Offshore Impact: Personnel Issues

So you are moving forward with offshore initiative, maybe a new or expanding an existing one. What is going through the minds of your team members? What kind of questions are coming up? What is not letting them sleep at night? That’s not difficult to imagine:

  • Is my job at risk?
  • Is my salary at risk?
  • Is my career at risk?
  • Is my quality of life at risk?
  • Is my project / department / team at risk?

Let’s start with a reality check: chances are there will be three groups of people easily categorized by the answers to these questions – Yes, No and Mixed / In between. There will be people who can lose their jobs or forced to take lower paying jobs. Transferring jobs offshore may reduce scope of career opportunities or completely eliminate some. Some people might be asked to work odd hours, and so on. Maybe some of the team members won’t be affected at all. And for some there will be a mixed impact. That impact on employees inevitably affects the employer, and as I pointed in my earlier post The Darkest Side of Outsourcing that impact could be very serious. That’s why minimizing negative impact of personnel issues is likely to become your primary objective as an outsourcing champion or the manager in charge.

One of the ways to do it is to tune into your team’s WII.FM station. What’s In It For Me? What is the silver lining of the offshore initiative for your team members? That of course depends on specifics of your organization and the scope of offshoring; here are just a few general ideas for your consideration:

  • Offshoring might offer an opportunity to offload grunt work freeing up employees to work on more interesting / engaging projects.
  • In similar manner offloading grunt work may allow organization and its employees to focus on core strengths and areas of competence.
  • Sometimes offshoring opens an opportunity for the employees to learn new technologies / products.
  • Management / leadership opportunities can open up.
  • Specifically offshore management opportunities could be attractive option for career development. With offshore here to stay experience with offshoring can benefit many employees even those not involved in management / leading roles.

Let me repeat something I mentioned in The Darkest Side of Outsourcing: Associating introduction of offshore with layoffs – replacing local workforce with offshore resources is a double hit on remaining workforce with inevitable impact on employee morale and overall workforce quality:

  • Employee motivation will disrupted with result in increase in political behaviors, anger, fear – which is likely to negatively impact quality of customer service, performance decline, and decline in quality of work atmosphere.
  • “Survivors” experience more stress due to longer work hours with re-designed jobs, and increased uncertainty regarding future downsizings.
  • Senior and the most marketable employees may leave with result in decline of overall quality and qualification of workforce and loss of institutional memory.

A silver lining here is an opportunity those events could represent for some of the employees: an opportunity to show one’s ability to excel under pressure, a chance to step up to challenge and learn new product, skill, fulfill the void left by departing employee.

In my experience I’ve seen that on numerous occasions – a problem creating a launching pad for capable but for some reason unnoticed or underappreciated employees.

The question is whether as the leader of organization you can carry on positive message and motivate the troops to take advantage of the opportunity rather than dwell on native events and unforgivable loses. Another question is whether you can deal with inevitable negativity and ripple effect of the changes. Here are a few things to consider for dealing with the personnel impact:

  • Consistent non-stop communication. Check out 7 Cs of communications and follow those as much as you can afford considering the situation.
  • Consistent aggressive motivation. “Motivation is like food for the brain. You cannot get enough in one sitting. It needs continual and regular top up’s.” [Peter Davies]
  • Be prepared to pay above market. Hopefully offshore cost savings can offset some of the cost impact.
  • Invest heavily in the staff redundancy. That is a complex issue that requires longer discussion, let me just mention just one aspect of it: staff redundancy will give you the confidence to operate in the challenging environment that offshoring is likely to create in your organization.
  • Process and methodology changes / adjustments / improvements to create environment tuned to the new organizational layout.

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