In this election season, the louder the calls for change, the more things stay the same.
Reform, changing course, taking a new direction—call it what you will, but this campaign season has an annoying familiarity to all the ones before it. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a registered Democrat or a registered Republican to not want to hear the same broken record.
Regardless of whom you support this fall, real reform and change are unlikely to occur. Washington, after all, is a monolithic beast with no master, and any self-delusional proclamations that it can be tamed should be taken with a box of salt. I am frankly perplexed by voters who would trust anyone selling the notion of reform in the Nation’s Capital; it’s akin to believing you’ve won Nigeria’s national lottery.
As cynical as that sounds, I also believe our leaders can take small steps—efforts that require little political capital but would have a tremendous impact on the HRO industry and the general workforce. But with so much on their agenda, the difficulty will be to make the following a priority among other pressing issues.
Encourage outsourcing among federal and other governmental agencies. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration awarded a watershed $1.2 billion HRO contract to Lockheed Martin. While massive by any standard, it could be just the tip of the iceberg in the public sector. With so many operations within the federal government lacking state-of-the-art technology, best-practice knowledge, and process standardization, outsourcing could easily lead to lower costs, greater efficiencies, and happier employees.
Unlike lawmakers in the U.K., who for years have encouraged outsourcing in the public sector, U.S. counterparts have been behind the times. Despite the apparent success of U.K. agencies with outsourcing, in the U.S. we’ve only engaged the practice in piecemeal fashion. It’s time for political leaders to muster up the courage and demand bureaucrats improve how governmental back offices operate.
Provide greater outplacement and training resources. It’s a regular mantra on the campaign trail, but the need to help retool today’s displaced workers is greater than ever. As we go through the current economic downturn, job losses are mounting each month. (The latest jobs numbers show unemployment up to 6.1 percent.) Considering that more outsourcing would further shrink payroll, it’s paramount that additional federal dollars are allocated to help the unemployed and displaced. If employers were to receive more outplacement help, it would certainly ease the decision to outsource.
Silence the rhetoric on free trade. Fanning fears about shipping jobs offshore is a tried-and-true tactic of politicians desperate to get votes. The fact is free trade benefits everyone: businesses, consumers, and workers. The advent of HRO has meant shifting some back-office support to overseas call and service centers, but no massive migration of domestic HR jobs has taken place. Nevertheless, it’s always a hot-button issue that gets great mileage on the campaign trail. And it adds to the apprehension that some HR organizations have with outsourcing. The candidates need to dial down the volume on free trade.
These are some of the minor “changes” our politicians can undertake this year. Whether they will remains to be seen. Reform is a tired slogan we should all have grown weary with. What we really need is a message that emphasizes concrete plans with assured follow-through. Let’s see what happens on January 21.