Hats off to Bob Fawthrop, chief executive of outsourcing company Morgan Chambers, who has just recruited Rory Murphy, one of the UK’s leading unionists, as its HR director.
This is some catch for a company that is at the sharp end of employer/employee relations, and represents bold and imaginative recruitment. As HR director, Murphy will also be advising clients on how best to manage the outsourcing process from the employee perspective, having already acquired a wealth of understanding and experience in this area.
Judging by recent outsourcing deals, such expertise is very much needed. Take Swansea Council, for example, where 70% of IT staff are set to move to Capgemini under a £150m outsourcing deal. It has been beset with problems, including Unison staff members holding an eight-week strike last autumn.
For the council, the deal has been an HR and public relations disaster. But this could have been avoided. Openness and transparency about the deal from the outset would have helped to get staff on board. Instead, they were informed too late, and the damage had already been done.
For other employers looking at outsourcing, employing a unionist in your HR team might not necessarily be the answer. However, unionists represent an invaluable resource that can benefit organisations when instigating such change programmes.
Murphy’s move represents yet more change for the union movement. One of its biggest hitters, he believes he can make more of an impact from within business, and that more of his union colleagues will follow his lead.
Whether this happens remains to be seen, as does whether this is the beginning of the end of union effectiveness in the workplace. No doubt, cynical unionists and employers will be keen to label Murphy a turncoat. For unionists, the move will be more galling because he has moved to an outsourcing company.
But one thing is for sure; if Murphy is right, and more union colleagues follow his lead, then CEOs will have the chance to make more imaginative and bold recruitment decisions.