The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly in Career Transition

Posted in: Bloggery

Navigating a path through a career transition can be both an emotional and practical challenge. The challenge increases if the career change is sudden and imposed, if a new direction is contemplated after years in one profession, and if there are financial and family pressures.  It is terrific if a peer level coach is provided. This coach can help widen the canvas, bring rich materials and counsel to bear and guide the best process in building an effective outcome.

There are some first rate career coaches out there: people with wisdom and ability.  We have been looking at what they do in the second phase of a significant research project.  I won’t go into the detail of the research here. You can find it on the home page of our website and follow the link headed: “Updated Research into the Outplacement & Career Transition Services Industry”.

Some 40 or so people, from a group of 359 respondents across a range of suppliers, said their experience had been good. Their good experience correlated with several key elements in program design. These elements (with the exception of “office facilities”) closely linked with the quality of the face to face coaching they received.

But 40 out of a group of this size still leaves a much larger majority saying they had a poor experience. Respondents were drawn to our survey through the Six Figures website. We have to assume therefore that most were mid-level to senior managers and professionals.  So most senior managers and professionals are not happy with the support at the time of their retrenchment or displacement from an organisation.  It seems that too many organisations are purchasing ineffective services for their senior people.

We were able to identify supplier firms in the data. We chose not to present data on a firm by firm basis, as sample sizes in several instances were not statistically valid.  In one exercise we aggregated firms into two broad groups. The two groups were of global suppliers and Australian suppliers.  The data provided evidence that the global suppliers were assessed as the least effective. They dragged “effectiveness” ratings and net promoter scores down in comparison with other firms. There were good coaches in some of the worst firms surveyed – but there are more of them in local supplier firms.

This did not surprise us.  For a long time we have been watching with dismay the steady commoditisation of career transition services. Thoughtful coaching with peer level coaches is almost totally excluded.  Token attempts are made to tailor programs around the interests of individuals. The service is little better than the delivery of the “chapters” of a book, with minimal human engagement.

Why is this approach taken?  Well, the most expensive component in career transition service delivery lies in the fees payable to coaches.  Cut this cost out or reduce it substantially, and even with low prices, a career transition service can be profitable for the global suppliers.

Our research explains why so many senior people simply check out of career transition services. Sometimes this is without the knowledge of the sponsoring firm.  It explains why so many HR Directors are becoming indifferent to the service.

Our enthusiasm is for ensuring that really high quality coaching is seen as the foundation of a worthwhile service.  We want to raise the bar for the industry and see suppliers held to account.  We would like to see firms insist on independent surveys of those they retrench, to measure whether they are buying effective career transition support. None of this is achieved unless a really strong coach is deployed and each program is tailored around individual needs, with plenty of quality face to face time and agility in developing alternative careers and supporting their exploration. We can supply our questionnaire to client firms seeking to measure service effectiveness, and we strongly encourage this, especially if more than one service supplier is engaged.