It is almost two years now since this writer predicted a radical shake-up in the City outplacement industry. Since that time, we have seen the sale (again) of BG Careers, the merging of Lee Hecht's UK operation with Penna, challenging times and new faces over at Fairplace and a major restructure at DBM. Penna also lost a CEO.
Somewhat ironic, perhaps, that this shake-up came at the end of a difficult three years for jobs in the City, when outplacement firms should have been coining it. But they weren't, as competiion was fierce and margins headed south. Many firms began to regard outplacement as a commodity and choose to give their business to those who could simply do a decent job at the cheapest price.
With 2004 seeing most firms back in recruitment mode, those in City outplacement tried to talk-up the other 'added-value' services they provide. There was plenty of emphasis on HR consulting, change management and coaching services. Trouble was, there were already plenty of good suppliers operating in this space and prices had to be very keen simply to gain entry.
Now, towards the end of the year, we had announcements of job losses over at places like ABN Amro, CSFB, Commerzbank, DrKW, Deutsche and JP Morgan. The City outplacement industry stirred from its slumbers and each business fought hard to win its share of the spoils. But, alas, even now there appears to be no pot of gold at the end of the (outplacement) rainbow. Not all firms will provide their staff with outplacement services. Those that do will not outplace all functions. Many of those outplaced will elect not to take up the service. And those that do will find that their firm has probably only paid for a fairly basic programme.
As things stand, City outplacement may not be finished, but there must surely be easier ways to make an honest living.