• Ross Mengel

Outplacement in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility

The outlook for 2016 suggests that companies will need to creatively adapt to challenging and changing situations, in order to succeed. This could include a reduction in headcount, as reflected in the following reports and findings:

  • A World Economic Forum report released in January this year suggesting that 7.1 million jobs could be lost globally over the next five years as a result of redundancy, automation or disintermediation 1

  • A 42% year-on-year decline in Private sector vacancies recorded by the DMA JOTS in Q4 2015

  • A year-on-year drop in the Barclays Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), from 51.2 to 45.6 in Q4 2015 2

  • The CCMA warning of further job losses in South Africa towards the end of 2015, based on a sharp spike in retrenchment cases, as businesses go into distress.

Efforts will need to be focused on structuring for an efficient and effective reduction costs whilst addressing customer needs, to ensure the development and retention of a reputation for quality, service and good corporate citizenship.

The tide always turns but increasingly, local and global organisations with strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability policies are implementing “reduction in force”. Despite the need for downsizing, CSR and Sustainability remain priorities amongst organisations that acknowledge the importance of responsible and sustainable business practices, creating value in a social and business context.

The human resources function in any organisation plays a critical role in implementing CSR and Sustainability strategies, through functions that can be categorized as follows:


  • Designing and implementing programmes for the orientation of newly recruited candidates, highlighting the corporate CSR philosophy


  • Developing a formal policy on sustainable practices involving employees

  • Designing performance management systems that measure employees’ socially responsible initiatives

  • Establishing training facilities that instill the organisation’s CSR culture among employees

  • Empowering managers with decision-making authority in executing social responsibility at a local level

  • Encouraging and reinforcing social responsibility of employees through the organisation’s code of ethics


Implementing responsible HR management practices aligned to CSR strategy during mergers, acquisitions and downsizing activities that result in the separation of employees.

Effective communication campaigns, retraining, redeployment of staff and outplacement services are some of the most recognised tools for providing support to those affected. Aligning outplacement services with an organisation’s CSR and Sustainability strategy can ensure:

  • A positive intervention to be measured and reported on, achieving targets in assisting separated employees as agreed, through service level agreements

  • A better image being projected of the organisation’s social accountability in the minds of all stakeholders, showing corporate concern for the welfare of employees and affected communities

  • Enhancing the company’s reputation amongst stakeholders to ensure the attraction of talent in the future

From an operational point of view:

  • Commercial decisions for downsizing can be made in a timely and effective manner

  • Management can concentrate on the business, thereby facilitating growth and profit objectives

  • Teams can be kept lean, active and effective

  • Promotion and succession planning complications can be resolved

  • Morale of remaining staff is enhanced, thus retaining key performers

  • Risk of unwanted and time consuming litigation is minimised

  • Termination costs can be reduced whilst still ensuring the parting is mutually beneficial

  • Support for outgoing employees helps maintain good relationships with individuals who may become associated with the organisation in the future

Changes in businesses and the economy drive the need for organisational restructuring that can result in the termination of employees. Offering outplacement services during downsizing activities is an opportunity for companies to reaffirm their commitment to good corporate citizenship and adhere to their CSR policies.

Outplacement programmes can be offered to individuals or groups delivered in person or in online format, from shop-floor to executive level. Contact us for more detail on how Outplacement can be implemented to align with your organisation’s CSR strategy.

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