Most of the problems employees will experience during a BPO project will not be related to the hardware or software infrastructure associated with BPO.
They will more likely be related to failures in understanding new workflows, work procedures, and work responsibilities.
From the apocryphal user who cannot find the “Any” key (“Press any key to continue”) to the individual struggling to find data that, without warning, now appears under a new field name, there are always problems with human adaptation to new systems.
When the buyer and vendor system architectures come together in a BPO project, there will be workflow and responsibility changes.
To avoid some of the problems that arise from process-related changes, and to ensure a smooth transition to the new system, training should be provided to everyone-even those who are adamant that they do not need to be trained.
One hurdle that many BPO project managers face with respect to training employees and getting them to be more self-sufficient is obtaining support from midlevel managers, because the middle manager is trying to learn the new processes while maintaining the unit’s productivity.
This juggling act can be challenging in the throes of a major BPO-based business transformation.
Perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of a thorough training infrastructure to support the BPO transition is that employee training has been shown to be an important differentiator between BPO projects that succeed and those that fail.
When training is neglected, the chance that buyer-side employees will be surprised and/or disappointed with new procedures and workflows increases.
BPO project managers will have a small window of opportunity during the transition phase to win converts to the new routines and work patterns.
We referred to two different types of obstructionists who may block on sabotage the BPO project.
Some of these people can be won over via a vigorous training and support regimen. Asking people to participate and take on a leadership role in some aspect of the BPO transition is an excellent way to counter their obstruction.
For instance, delegating responsibility for training others on the new procedures, along with appropriate levels of accountability for the success of the transition, is an effective project management tactic.
It is nearly impossible for someone to be involved in training others without developing enthusiasm for and interest in the training topic.
Public performance, even if not necessarily freely chosen, leads to a phenomenon known as “social facilitation.” People-even those who have a tendency toward obstructionism-simply perform at a higher level when they are in a social setting.
BPO project managers can co-opt potential obstructers by getting them involved in the training and support offered to employees in the BPO transition phase.
The content of employee training offered during the BPO transition should include a detailed and thorough review of new work procedures, responsibilities, and expectations.
Design of the training should be modular, with each module independently constructed and each focusing on a specific aspect of the new standard operating procedures.
Modularization of the training enables managers and employees to determine who needs to attend which training modules.
It also enables greater training depth in each module. If training is not modularized, if often is either too detailed for some users who already understand a process or not detailed enough for those who are unfamiliar with on new to the process.
Modularization allows training designers to deliver both depth and scope, while ensuring that employees have opportunities to select the training sessions (or for managers to appoint them to training sessions) from which they can truly benefit.
No one enjoys sitting though a training session that relays information he or she has already well understood.
Carefully developed two- to four-hour training modules help avoid training overkill, while providing adequate coverage of the knowledge gaps.
Considerations for the BPO-Related Training Program
• Develop a clear set of standard operational procedures (SOPs),
• The training program should revolve around the SOPs.
• Conduct multiple training sessions:
1. Train in a group setting.
2. Train while working alongside the employees during their workday.
3. When answering questions, always refer back to the SOP.
4. Final training should be completed after 60 days (refresher)
• Do not take training highly
A common error that hampers BPO projects is a failure to train vendor side employees, probably because of the erroneous assumption that the vendor is expert in the business process and therefore does not have a need for training.
This is true in some cases-especially those that involve an onshore outsourcing relationship-but it is prudent to review training needs of the BPO vendor.
Some types of vendor-side training that are being provided to accelerate the transition to the BPO operating phase include the following:
• Cultural adaptation training to help buyer and vendor employees adapt to one another
• Language training, including voice and accent modification training, to reduce communication barriers
• Training on laws and customs of the BPO buyer
• Training on culture and lifestyles of the BPO buyer’s customers
• Training on differing management and leadership styles of the BPO buyer
Besides, training should be designed to integrate the cultures of the BPO buyer and vendor.
This may include some training offered at each location so that key employees are able to experience the culture and work habits of their BPO partner firm.
In some cases, BPO, buyer and vendor employees work side-by-side for a period of time in a form of on-the-job training that facilitates cross-enterprise understanding.
The BPO transition phase is the most difficult of the life cycle and the one where future operating patterns, routines, and procedures and established and frozen into place.
In the best of all possible worlds, the procedures established lead to a highly efficient interorganizational system that runs trouble-free for years.
Of course, we do not live in the best possible world, and problems arise in even the most carefully crafted systems.
To deal with ongoing challenges to system integrity caused by breakdowns or other factors, a systematic support system, troubleshooting approach, and record-keeping strategy should be established.
The support system established for the BPO transition and operating phases must be adequate to meet the needs of the buyer and vendor organizations alike.
Each will face unique challenges based on exposure to new operating procedures, in addition to the challenges associated with the merging of two independent work cultures.
The support system established to manage the technical issues that arise should be modeled on the common help desk approach used by many IT departments.
The only consideration unique to a BPO project is which firm will manage the help desk function.
The vendor should inherit most of the responsibility from troubleshooting and supporting the outsourced process.
This should be part of the contract and should have its own SLAs. However, because the BPO vendor is usually geographically distant from the buyer-maybe overseas-the buyer should have on-site support personnel who may be on the vendor payroll but accountable to a buyer-side manager.