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TALENT AS THE BPO DIFFERENTIATOR
by Simon Sammons, Global Offerings Director, Accenture Operations
Thursday, February 05, 2015

As organizations continue to seek more strategic value from their outsourcing engagements, a critical skills gap has emerged. The kinds of skills organizations need internally from their own people to manage the outsourcing projects are distinctly different from those actually available or being developed for more normal operations management. This skills gap could leave the company unable to capture the sustainable business outcomes they are hoping to achieve.

A recent report from outsourcing analyst firm HfS found that organizations need to do a far better job harnessing the power of their people as a means of driving business value beyond cost reduction and “noiseless” delivery. Higher-level goals require higher-level skills. Companies need to focus on improving their talent management processes to hire, develop, engage and retain the right talent to realize the promise of business process outsourcing (BPO). But how?

Here’s a look at three practical steps that both the enterprise and its BPO provider must focus on to address this talent gap.

• Change the mindset—talent requirements change and it does matter. Employers need to provide meaningful work, personal and professional growth, and clear career paths for all workforces – those delivering the outsourced service, those managing receipt of the service and those benefitting from it. It means instilling in employees a sense of pride in their own organization and the other organisations they serve. It also means monitoring, measuring and taking action on employee engagement. At the same time, leaders need to model the right behaviors and help energize their teams as they embrace a new way of working.

• Develop formal training curriculums, particularly for managers. Skills development for outsourcing managers must focus on skill sets beyond those required to oversee basic operations – it turns out this is as important for the client receiving the service and managing the service contract as it is for the service provider. One company in the HfS study, for example, mandated three hours of weekly training in outsourcing governance for its managers. This approach quickly paid off in terms of increasing job satisfaction and advancing the company’s objectives for its major outsourcing engagements. While most organizations’ training functions lack the depth and scale to develop specialist programming in this area, there are quality programs available from third parties. As an example, the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals offers multi-level certification programs for outsourcing executives, managers and associates.

• Revamp skills expectations and competency models for the retained team. Organizations need to move beyond the older talent perspective that was primarily focused on operational skillsets. Some are looking for strategic skills by redefining the job competency models of those individuals managing service providers. One enterprise client cited in the study went so far as to revamp the retained team before it selected a service provider, knowing that a strong team was a key to success. Existing personnel had been experts in the way things had been done for years – not with a view toward tomorrow’s possibilities – so they made some new hires with proven experience in driving innovation pipelines.

The collaborative nature of a BPO relationship has enormous implications for how talent is sourced, developed and engaged. Enterprise leadership needs to have the desire and capability to transform its approach in developing and managing talent – at the same time that BPO providers must step up to the talent challenge. What’s needed is a leadership commitment to make the investments in time, energy and resources that will turn talent into a differentiating factor in the coming age of BPO.

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