Outsourcing Is Alive and Well—HR Continues to Be Too, Part 2

How to grow professionally in your organization after outsourcing is rolled out. Today’s astute HR professional understands her new role in the retained organization.

by Matt DeLuca

Last issue, we started a two-part discussion on the state of outsourcing and its impact on HR. Below, we continue a list of major issues to consider as you approach it as a very real solution.

• Outsourcing begs for a new skill set. Signing the contract doesn’t mean euphoria or nirvana. The easy part is to close the contract; the tough part is living with the new arrangement. To want it to work, saying so just isn’t going to be enough. Ongoing efforts to address real issues as they develop—while building relationships with the outsourcing provider—demand time, attention, energy, and resources. Who knows how long it will take until you are actually faced with a real situation with real people and real terms.

• HR is alive and well, but there is still a need to prove one’s worth. For HR to play its role effectively, each person on staff needs to give the requisite attention to ensure that employees are accommodated whenever they need to initiate and process paperwork to complete all of their HR-related transactions.

So there is a very real place for outsourcing, but that also means HR cannot surrender its responsibility to ensure that the paper transaction was completed successfully. If we choose to ignore that responsibility, at our own peril, we are missing a great opportunity each time we fail to deliver a timely and effective response, regardless of whether the situation requires the involvement of our own HR staff or if we choose an outsourcing arrangement.

• There continues to be too much for the HR pro to do. What ever happened to the industry standard of 100:1 ratio of HR staff to total employee population? Other than a few foreign-owned domestic locations in the financial services industry, I am hard pressed to name any organization in the not-for-profit or for-profit sectors that practices the 100:1 rule. More often, I find HR business partners stretched really thin with a skeletal and junior professional or two expected to provide a full range of services to a staff population that is already thin in resources.

The biggest problem for most HR professionals all over is that when they succeed, they are more likely than not promoting their own demise. This is a twofold problem. First, HR professionals are too “professional.” When they are strapped for resources, they bite the bullet and get the work done—hours get longer and longer, vacations get delayed or lost, work goes home, lunch is missed (or worse, eaten at the desk), and then there is no alternative but to avoid professional growth and networking opportunities. So when you continue to manage to stay on top of this huge pile of work, others in the organization who continue to also be strapped for resources come to you for things they should be doing if only they had the time. The more successful the HR pro, the more likely she will burn out or get fired when these heightened expectations sooner or later become impossible for any human to satisfy.

“Gee, Matt has really changed. He always used to be so productive. What happened?”

So, consider outsourcing as a brand new day. Remember it is this environment that has prepared the HR pro to consider outsourcing as a real viable opportunity to create a new paradigm, and it can be great fun to boot. Outsourcing is a real alternative to consider if an HR pro feels that she wants to provide a level of service that their organization will never commit to internally. Outsourcing is a real opportunity to realize the market rate for services that had been provided “for free” in the past. Outsourcing is a career booster to the HR professional who has a real passion for the profession and wants to continue to grow while searching for opportunities to maximize energy and effort on those activities that will have maximum organizational impact. Remember the benefits manager of the year (selected a few years ago by Employee Benefit News) who came from GE. He had a staff of one and served more than 9,000 employees. The secret was outsourcing. If you had read the article describing his experience, I am sure you would agree that he certainly seemed to be having a great time. You could too.

Posted December 10, 2006 in Contributors

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