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Business process outsourcing: Communicating with employees

20 Comments · Business outsourcing

Effective communication with employees is vital to the business process outsourcing (BPO) transition process. A lack of communication from managers to employees does not mean a lack of communication within the organization.

Organizational space abhors a communication vacuum. If the space is not filled with deliberate, optimistic, and directive messages from leadership, it will be filled by rumors, gossip, and speculation from the employees.

People need to understand their environment and will settle for half-baked speculative explanations if no better alternatives are available.

Effective employee communications begin with a simple notion: honesty. Honesty is the best policy not only because it is ethically correct, but also because half-truths and lies will ultimately destroy morale and productivity.

At the same time, blunt honesty is rarely a useful strategy. When asked about the results of a person’s weight loss efforts, the savvy respondent gives the aspiring weight loser an answer that does not offend, rather than the bluntly honest one. This is called common sense.

In organizational life, it also does not do any good to answer questions with blunt honesty.

Tact and sophistication can reduce the impact of a bluntly honest message. Organizations seeking to undertake a BPO initiative will often be entertaining the prospect of headcount reduction.

As one might expect, communicating that reality to employees may be detrimental to productivity.

At the same time, equivocating about the potential for job loss or outright denial of the possibility would be disingenuous, and that would be obvious even to those less talented at reading social cues.

The key to effective communication, then, is not simply honesty, but rather sophisticated honesty. By that we mean managers must communicate accurately and competently with employees about the extent and implications of the BPO initiative.

Accuracy pertains to the truthfulness of the message. There should be no question about the value of this quality. Competence pertains to the level of detail that is provided in a message to a given party.

Employees at different levels of the organization will need and benefit from different levels of detail about the initiative.

At a minimum, managers should communicate with all employees about what the BPO initiative means to them personally and what the organization intends to do to help them through the transition.

Every impact message delivered by management should be accompanied by a “here’s what going to do about it” message. This may even include the level of outplacement support that is going to be provided to employees who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the BPO initiative.

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