The importance of developing a cultural fit

Scott
Watson of Summit Consulting & Training stresses the need to ensure a
cultural fit when appointing an outsourcing provider to support your
organisation. Scott Watson has worked internationally on client projects and is
a regular commentator for the BBC on outsourcing.

Imagine
that you have calculated costs, timescales, risks and scoured the market to
find the perfect outsourcing partner, and of the hard work of the last several
months is finally about to pay off. But what research have you undertaken to
ensure a ‘cultural fit’? Many clients’ response to this question is all too
often a stunned silence.

Aside
from the economic and organisational pressures driving the project, you need to
know that both you and your outsourcing partner can quickly adapt to a culture
that supports each organisation. Where you can take the best of each other’s
existing cultures to create an even more productive culture that will deliver
the best possible results long-term. You need to make sure you share your thoughts
and ideas on how you can work together to create a unique, customer-focused
culture that will maximise customer satisfaction and ultimately, profitability.

A
good cultural fit is essential if you are to achieve the very best results that
will serve you, your customers and your outsource provider. After the focus on
costs and deadlines you need to know about how they lead and develop their
people, manage operational performance and continuous change.

These
matters may at first seem rather trivial. However, only by digging up this
information will you learn the key information that will allow you to make an
informed decision on whether a cultural fit exists, or can at least be
developed quickly and effectively. Ultimately, you are trusting your chosen partner
to help you maximise not just performance, but also brand awareness, so it is
essential that you focus on not just the economic factors but also the cultural
factors too. It simply is not acceptable for an outsourcer to say, “OK, we’ve
trained our people on your products so from Monday just transfer your calls to
our new customer hotline.” This approach is doomed to fail.

Even
though it can feel like a tall order to learn about the outsourcers’ own
culture, by taking time to do this at the outset, you stand to gain as the
project takes shape. From higher staff retention and job satisfaction to a more
consistent focused approach to sales and customer care. However, if you decide
not to invest in the planning stage, you risk having chosen your partners
instil their own culture and this will impact on your customers. Surely it is
more productive to find this out before contracts are signed than suffer from
buyer’s remorse afterwards?

Checking
for a good cultural fit


Visit the supplier’s own site to see their culture for yourself. If they are a
multi-site operation visit several sites to check consistency.


Ask their other clients about how they worked with them to develop a mutually
beneficial culture and how they benefited.


Get to know the executives so you are more comfortable with each other and
develop open and honest communication from the outset.


Check staff attrition and short-term sickness levels over a period of up to 12
months to see the bigger picture.

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