Empathise - the employee perspective
Outsourcing is a ‘people’ business and the success of any partnership is heavily dependent on the employees delivering the service. Only a happy, motivated and empowered workforce will enable the outsourcing partner to deliver the improvements it has committed to as part of its agreement.
However, the prospect of ‘being outsourced’ usually evokes concerns rather than happiness among employees – especially if this involves a transfer from the current employer to the outsourcing partner. We explore why this is the case, and what clients and outsourcers can do to address fears and make the transition a positive experience.
Open Outsourcing spoke to Melanie Vongswang, Group HR Director for Arvato UK, about how to put people at the heart of outsourcing partnerships. Finally, we hear directly from some employees that have been outsourced – about their experience and how they find working for an outsourcing partner.
It’s sometimes said that people are afraid of being outsourced. Why do you think this is?
Melanie Vongswang: It’s the uncertainty of change that affects us all. As well as working for a new employer, people have to get to grips with new processes, new colleagues and, perhaps more fundamentally, a new culture.
In addition, when it comes to outsourcing, people often have negative preconceptions influenced by the media; they worry about being made redundant, that their roles will be moved overseas, or they expect to be much worse off than their former colleagues. It’s an emotional and personal journey, so the concern is understandable.
The reality is that being outsourced is first and foremost a change of employer – usually under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment) regulations, where terms and conditions are protected. That’s why both partners have to address these concerns from the outset and during the transition phase – it lays the foundations for future working together.
How should clients and their outsourcing partners address people’s concerns?
Regular and transparent communication is absolutely paramount. Clients should inform their teams about their outsourcing plans as early as possible.
More than this, they need to help employees to understand the strategy behind the decision; why will outsourcing make the organisation more successful? And, by extension, how it will ultimately benefit them? This could even mean involving employee representatives in the selection process during the tender.
For the outsourcing partner, they need to be open and accessible. People should know that they can ask questions throughout the process – from how their work will change and what career development opportunities will there be, all the way through to simple things like parking arrangements. The outsourcer may not know all the answers straight away but as long as they’re honest, people will understand.
So what’s Arvato’s approach?
It’s all about getting to know one another and being authentic. Glossy brochures won’t help, it’s about how you say and do things.
We start by trying to get under the skin of an organisation so that we truly understand its culture early on. If possible, we try to meet employees while still bidding for work and even spend time working from their premises before the partnership formally commences. By the time we reach the go-live date it’s often a bit of an anti-climax for the new team!
Central to all of this is listening to people’s concerns and then demonstrating what we are going to do to address them. This helps us to build the trust which is so important for making the relationship work.
How can people benefit from working for an outsourcing partner?
More than anything, it’s a greater breadth of career and training opportunities. That said, not everyone will want to change their career path and they’ll want to keep doing what they love; it’s about having the choice to create your own career.
I think the ‘arvato’ factor would be the freedom we give people to make decisions - not just about their development path but in their everyday roles too. If people have an idea for doing something differently then they’re empowered to share and implement it.
After all, the people who have transferred are closest to the issues and can help to shape the solutions – and therefore really buy into the partnership because they’re personally involved in improving it. It’s not uncommon for employees that were apprehensive about being outsourced in the beginning to become the most passionate ambassadors of our partnerships.