Outsourcing Outplacement: Machines vs. Humans

The business of helping people without the human touch.

The most significant trend in the Career Transition or Outplacement industry is undeniably the introduction of technology-based services.

It’s hard to accept that the industry I’ve been in for over 15 years has been eliminating the human touch. It has gone from the service model of using qualified career consultants helping job seekers face-to-face to software applications without any assigned coaches in person.

Can this method really help individuals to be the most effective job searchers they can be? I have to wonder.

With this new method of coaching, applications are downloaded on a PC or conducted via the Internet. In many instances, one-on-one job search coaching has been replaced by call center support where “coaching,” if you will, is supplied on the spot by the “next available career coach.” Is the advice received really worth being on hold? Think of this:

“This is your coaching call center. All of our lines are busy now. Please wait for the next available coach.”Susan's blog

“For immediate help and information, please visit our Internet-based coaching site. You’ll find all you need there to help you. You can have an online chat Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time.”


Why are outplacement firms doing this? I admit that from a business perspective, technology, once it is designed and launched, is cheap. It offers incredible profit margins. In order for a large outplacement firm to survive constant changes in our industry, it must sell outplacement services that are predominantly supported by a technology platform, and it must sell en masse. If a company sells in volume, this technology-based delivery model is the best business model, at least for them:

Service delivered by humans reduced … “self-serve” increased.

The good news is, there is a wonderful debate about whether a software program with all of its libraries of information, and advanced simulation tools, can replace the knowledge of a career consultant who knows the characteristics of the local job market, and who knows the working characteristics of their clients.

It’s not yet determined if a technology-based delivery model is able to help job seekers with the delicate intricacies of their job searches which, left unaddressed, could hinder their success, disabling them from finding ideal jobs.

I sincerely wonder how a computer program, a simulated session with a career coach, or even an “on call” career coach, can support someone in crisis who feels desperately alone and is in need of authentic assurance that everything is going to be okay.

That, my friends, is what those of us who are of flesh and blood believe is the heart and soul of what we do.

It’s an interesting dynamic, our model of human helping human, versus machine helping human. It’s quite exciting, really. For companies who want to provide the real living, breathing help when it comes to outplacement support, there is no question about which method to choose. At Power Connections we make it really easy to decide who to engage for helping your separated employees.

Susan Howington is the CEO of Power Connections.

Photo by captblack76 @123RF.com


  1. Susan, this is an excellent, valuable way to look at the outplacement industry. I stand with you. Person-to-person job search coaching is as fulfilling for us coaches as it is for our clients.