HR outsourcing remains a topic on everyone’s agenda. I should know because
I’ve recently been outsourced. And you know what – it’s great.
Myths abound about outsourcing – it is bad for the individual, outsourcers
are only interested in cost cutting, everyone will be overworked, underpaid and
life will never be the same.
I only agree with the last point. HR has been criticised for decades by line
management as a reactive and second-rate administrative function offering no
added value. This has led to minimal investment and discouraged high-flyers
from joining the function. In many organisations the most important strategic
event HR is allowed to get involved in is the Christmas party.
Then along comes the HR business process outsourcing companies. They are
interested in making money, of course, so what are their priorities? Well, it
is not in creating a reactive team, and investing the bare minimum.
The BPO players are making HR their core business. It is no longer something
reserved for the back office of large industrialists, but for the front office
of companies who have to invest to survive.
What does that mean for the HR professional about to be outsourced to an
organisation he doesn’t even know? For me, it means investment in the tools of
the job to make the HR professional’s life easier, and it means that HR is no
longer a cost or an overhead but rather a revenue generator, core to the
It is not easy. HR professionals will have to work harder than ever, but at
least they will be doing it with the support of the business. But make no
mistake, if you have been hiding for years in the comfort zone of a large
organisation you will be found out, which I don’t think is such a bad thing.
If it is all good news, why aren’t the line managers at BP Amoco and BT
singing its praises (News, 24 September)? It is all about the change curve. The
problem is many of the retained HR business partners have forgotten to mention
to the line managers that things are going to change. The welfare job that HR
has been doing for years – those Christmas parties and disciplinary meetings –
is now their responsibility.
In an outsourced world, HR will get the basics right – such as data
integrity and administration – will offer policies and practices that will
attract, retain and develop employees, and will act as a strategic partner.
This will mean shared services through centralised administration, use of
portal, self-service technology and less local HR presence.
It is not a painless change. But the change curve will be just as steep
whether the company opts for the DIY approach, or achieves it through
By Alan Bailey, Head of communications and
change management, Xchanging HR Services