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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A critical incident study of individual clients’ outplacement counselling experiences Butterfield, Lee D.


Outplacement consulting (OPC) is a multi-million dollar business about which little is known with respect to its effectiveness and whether it is meeting the needs of either its corporate or individual clients. This study attempted to shed light on whether the services currently being offered by OPC firms are meeting the needs of individual clients by using Flanagan's (1954) critical incident analysis methodology. Fifteen individuals who had received OPC services within the last five years were asked open-ended questions during in-person interviews to find out what services were helpful and not helpful, and whether there were services they would like to have received but did not (wish list items). The interviews produced 712 critical incidents and wish list items that were then placed into 16 categories: (1) OPC representative activities/actions; (2) job search skills training; (3) assessments; (4) OPC program elements and design; (5) reference materials; (6) OPC representative traits and characteristics; (7) access to offices, supplies and equipment; (8) secretarial/administrative services; (9) relationship with OPC representative; (10) OPC office environment and location; (11) tailored/flexible services; (12) more structured/hands-on services; (13) counselling skills/services; (14) group work; (15) closure/follow-up at the end of OPC; and (16) technical skills assessment and upgrading. A variety of methods were utilized to validate the categories, including participants' crosschecking, independent rater, exhaustiveness, expert opinions, participation rate, and theoretical agreement. Two major results of this study are its support of Wooten's (1996) research and the apparent gap that emerged between current OPC services that are being delivered and the services individual clients would find helpful. This latter result was evidenced by the six new categories that emerged from the wish list items: (a) a desire for more tailored, flexible services; (b) a greater focus on providing counselling services; (c) a need for more structured, hands-on services; (d) more group work; (e) some formal closure or follow-up at the end of the OPC program; and (f) technical skills assessment and upgrading. Implications for OPC clients (both corporate and individual), practitioners, and future research are discussed against the backdrop of OPC's historical and operating contexts.

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