coaching service, has launched an innovative program for companies forced to downsize. Realizing that many downsized employees are either Baby Boomers, re-entering the workforce after many years of service at the same company, or Generation Ys, getting the boot early-on in their young careers, the company started offering a coaching solution to outplacement.

Smooth Landings™ includes a half-day workshop led by professional coaches followed by three months of one-on-one coaching designed to help outplaced employees successfully transition. Participants reflect on their achievements, evaluate their strengths and goals, develop a personal action plan, receive job search and interview training, and gain back their confidence.For employers faced with downsizing, this is a great ‘perk’ to offer downsized employees. They are giving employees a great opportunity to hone their skills and improve their chances of success in a job hunt, while practicing good corporate citizenship and lessening the liabilities associated with transitioning employees.Boomerang ProgramsAnother great perk to consider is the development of an alumni, or boomerang, program. Alumni programs allow you to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with former employees who may someday provide significant value again, providing you with an excuse to remain in contact and a mechanism to recruit them back quickly when needed.

Because so much great talent is being released into the labor market right now, it is a great time to either start a formal program or upgrade your existing corporate alumni or “boomerang” program.While the primary reason organizations develop alumni programs is recruiting-related, lots of research demonstrates that investing in corporate alumni programs increases the sales lead generation and deal closing capability of the organization.If you treat them right, former employees (i.e., alumni) can be converted into “ambassadors” for your organization. Despite being laid-off, odds are that a significant number of former employees remain loyal and committed to your organization.If you proactively build and maintain a relationship with them after they leave, they will continue to “talk up your firm” and maybe even become a customer when they land in a new role.The Treasury Alumni program of the Australian Government offers former and retired employees access to networking, events, and employment opportunities. KPMG maintains an active alumni directory, publishes a magazine for alumni, and also offers a social networking forum.Do you know of or have ideas for other ‘perks’ employers can provide during a downsize? If so, our readers would love to hear from you. Please post them here!

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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