Landing Data: What it tells us about the state of the outplacement industry

Greg Simpson Article 5 mins

In the outplacement industry, landing data is one of the most important tools used to determine how long a programme should last and what features should be included in that programme.

And yet, in recent years, landing data has started to eclipse other equally important aspects of the outplacement process. For many organisations, it has become the central focus for procurement, prompting outplacement firms to make increasingly ambitious claims about how little time it takes to find a new job for an employee in transition.

The end result of this trend is hardly surprising: both established firms and newcomers are embroiled in a race to the bottom, trying to outbid each other on how little time they need to find someone a new job.

The hard reality of the outplacement world is that basic landing data is not always as meaningful as some firms would have you believe. In fact, the length of time it takes to find someone a new job is only one of many metrics to assess the overall value of a programme. And in some instances, it is not the most important metric.

How can you spot clean and reliable landing data, and how can you use it to build a truly effective outplacement programme? These questions can only be answered by looking deeply into the whole idea of landing data and how it is applied in today’s outplacement industry.

The good, the bad and the ugly truth of landing data

There are two fundamental truths about landing data.

First, outplacement is absolutely effective in shortening the time it takes for someone to find a job. Long-term data is clear on this point: individuals who are thrown out into the job market on their own without outplacement support will take longer—often months longer—to find jobs.

Good outplacement support helps individuals deal with the shock of losing one job and focus on the best practices that will help them find the next opportunity.

Second, many firms use landing data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their outplacement programmes, but not all landing data is created equal. It has become customary to make bold promises of shortening the average time to landing, even though in many instances it is hard to collect reliable, clean data to back up those claims.

In essence, landing time should measure the period between termination and securing a new job. Capturing accurate data, however, is extremely challenging. As organisations shift to shorter outplacement programmes, many individuals are unable to find a job within their programme timeline. And far too often, those individuals that remain in transition are not used in the calculation of the overall “average” time to landing. Furthermore, once a programme is complete, neither the former employer nor the outplacement firm has the capacity to track programme participants anymore.

In other instances, individuals that do find new jobs within the programme period are reluctant to share this information with either their former employer or the outplacement firm. This may be a reflection of privacy concerns or the estrangement that occurs between an individual employee and the organisation that let them go. It may also be an attempt to avoid severance claw back provisions that kick in once someone has secured a new position.

Whether due to short programme durations or lack of candidate disclosure on landing, landing data should not be used as the key metric for success of an outplacement programme. Although it is an important factor, it is by no means the only metric that should be considered.

What variables determine the length of time it takes to find someone a job?

When someone tells you that “on average” they can find someone a new job in eight weeks, what does that really mean?

Experienced outplacement providers will tell you that landing time depends on a number of variables.

  • What level of employee is affected? The more senior the individual, the longer the landing time. This is due to a number of factors, including fewer jobs at more senior levels. It’s also a reflection of the fact that more senior-level employees have the financial means to be pickier about their next position. They don’t need to seize upon the first job opportunity that comes along. 
  • What industry is affected? Employment levels and opportunities fluctuate wildly between industries and even sectors within those industries. Based on current market conditions, someone in the financial services industry will have a better shot at finding another job quickly than someone working in the petroleum industry. It is impossible to express a global average time to landing without taking into account the current state of an industry.
  • Job function: The exact job function held by an employee in transition is important for determining landing time. Highly specialised, very technical jobs could be harder to come by; someone with a broad range of skills and job experience could be easier to place. By the same token, depending on marketplace conditions and timing, someone in a highly specialised role could land quickly. Function and timing have a dramatic impact on landing time.
  • Geographic location: If someone is let go in a geographic market that has been hard hit by economic conditions, it will obviously take longer to find a new job, particularly if staying in that same location is a priority. Average landing times do a poor job of reflecting geographic constraints.
  • Candidate skillset and reputation: Candidates are not created equal and in today’s economy, downsizing and other events that trigger transition happen regardless of an individual’s experience, personal network and reputation. Not knowing where a candidate falls on this scale makes it difficult to predict landing time. 

Landing data is important, but it’s not the only factor

Landing data is a valuable tool that can, when employed fairly and wisely, help an organisation plan for an efficient and timely transition. However, landing data doesn’t tell the full story.

Proper outplacement provides an organisation with value on multiple fronts.

It can protect an organisation’s brand. Employees in transition who are treated fairly and given all the support and tools they need to find other jobs often speak well of their former employers. This ensures that existing talent and talent that has yet to be recruited, only hear good things about the way an organisation treats its people.

Effective outplacement can also ensure that remaining employees function without fear or anxiety. Engagement can suffer mightily if employees observe that former co-workers in transition are rushed through a thin, bare-bones transition programme. Outplacement that is designed around the specific variables at play - level, function, location and industry - will provide great comfort to those who are left to continue doing the good work of the organisation.

However, the opposite is also true. Ineffective outplacement programmes that try to shoehorn employees into a one-size-fits-all programme based primarily on an extremely short estimate of landing time can not only be a waste of money, but also lead to profound damage to an organisation’s brand and engagement of remaining employees.

Landing data is an important metric of the outplacement industry. It can certainly help guide the type and length of programme needed for any specific group of employees.

If landing data is over-hyped and over-leveraged as a deliverable, however, it will only serve to point organisations in the wrong direction and ultimately waste their valuable resources.

The lesson here is to watch out for sales pitches that focus almost exclusively on landing data, or more specifically, on landing times. In many instances, there is a high likelihood that you will not get what you’re paying for.


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