How to Offer a Better Severance Package for Displaced Workers

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No employer wants to ever consider having to lay off a large portion of their workforce — but it happens. In 2019, alone, we’ve already seen major layoffs from large companies like General Motors, Buzzfeed and, most recently, the final white-collar cuts by Ford. Smaller organizations like local factories, school districts, or even fire departments have also had to let a significant number of employees go.

Sometimes, layoffs can’t be avoided in order to keep the company afloat. But whenever possible, employers should offer displaced employees the best severance packages and support they can. It’s important to show you care for their well-being. After all, many of these individuals have given years to your organization.

The question then becomes: what’s the best way to support displaced employees? To find that answer, you need to understand the greatest worries of displaced workers. Then, find ways to alleviate the specific fears of your displaced workforce with a severance package that offers more than a modest payout.

Here are three typical — and understandable — concerns of laid-off employees you need to consider when determining the offerings of your severance packages:

Address financial concerns…and more

The biggest worries displaced workers face are due to financial stress. Their steady paychecks are gone, and depending on the size of the severance package your company can offer, they might soon be in serious financial trouble. In fact, the state of their bank accounts often causes displaced employees to make desperate employment decisions.

In a 2019 report from Berke Assessment, 62 percent of displaced respondents said they’d accept an offer for a job that wasn’t a good fit for them simply because they needed money.

Make sure your displaced workers don’t end up in a position that makes them unhappy. Help them find jobs with fair salaries quickly by referring them to employers in your network or giving them leads on jobs with companies that at least offer similar benefits or growth opportunities.

Aside from money, consider including the following perks in your severance packages:

  • Written recommendations
  • Financial planning information
  • Continued access to benefits
  • Temporary part-time employee instead of an immediate layoff
  • Sponsored certifications to update skills

Help avoid bad company cultures

Money isn’t the only worry for displaced employees. In the aforementioned Berke Assessment survey, company culture was the No. 1 reason they’d turn down a new job. Furthermore, 46 percent of respondents said they’d keep looking if an opportunity didn’t align with their personality of values.

While you can’t control the company culture of other organizations, you can help displaced workers find a job with an employer who’s a good fit for them. Offer outplacement services that give former employees more valuable information about companies they’re considering.

For example, one of the best ways to gauge a company culture is to talk with current employees. Services, like those offered here at CareerShift, help individuals contact employees during their job search. This opens the door for a job opportunity and gives displaced workers a chance to ask questions about what it’s really like to work for the organization.

Prevent stagnating skills

When an individual isn’t exercising their skills every day, they become rusty. If potential employers ask your displaced workers to complete trial assignments or skills assessments, there’s an increased likelihood they will not perform as well due to a lack of practice or even shaken nerves. Especially if takes a while for them to land an interview.

In the Berke Assessment survey, 41 percent of respondents said they would turn down a job with no career development opportunities. If they have to consider a role with less responsibility than their previous role because their skills have stagnated, it feels like a huge step backward in their career.

Give displaced employees a chance to keep moving forward by incorporating training in severance packages. For example, there are hundreds of free online classes they can take while looking for a new job. Do the legwork for laid-off employees by providing them with a list of relevant refresher courses to keep their skills sharp.

It’s never easy to make big cuts, even if it is for the greater good. But if you’re forced to make that hard call, do it the right way. Make sure your displaced employees have all the support and resources they need to succeed on the job search.

Want to learn about new ways you can support your employees? Check out our blog piece on parental leave policies!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.