Keep Motivational Efforts Continuous

Engaging employees when outsourcing is a critical component of success.

by Jemima Fitzgerald

Engaging a motivational speaker to energize and inspire a workforce is a practice we expect in the U.S. It is not commonly associated with a European organization, let alone the traditional, stiff-upper-lip Brits; but that is exactly what is happening with one of the U.K.’s most traditional retailers. Marks & Spencer has employed the talents of inspirational speaker Mary Gober to help its 56,000 workers and bolster the company’s turnaround.

On further investigation, it appears that M&S is not so much a leader in this technique but is actually following the footsteps of several high-profile European companies (Zurich, Mercedes-Benz, Reuters), whose HR departments are looking for ways to enthuse their workforce.

What is encouraging about this new trend is that it is targeting ALL employees. However, the disadvantage to utilizing such a technique is that it is short-lived. What happens the following week, month, or year? If we look at most HR outsourcing deals, there will be some element of motivation and incentivisation of employees during the transition of moving from in-house HR department to outsourced arrangement, but how long will this focus last?

Employee motivation is difficult to manage at the best of times, but as a company moves to an outsourced agreement, it becomes even more important to keep motivation up. Looking at the recent announcement by Convergys and DuPont, the transition period for this deal is estimated to take up to two years. The organizations will have plans to motivate employees at this current point in time, but will those plans extend for the next two years and beyond?

There are a number of key reasons why it is crucial to ensure a continual focus on employees. The most fundamental is the level of buy-in from employees, which is directly proportional to the success of an outsourcing agreement. In addition, outsourcing your HR department doesn’t mean starting anew; it is about combining current intellectual property with enhanced processes, technology, and expertise. The retention of knowledge is crucial. Finally, despite the predicted cost and competitive advantages that it may bring, a regularly cited reason for outsourcing HR is the improvements it brings to the people aspects of an organization. If you’re outsourcing to enhance satisfaction and motivation of employees, make sure they’re not forgotten at the period of changeover.

Who should you target? Quite simply, everyone. The tendency is to focus on the employees leaving, whether they are being transferred to the service provider or being made redundant. But you should also include staff being retained and the organization at large.

As with any major change, it is impossible to please all the people all the time. Human nature dictates that individuals will go through a number of stages during the process, which will include disenchantment, resistance, etc. The key to making the HRO transition a success is to move individuals as quickly as possible from the fear and resistance stage to the buy-in (and hopefully) support stage! So how do you do this?

  • Communicate as soon as feasibly possible and communicate regularly. Fear comes from being kept in the dark.
  • Ask questions, get feedback, and be prepared to provide honest answers.
  • Engage unions, works councils, and employee committee groups. Identify key influencers for your organization, and ensure you are listening and using them to help communicate and encourage support.
  • Invite your service provider to talk with your employees or arrange for visits to the vendor sites. Remember that this is a partnership, not an “us and them.”
  • Provide clear guidelines on how the future relationship will work and what the implications are for the retained HR team as well as the wider workforce.
  • Invest in support and training for the retained HR team. If you are expecting them to take on more strategic activities, make sure it’s something they want and are able to do. Do not presume!

Finally, and most importantly, do not let the communication and motivation diminish once the deal has been signed. This is in an ongoing requirement. As with any motivational event that is at the top of the agenda one day and forgotten the next, your plan will fail if you do not embark on a consistent program of communication, support, and motivation. The fact that your organization has chosen to address and invest in its HR should be seen as a success in itself. Remember that, because surely nothing motivates better than success.

Posted December 10, 2005 in Contributors

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