Life After Outsourcing

An employee who finds out by way of the rumor mill that their job is being outsourced isn't going to feel to good about their employer or the company their job is transitioning to, says Bob Evans, vice president and general manager of Unisys Outsourcing. So if a company is seriously considering outsourcing they shouldn't keep their people in the dark.

"If they are kept in the dark and they find out through other means then you immediately lose their trust," Evans says. "At that point your people think that you are going to do something to them and not something with them."

Unisys prides itself on its successful practice of stepping in and taking care of its client's people during a transition of employees from the customer to them. The information technology (IT) solutions provider says that it thinks of the employees first because employee retention, with their morale intact, is important to the success of an outsourcing arrangement.

When Unisys is contacted by a company that is considering outsourcing, it discusses the people first. The outsourcing company wants to know if the employees have been told of the decision to consider outsourcing. If not, Unisys informs the company that the employees probably have a pretty good idea that a change is being considered and that they are included in those changes.

Unisys begins assisting the company immediately with effective ways of communicating to their staff that outsourcing is being considered, Evans says. "It is a value that needs to be understood even if the company hasn't made a concrete decision yet," he says. "And the communication must remain consistent until a decision has been made."

Once They Have Been Chosen

If Unisys is later selected as the vendor, the first thing the company does is talk to the people themselves. "We want the employees to understand who we are, why we are in the business that we are in, and what it is that we do," he says. "Basically we want to put a human side to the transaction, because that is what they need at that point in time. They need to understand that they are just like us, there is a career growth plan for them and that there will be life after outsourcing -- a very good life."

When Unisys gets to the point where it is close to closing the deal, they typically give the transitioning employees an offer letter, telling them what their job is going to be. The employees are also told what they should expect to get as a Unisys employee.

"And once the deal is consummated we put on a full court press," he says. "Unisys has an all-hands meeting and individual meetings so that we can understand everything about the employees, their fears, concerns and desires. And then we reassure them that they will be taken care of, which is real important because outsourcing can be a scary thing."

Employees are then either collocated with the client, or their job will be transferred to another office or one of several Unisys service centers. Evans gives an example of how an employee transition works. In one particular arrangement, 60 IT employees were transitioned to Unisys and offered a few options. One option was to relocate to a service center in Eagan, Minn., which 17 people decided to do. But Unisys also felt that a number of jobs could be done out of an office near the customer's location. So employees who didn't wish to relocate were given that option, or another, to work from home offices. And about five people decided to find work elsewhere and were provided assistance to do so. "We manage by results not activity," Evans says. "So we leave our options open and if results can be produced then we will try to make it work."

Career Advancement

Unisys also has a state of the art human resources (HR) system. Employee skills are assessed and entered into a database so that every corporate manager and project manager in the company knows where to look for specific skills. The system also has a "Unisys University," to help employees understand what career advancement classes they can take and an explanation of them. Unisys also does career pathing so that the employees can understand all the vertical markets that the IT company is in and the disciplines they have. Unisys posts every job opening it is offering and employees are given the opportunity to apply to any of the jobs they choose, worldwide.

"The entire transition process is very important and it is something that should not be overlooked because a company doesn't want to lose the intellectual capital that it has today," Evans says. "If it does lose intellectual capital then it is losing the most important part of its processing capability.

"That is why it is so important for us to focus on the people themselves, understand their personal situations, explain to them the business needs that we have, and come to accommodations that are generally in favor of the employee," he says. "This gives the customer a clear understanding that the people who are critical to them are going to be taken care of and that they are not going to lose them. They understand that the institutional knowledge that they have had through the years is going to be passed on to the outsourcer."