This past December, Lauren Weber of the Wall Street Journal wrote about the rise of employee outsourcing and detailed how companies are taking advantage of this breed of worker to save money and access certain skill levels without having to increase headcount. Interestingly, according to the article, five of the top twenty global employers in 2017 were outsourcing companies and that number continues to trend upward.
In reading Lauren’s article, I was intrigued by its objectivity, but felt that something was missing. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally got it – there was no mention of the importance of communications to addressing the needs of outsourced workers.
While outsourcing may be great for companies and their profit margins, what does it mean for the employee? One sentence from Lauren’s article stood out to me: “Workers in jobs that have gone to outsourcers, though, can feel moved around like chess pieces, either displaced entirely or re-badged as employees of a service provider.” If I go to work at Ford, but don’t actually work for Ford, there’s a distinct possibility that I may become lonely and displaced. Why? Because the people that I sit next to and eat lunch with daily may be invited to participate in the Ford town hall meetings or company picnics, but I am not since I don’t actually work for Ford.
At this point, it’s well agreed upon that employee communications, engagement and morale are critical to a company’s success and can directly impact a company’s top and bottom line. Employees in companies that take advantage of outsourced workers are like a fly ball coming down between two outfielders. Both the outsourcing company and host employer are looking at each other waiting for the other to call ‘I got it.’ They don’t want to run into each other, so instead they end up watching the ball drop. With no clear ownership, employees can start to feel discomfort and confusion, which can negatively impact job performance, reflect poorly on the outsourcing company in the eyes of their client and hurt the bottom line of host employers.
This is where strategic internal communications and engagement comes into play. Companies taking advantage of outsourced workers, as well as those doing the outsourcing, should prioritize improving employee engagement to ensure an involved and enthusiastic workforce. As the influence of outsourcing companies continues to grow, strategic employee communications and engagement should be a central tenet of successful corporate strategies. Through streamlined collaboration from both types of organizations, employees can be made to feel at home, engaged with their company’s mission and empowered to deliver their best work.