Changing with the changing times

Nick Martindale finds out how companies can best deal with a constantly evolving business landscape

The trials and tribulations of the last four years have led many organisations to re-evaluate both their business strategy and operating model.

Whether downsizing to reduce bottom-line costs, finding opportunities through mergers and acquisitions or investing in new markets, hardly any organisation has escaped a large degree of turmoil.

Understanding the people side is essential for any organisation going through a period of transition. “Projects often die because employees aren’t trained to understand how the change will impact them and affect their daily role,” says Tony Maurice, a partner in Deloitte’s change management practice.

“For a change management programme to be successful, the leadership team needs to demonstrate the benefits of the change by leading their people, gaining their trust and engaging them in the process from day one. If people don’t understand their role in the process, they won’t take part.”

For many companies, the emphasis is on keeping headcount low, meaning change management programmes have often been accompanied by outsourcing, where staff may be transferred to a dedicated provider of non-specialist services, and a greater use of contract labour.

“Organisations are being forced to think about the way in which they operate,” says Richard Goold, executive director at Moorhouse Consulting. “This includes the need to differentiate between what is core and non-core in terms of what they do and to engage with outsourcing providers which can take on the non-core components and deliver them at a cheaper cost with no degradation of service.”

The leadership team needs to demonstrate the benefits of change

Paul Lambert, associate director at management consultancy Hay Group, says companies looking to go down this route need to ensure they identify the right blend of core and contracted workforce for their particular business strategy, and then contrast that against the likely future shape of the business, taking into account anticipated requirements and both retention and retirement trends.

Such outsourced relationships can offer both risk and opportunities to employers and employees, he adds. “For employers, care needs to be taken to identify what is core, high valueadding work and to make sure the skills are not lost to the core business,” he says. “For the employee, there is a danger of being trapped in “commoditised work” that has been outsourced, such as in call centres, with limited career development prospects.”

Susy Roberts, director at Hunter Roberts, a change management consultancy, points out the opportunities that can also arise for those staff being transferred to new providers and it is this aspect that employers will need to stress to ensure they get the buy-in that is required.

“It can mean more career opportunities, more development and more status,” she says. “If you’re working within a small internal team in HR or payroll in a large organisation, you might feel detached and uninvolved. Working for an outsourced operation where HR and payroll is the core business, your work takes on more value and significance.”

Technology also has a pivotal part to play in shaping the workplace of the future, with flexible and remote working allowing organisations to implement new models that will keep overheads down. The deployment of corporate tools based on social networking technologies is also helping both organisations and outsourced providers operate more efficiently.

This is something with which the “millennial generation” is entirely comfortable, says Sanjiv Gossain, senior vice president and head of UK and Ireland operations at IT outsourcer Cognizant. “The onus is on corporations to bring consumer IT to corporate IT to attract and retain employees,” he says. “Being a part of this global ecosystem invigorates employees and makes businesses stronger.”