Most companies prefer to let bygones be bygones when they fire an employee. Ed Steffan, co-owner of EPS Rehabilitation, a rehabilitation and placement service for injured workers in Tinley Park, Ill., has a radically different point of view. "I've always looked at employees as people who are helping me, not as expendable objects," he explains. When things don't work out, he goes to great lengths to help the employee find a new job.

With only 22 employees, Steffan usually knows within the first 90 days if a new hire is going to make it. If several training attempts to correct deficiencies fail, he tells the worker that the job isn't appropriate and tries to help the employee figure out what to do next. A secretary who's unable to master the medical terminology and personal contact required at EPS, for example, could do very well in a job that requires mostly transcription.

With the employee's job goal set, Steffan often gets the worker's résumé updated and printed in-house and alerts his staff to the employee's new job objective. Because EPS has ongoing relationships with its large corporate customers, it can informally poll those organizations for job openings quickly.

Though some employees leave his company with negative feelings, Steffan estimates that he gives concrete help to 80% to 90% of the 5 or 6 employees who leave each year. "I see real value in this," he asserts. If a former employee goes to a competitor, Steffan figures he stands to benefit by having that worker use EPS as the standard to which he holds his new employer. That employee will always be a walking advertisement for the company. What's more, Steffan's ad hoc outplacement effort scores points with the company's customers because it conveys the caring philosophy that EPS uses in serving injured workers. -- Ellyn E. Spragins