Article: Outplacement in COVID times

Employee Relations

Outplacement in COVID times

Organizations are contemplating and trying their best to work out ways to protect their interests and of the employees. But the pressure on social contracting will be trying this time.
Outplacement in COVID times

As the lockdown slides until the end of June, there are guesstimates, all around about which sectors might be impacted and how severely will they be impacted. Let’s not shy away from the fact that our country is being appreciated for the way we handled COVID-19 but the rubber still needs to hit the road. We can’t afford the lockdown any further and possibly this will be a way of life until the vaccines arrive. 

Having followed this industry for the past 20 years and educating and serving many clients in this industry, I intend to touch upon how the post COVID-19 situation might impact: Employers, Employees, Outplacement industry


There are some sectors that will need a long time to revive viz. auto, media, aviation, tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure, real estate, retail – especially goods with elastic demand, transport, etc.

Then there are other sectors where COVID-19 has turned out to be a blessing in disguise and possibly hiring right now are OTT platforms in entertainment, online education, tech-based services, etc. As I’m writing this, I am aware of at least 70 organizations that are hiring.

The third set of employers are the ones who have adapted themselves smoothly to these challenging times and are able to manage their operations – mostly tech-based sectors who do not need the physical presence of employees/customers at the workplace – education sector, ITES, etc.

Organizations are contemplating and trying their best to work out ways to protect their interests and of the employees. But the pressure on social contracting will be trying this time. The coming times will also help employees see employers get divided into 2 groups  - QOQs and the HSCs

Let me explain what these two terms broadly define as : 

QOQs or Quarter on Quarter – are the organizations that live Quarter on Quarter and are solely driven by numbers. The pressure on these organizations to manage their costs will be very high because the management is dictated by the stakeholders who have no one-to-one interaction with the employees. The organization is run by professionals but the investor calls the final shots. You can expect these organizations to succumb early to layoffs and downsizing, across sectors .

HSCs - are Humane Social Contractors where the organization is run by visionaries or founders who are the face for employees and have a direct relationship with them. While these organizations are also sensitive to the numbers, they are the ones who will stretch and do their best to accommodate the interest of employees.

An important factor that we must not miss out is the heartfelt appeal by the government to employers for not downsizing in these trying times. There seems to be a likelihood of sizable investments moving into the country within a short span of 6-12 months hereby creating a lot of job opportunities, something the govt of India is banking upon. The next 6–12 months however will be very critical to watch out what the employers will be called upon to manage. I am confident the government will roll out additional SOPs for employers to help them manage and revive their businesses.


Post COVID, I think, this is one set that might see a mindset shift. I think employees during this phase will keenly observe, learn and make all future decisions based on how they were treated during these times. This could mean a set of people who will have a clear perceptual mapping about QOQs and HSCs in their mind and will choose employers deliberately.

Another set of employees to emerge will be the ones driven by insecurity of such times and would love to maximize their savings, so turn into hard negotiators as far as their remuneration is concerned.

A third category is going to be the ones who will subscribe to a new way of living – something that helps them maintain the balance between their professional and personal lives and the ones who will join the Open Talent Economy.

People have got enough time to sit back, rethink, and evaluate their professional journeys. Amongst others, one thing that will appear as a common thread will be openness to learning. People will be more open to learning and willing to step out of their shells to experiment and develop alternate skills and expertise. This will also build up a foundation for upskilling and reskilling. 

Outplacement Industry:

I think the outplacement industry is here to stay. Outplacement is a support service provided by some organizations to help former employees transition to new jobs.

Let’s look at the recent job severance letter issued by Airbnb which is winning hearts all over. It’s not in a company’s best interest to lay off people but in times like these even the best of us crumble. But laying off 1,900 with an unusually generous severance package along with an outplacement option only goes to show the respect and dignity that Airbnb still holds despite an unfavorable announcement. This move for job transition has only built better imagery for brand Airbnb

In the short term in India, the interplay of COVID-19 impact and the government appeals, future jobs will be created through investment flow but in the long term, outplacement will sustain as a service, as India is going to be the center of action. Mergers & Acquisitions, disruptions will keep driving the demand for this service. The local Indian companies and medium-sized organizations will hop on as subscribers to the service as they become more sensitive to their image as an employer.

This is also one of the reasons why this sector will see at least 10 or more local players spring up in the near future. The industry will see pressure on margins and customers will demand higher tangibility in terms of value i.e. job support.

It’s a service that we have imported within the country. It’s time for localization. As more and more Indian units of MNCs earn the right to choose their outplacement partner, they are going to demand a service that is suited to the needs of an Indian employee and an Indian job market. The Impacted employees and employers are going to demand a higher value per rupee spent in terms of higher placement ratios or success-related fees.

The outplacement industry is the one to watch out for. It will grow but like any growing industry will see shrinking margins, the evolution of niches, and clear segmentation.


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Topics: Employee Relations, #GuestArticle

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