Outsourcing: How to make the most of being outsourced

Why is it important?

Although being transferred to an outsourcing company is never something you instigate yourself, it can represent a great career opportunity. For a start, your role is elevated from just being one of several back-office functions to being the sole focus of the organisation. The outsourcer needs expertise in your discipline to provide its service to clients. Without it, it has no business.

There is also likely to be greater scope for recognition and reward, because the outsourcer will be keen to retain your specialist knowledge, and will also ensure there is a structured promotion path. Embracing the opportunities afforded by being outsourced will help you broaden your experience and develop highly specialised skills.

Where do I start?

Your terms and conditions will be protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations, but use the consultation period to learn as much as possible about what the deal will mean for you. When you are given the chance to quiz the outsourcer, the following should all be high on your need-to-know list:

  • How will it affect my pay and conditions?

  • Will I have to relocate?

  • What is the staff turnover?

Seek assurances about job security and ask the outsourcer to specify career paths explicitly. Also consider how well its culture and values align with yours.

“Ensuring that you understand the outsourcer and how it works is key to understanding how the move is going to affect you and what steps you should take,” says Hugh Morris, executive director at business process outsourcing company Xchanging. “Employees who are quick to understand and embrace the outsourcer’s culture and ways of working will be better placed to reap the rewards of this experience.”

Being outsourced doesn’t work for everyone, however, and you may conclude at this stage that your best career interests lie elsewhere.

New beginnings

See the move as an opportunity. If the outsourcer has multiple clients, you will find yourself working across a range of sectors and industries with a variety of customers. Different industries bring different challenges, and this will enable you to develop and hone your specialist expertise. It will also bring new life and variety into your daily role, and may even improve job satisfaction.

Work out how you can use the move to realise your longer-term career aims. For example, from a generalist HR background, it may be possible to move into an HR specialism such as compensation and benefits or an HR/IT role.

Create a good impression

Your conduct during the early weeks and months will set the tone for your career at your new employer, so it is crucial to create a good impression. Show that you can fit in and perform to high standards, and that you are reliable, adaptable and competent.

Enhance your service delivery

It is vital to become more service-oriented. You now have clients who will demand high levels of service, and you may even have a customer-facing role. Ensure that you have the skills to cope with this shift and, if not, request extra training from your new employer. It is likely that the outsourcer will encourage you to develop new skills in areas such as customer service and process and project management, so take advantage of this.

Give it a go? Or go?

Many people who have been outsourced say that it can be a bumpy and often stressful ride. During difficult times, it is easy to view the past with rose-tinted glasses and feel negative about future changes. Try to remain objective and accept that there will be a settling-in period. Express any concerns you have to your line manager, especially if the outsourcer isn’t delivering on its promises. If the situation doesn’t improve, review your position and find an employer that can help to realise your career aims.

Where can I get more info?

The Black Book of Outsourcing, Doug Brown, Scott Wilson, John Wiley & Sons Inc, £18.99,
ISBN 0-471-718-890

How to survive the first six months in a new job

How to project the right work image

  1. How to become career resilient

    If you only do five things…

    View the move as an opportunity

  2. Learn everything you can about your new employer

  3. Use it to gain experience and develop new skills

  4. Focus on customer satisfaction

  5. Remain objective during the early stages

Expert’s view: Hugh Morris on making the most of being outsourced

Why would you say there are greater opportunities for career development when you have been outsourced?

Outsourced staff are escaping the back-office and entering an environment where their chosen discipline is the sole focus of the entire organisation, and their skills and efforts are vital to the outsourcer’s delivery of the function in question. They are the leading edge of the outsourcer’s business. An outsourcer will be quick to retain and reward employees who help them provide excellent service. Furthermore, traditional promotion paths are replaced by ones that offer promotion in specialist areas and in internally and externally-facing roles.

What is the worst thing you can do when you are outsourced?

Panic! It is vital to remember that this change is an opportunity that offers a new set of experiences. Also, if you try to assume that the world will remain the same, you will be disappointed. Change is unsettling, but it also represents new opportunity. Try to remember that when times seem tough.

What is the best way to develop a client-service focus?

A crucial shift for all outsourced staff, from the most junior to the most senior, is to develop a service-focused mindset. Clients will expect a good outsourcer to deliver significant improvements to the function in question.

It is therefore vital for outsourced employees to focus on client satisfaction, providing measurable improvements through a constant focus on client service. Ask the customer what they want and always think: ‘How could this process be done better?’

What key things can you do to help make your mark at the outsourcer?

This is your chance to innovate and be proactive. An outsourcer’s remit is to challenge and transform established ways of working and to improve customer service. They will reward the employees who are able to help them fulfil this mission.

I would advise an outsourced employee to constantly try to change and improve business processes – dynamic innovators are just the people an outsourcer needs.

Hugh Morris is executive director at Xchanging

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