ECONOMY

Enterprises slowly discovering the benefits of outplacement

Greek businesses are gradually becoming familiar with staff outplacement programs, following the pattern of multinationals and using the opportunities that are arising in the current economic climate. Both the private and the public sector seem to have recognized the notion of outplacement and are using it appropriately, suggests Christina Koropouli, human resource systems manager at consultancy company Kantor Humanis. She adds that this trend will intensify with time. Staff outplacement programs are applied in cases of mergers and acquisitions, of staff cuts and in the termination of production processes, primarily aimed at continuous support of employees until their repositioning in the labor market. «The interest of enterprises in this service appears to be increasing. It is estimated that, gradually, mass programs will be used, rendering the service more cost-effective for companies wishing to reduce their staff. As a result, outplacement services will apply to all levels of employees and not just the higher echelon, as today,» notes Koropouli. In these cases, she asserts, the needs for service specialization depending on the participants’ personal requirements is even more important so that the programs respond to their real needs. Nevertheless, temporary employment reached record heights in 2004, both internationally and in the Greek market, a fact confirmed by the Adecco employment agency. For Koropouli, the explanation lies in the economic slowdown in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. The impact of this slowdown was felt particularly last year, in Greece as well as abroad. According to Adecco’s data, those employed temporarily increased by 72 percent in 2004 on a yearly basis, while there was a positive swing in candidate employees’ perceptions about temping. Christos Misailidis, managing director at Adecco, says temporary employment is gaining ground among the unemployed and workers who take such opportunities in order to enrich their experience or change careers. «In cases of big mergers and acquisitions, companies usually focus their interest primarily on the economic and commercial aspects of deals, and to a lesser extent on the human factor,» Misailidis observes. «However, as a survey by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed, the staff’s proper awareness throughout the change process is vital so as to avoid creating an environment of insecurity among employees,» he stresses. Koropouli and Misailidis agree that, crucially, most high-level staff recognize human resources as their strongest asset; of course, in the negotiation process they often seem to forget this, but as the notion of corporate social responsibility gains more weight, so will initiatives to protect human resources grow. «Although in the past, it was multinationals that used to show greater interest in outplacement services, in the last couple of years, Greek companies are also involved,» Koropouli points out. She adds that sizable enterprises have greater needs and more chances of applying such programs as their structure allows for a greater degree of operational shrinking. Among the factors influencing a company’s decision about agreeing to outplacement programs are the years of service in the company, relations with colleagues, partners and customers, their performance and the conditions of layoff. There are several cases, Koropouli suggests, where the service is offered just to one person, depending on the case. The reasons that a corporation considers for offering outplacement services are worth noting: «The company shows in practice it is interested on personal level in its employees and appreciates the services they have offered. As a result a company cares for its internal image, the atmosphere in its work environment and the morale of the remaining employees,» according to Koropouli. Misailidis underscores that providing outplacement programs to employees who have been dismissed and consultative support programs to those who remain helps to reduce tensions and maintains the company’s unhindered operation. «After all, particularly in mergers, the most common problem is handling of a big staff laid off, which might harm the company both internally, causing uncertainty among remaining employees about their future in the company, and externally, as it paints the picture of a bad employer,» argues Adecco’s director.