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The Moral and Motivation of the Ones Doing it

15 June 2007

This article is reprinted from EuroFM Insight Issue 3 - Business continuity has always been of vital importance to companies. It concerns, after all, the very survival of the undertaking. Business Continuity Management (BCM) has since its emergence in 2002 made steady progress and become an ever greater factor in the process of primary daily activities. The opportunities presented in these developments should give the facility manager food for thought.

Key to the success of an outsourcing arrangement, as indeed any project, is to communicate the objectives to the personnel expected to carry it out, and also to alleviate the understandable concern of employees expected to change their previous employer for a new one. A skilfully handled outsourcing from a dedicated facilitiesprovider should contribute to not only maintain but rather strengthen the moral and motivation of the - about to be - outsourced personnel. In this aspect, first impressions last.

In order to make this good impression, crucial to the success of the entire outsourcing project, you have to start from the overall view and begin by explaining in detail why you make the change in the first place. This change (from inhouse to outsource) is not something that benefits from being sneaked past or pushed through a generally sceptical organisation by sugar-coating. This change is to be addressed in a positive and proud manner; you should notify everyone and then launch and celebrate the change, as if it were a new year's eve!

The positive allure of this new era depends largely on a detailed and well balanced plan for the change's adoption and integration over time. How exactly is the personnel expected to be transferred to its new management and working day environment? You can't just send out a memo or e-mail notification and then expect the change to have been implemented. This transfer is an ongoing communication and workshop!

Indeed, the transfer is never complete and the organisation should never be considered perfected. You want to create an inner dynamics within the service department, always seeking to excel and improve, and the outsourcing process is just one of many issues that your organisation should live, feel, communicate and evaluate.

A successful implementation means that people have acquired a new and better way to work and carry out their business. This model for improvement must be flexible enough to allow the employees the freedom to test and evaluate different approaches and solutions to tasks and to allow the change to settle down in an ordered fashion.

An individual career-plan for each and every employee is also necessary. This goes not only to show that you, as a service provider, notices and values the individual co-worker. It's also an important tool to sharpen and improve the service organisation and to early on discover bottle-necks, risks and gaps in overall competence to guide your future training priorities and recruitment strategies. NB: this career-plan does in no way have to be synonymous with courses or further education that the employee is expected to participate in. You can be assigned a different role over time without formal training, and elder persons with more experience are likely to have different needs and capabilities than young recruits.

You should also know that an organisation's attitude to their work assignments and employer is likely to pan through both highs and lows over time. This certainly goes for a critical process like an outsourcing- deal. There are a number of factors at work that you should be aware of that influence the moral of the organisation and the motivation of its employees. These issues will have to be considered lest the outsourcing process runs the risk of stalling; a disgruntled opposition gains hold and key personnel abandon the service division.

Typically the outsourcing process starts with a business case proposed among the higher ranks, and immediately rumours will start to spread. Once the decision is in to move forward with the transfer of services and the deal has been officialised, a number of factors with a lesser or larger negative impact on the motivation are already at work within the work-place. Among these factors is uncertainty, the sense of diminished status and the fear to be redundant, amounting new work-load and crippling tasks during the adjustment, bureaucratic and administrative red-tape and issues relating to C&B (costs and benefits, incl pension plans). During this initial phase of the outsourcing process you should expect the motivation to drop at least slightly.

The second half of the outsourcing process would typically start with a number of staff-meetings, upon which individual counselling follows suit. Here, issues are addressed regarding the employee's own future role in this new organisation, the employee signs over to Johnson Controls (or some other facilities provider), and the employees takes up their development programs and get to experience the career change first hand. This second half of the outsourcing process, which chronologically comes after the more negatively phrased first part, sees a number of different factors influence moral and motivation. People get to see the objectives that have been negotiated with their former employer, the questions and doubts for what will be next year and the coming 5 years get their answers, the new service environment gets explained, knowledge and understanding of their new employer increases, the personnel terms get sorted out and there is a mutual commitment between the employees and their new management. This decreased uncertainty will typically boost moral within the new serviceorganisation, hopefully to a higher and more stable level than during the previous inhouse-regime (allowing the outsourced department to exceed the expectations of their client).

After having tackled the emotional challenges in the outsourcing-process, management attention now shifts towards an ongoing development and improvement towards the strategic goals behind the deal. Later on, the management will also be able to look towards the horizon and set up longterm goals for both the service delivery and the employees' careers. Employee feelings, accomplishment of business goals and long-term development are the three cornerstones in an outsourcingprocess. To capture all these three potentially hot potatoes, the objectives and communication between manager and staff will have to address also soft/wet issues. It's not enough to put forth statistics and data; you'll have to understand both HOW the employees want this information presented to them (which isn't always the same as the most rational way over the intranet), and at what time they FEEL INFORMED (not necessarily the moment when a detailed pdf-document landed in their mailbox).

A poor example of communication from the Swedish market is when a company was awarded a contract at an outsourced Swedish library and had their HQ send out an American graduated change management consultant from HQ to pull off some cheerleader management-antics in the hope of motivating an already hostile division consisting primarily of 50 year old women. His mother-of-allpowerpoint presentations didn't quite cut it… Whether the employees feel comfortable and content within the new environment may sometimes depend on very small and simple things in management liaison; did the new boss wash his own coffee-cup after the staff meeting and did he remember to bring a cake to the Friday meeting like the old manager always did?

This just goes to show that an important part of the early process is a cultural assessment, where you as an intended service manager tries to regard the process from the eyes of an ordinary employee. They won't have your inside information and things that to you appear self-explanatory are often major sources of doubt to them. An early cultural assessment will also provide you with an early and relevant feedback on the potential obstacles and delays the deal will face and may also serve to enlighten ways to improve your client-offer.

Some of these softer aspects you can measure. Personal turn-over, sick-days and chargeable amount of occupied time per employee are known hard facts. However, quality of information, individual career-options, management, perception and attitude to business objectives, employee sense of influence on their job, useful feedback, perception of work-load, degree of worksatisfaction and general sense of wellbeing also tells you a lot of how well the outsourced division functions.

In all processes of change, one should always respect the self-interest of the individual co-worker. In change, people are - at least sub-consciously- afraid they stand to loose something of value to them. It could be prestige or to end up outside the group of influential and decision-making people. An employee who doesn't feel safe or trust the new management will value the risk of loosing something higher than the opportunity to gain something. As a manager, it's not feasible to write these concerns off as the misguided perceptions of stupid reactionaries. There is no fixed truth; all change is valued subjectively, and it's up to the management to command and lead with such confidence-inspiring reliability and trustworthiness so that employee gut feeling will work for and not against change. Once you're caught deceiving about the change people will loose their faith in you. Then it no longer matters what good you propose since everything you then say will be misinterpreted.

There are a number of things you could do to lessen resistance and increase your credibility as a courting service provider. Make sure the change is well processed in top-management. Make the personnel a part of the process, for instance by assigning groups the task to identify services with the potential for improvement. Make sure the change mainly decreases boring work-load rather than increasing the same. Make sure the planned change well corresponds to the values and ideas embodied in the department (50 year old women in a small town can't be expected to hold the same notions as a mixed team of 30 year old engineers in the capital). Make the plan and strategy detailed, scheduled over time and have it come complete with checklist to follow and evaluate. People should at no point in the first two out of the three stages mentioned above feel their employment threatened as a result of the outsourcing. Make sure to give just credit to employees; giving them credit to have pointed out flaws in the old organisation is a good way of not only having them embrace but also advocate the proposed change.

Sometimes you will run into resistance. This can be described as pain management. It's only when the perceived pain of not doing anything exceeds the pain of actually doing something that people will take active part in implementing a change. This new organisation of yours will go through labours but also eventually deliver. You; focus on where the problem lies, and don't point out problems no-one hasn't considered. Spread a common understanding of an existing problem so that the awkwardness of doing nothing is widely appreciated. Once everyone is on level with the current state, change is easier accomplished. At this point, don't focus on the change itself, but rather on the implications on doing nothing. Have feedback work for you; surveys, statistics, comparisons etc. Only then can you put the actual change in perspective. What would be best case scenario regarding the facilities services as far as everyone is concerned? Spread enthusiasm for moving towards this goal through visions, previous successstories and present a realistic outlook on the near future that everyone can identify with.

As many as 70% of all outsourcingdeals can be considered failures (in terms of whether they have actually succeeding in meeting all their business objectives set up prior to the deal). All to often, the explanation focuses on the money-side or contact architecture, whereby the HR-part of the deal is said have been lost. Start from the other end. Don't begin the process by establishing a "global workplace" or harmonizing the C & B and lay off redundancies. Instead start with the identification and retaining of key personnel. And who are they anyway; names, age and successors? Then address the communication and integration of the new business cultures. Now at least you have a more structured take on the organisation in question to stand on to handle the outsourcing and transfer of management, which makes it possible to create a well-motivated and well-governed service-organisation, the solid framework on which future earnings depend. Remember, service business is about people, and Rome wasn't built in a day; your empire will have to take shape over the years and not be rushed.

Anna-Karin Samuelson from Johnson Controls is a leading Swedish expert on Human Resources and well known key note speaker at facilities managementconferences.

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