Feature

IT chiefs must sell offshore deals to staff

IT directors need to work harder to secure support from staff when negotiating controversial offshore outsourcing contracts, the National Outsourcing Association has warned.

Common mistakes made by organisations include not being open with staff about outsourcing plans from the start and, in the worst cases, employees finding out about an offshore deal by reading an article in the press.

With a growing number of UK companies moving IT systems and administrative functions to lower-cost countries such as India, IT managers need to be prepared to help to negotiate and to sell a deal to the workforce.

Unions have threatened strike action if offshore agreements result in compulsory redundancies and many organisaitons are reluctant to publicise offshore deals.

IT directors should be part of a management "Swat" team that co-ordinates communication about an offshore deal to staff and to the media, according to Kerry Hallard, director of communications at the National Outsourcing Association, whose members are drawn from business IT users, suppliers and consultancies.

Companies need to have an open-door policy after a deal is announced, allocating time for managers to answer employees' questions and concerns. "If you have disharmony in the workforce it can spread like wildfire," she said.

There should also be clear communication on the implications of the deal for staff. For example, they need to know how many employees will be transferred to the supplier and whether they will be covered by Tupe employment legislation, which guarantees their existing terms and conditions when transferring to the new supplier.

Staff who will lose their jobs need to be given coaching and time - at least two days a month - to find a new one, said Hallard.

Recruitment consultants can help those facing redundancy to find work, although some firms may feel this encourages a further exodus of staff, she added.

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This was first published in July 2004

 

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