“Off-Shoring”, “Right-Sizing”, “Out-Sourcing”… Whatever You Call it, it Means Big Change

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For organizations seeking to reduce costs by sending work to other countries, the
path is long and difficult.  Off-shoring may be absolutely necessary for your organization to remain competitive or possibly just stay in business, but don’t underestimate what it will take to do it and do it right.  With the pace of change around the globe these days, even the basic questions like “Where should we send the work – India?  Ireland? China?” may be hard to answer.

What is also hard, but often overlooked, is how to deal with the people within an organization during the process.  There are two primary groups you need to think about when you are off-shoring:  the people who will lose their jobs, and the people who will be left behind and will watch the process unfold before them.  If off-shoring doesn’t take into account the needs of the people who are impacted by it, the gains that you hope to make can be lost by large scale disengagement, decreased productivity, and massive turnover.

During organizational transition, everyone is affected.  People who will lose their jobs are obviously impacted; but also, employees who don’t lose jobs may experience guilt that they “survived” and fear that they could be next.  The things we do to help both groups transition are completely inter-related.  For the “survivors,” the #1 factor that contributes to their experience of the off-shoring is their observation of how those who lose jobs are treated.

During out-sourcing (well, any time actually), there should be an underlying desire to treat people with respect and dignity.  It sounds easy enough, but it can be difficult in situations like this.  It’s not as if we intend to treat people poorly, but sometimes we just forget what people need or we just get too busy and forget about the people impacted.  Every day, you need to ask yourself, “Are we doing for people who will lose their jobs what I would want to be done if it were me that was going to lose my job?”

As you make every decision, keep the golden rule in mind.  How would you want to find out your job was being eliminated?  Most likely, you’d like to hear it directly from your manager in a one-on-one conversation rather than in a meeting of 50 people.  And you probably would want to hear it before anyone else in your group heard it.  While it is logistically difficult, the effort will pay off.

Remember that the people who will lose jobs are also likely friends of people who will remain a part of the organization after they are gone.  If the people leaving the organization are treated poorly, not only do you engender ill will from organizational alumni who are out there bad-mouthing your organization, but you also plant the seed with employees who will stick around that you might not treat them so well either in the future.

While the work of off-shoring is difficult, it doesn’t mean you should steer away from off-shoring.  Just go in with your eyes open about the work it will take.  Treating people well is not about just coddling people.  It is about getting the business results you are seeking by keeping your organization engaged and productive.

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