The Compulsions of Transitions – Human Factors

By Sairam Bollapragada

It is well known fact that Transitions are ridden with risks. However, many times, in order to demean the risks, the transition manager tries all the tricks and ticks in his bag and rightfully so. The outcomes are important and a successful cut-over with least pain to the continued service delivery is the key. However, there are many factors which are outside of the control parameters of a transition manager – majorly attributed to the client organization. Let me jot down few points for consideration here….

Transition is seen by many employees as an opportunity for benefit out of chaos.  It could be to address the work-life balance, diversity, importance, move-up-the-ladder, etc. There are several agendas from various stakeholders that add complexity to the entire process. The client may view transition as an opportunity to weed out the non-performing employees while the incoming vendor would look at reducing the pain of hiring best people who are high performers and can make the transition journey almost a cake-walk.

However, one should also appreciate that the employees, at this point in time, undergo lot of stress with the trauma of risks arising from potential job-losses. This has to be very skillfully handled else the best are always the first to leave and leave behind the mediocrity with lot of risks to the success of transition. Knowledge is the obvious key.  The failure of companies to recognize that an Organization is community of knowledge workers (esp in IT industry) who can be positively or negatively influenced has thrown a spanner into the plans.

Intelligent Communication plans and patterns can be critical to the success of creating a positive environment and help transition to definitely succeed. It is psychologically proven that people tend to be poor performers due to stress and depression. Regular positive notes and communications assuring the best to the employees is a must and should be planned that way.

Similarly strategizing the action plan- majorly with the timelines plays vital role. One of the examples of bad strategy is dismissal of an employee during transition. It could be disastrous to the trust of employees and may not prompt them to share their skills or useful insights into the work they might be handling and this can impact in a huge way.

Another strategy that can go wrong is trying to make changes at several layers at the same time. These organizational transformations should be kept disassociated from transitions and if it becomes so inevitable, must be kept at minimal.  There is hardly any mitigation to employees at all levels resigning from consistent pressure during transition. Many employers don’t factor the crisis of confidence before the business goals they have set out to accomplish. Again, as mentioned good people leave first.  This can impact our transition plans severely and it can leave the transition manager crippled if it happens even before you have commenced transition. Then the knowledge is gone and you have nobody to fill in.

 

Potential cures:                                                                       

A Transition manager should insist on getting his counterpart role to be positioned in the client organization as well so that some of the client dynamics can be handled.

The transition managers must work towards getting an understanding of the ground reality during due diligence to sense the hostility of the situation. If there seems to be silent rejection, please advise clients to plan for the open houses and soothe the situation. Open interactions help situations to ease.

However, sometimes, the fear of loss of job and change can prompt employees to turn hostile and aggressive. Even when offered a job, there is no guarantee that the offer will be accepted. This requires employees to be handled with kid gloves.

Sometimes, the connects to the client-employees can really open doors to knowledge bases. This is worth giving a shot and of course with the consent of the client management. It also helps to open communication channels, especially with the critical employees.

These are not exhaustive list as there can be multiple ways to handle sentiments, emotions, security, job-satisfaction, and all other human factors that can impact transition. However, the risks associated with the re-badging or HR transition should be assessed and mitigated cautiously. The same is discussed in another blog at my site called “Re-badging – Some Dos and Don’t’s”.

Re-badging – Some Dos and Dont’s

By Sairam Bollapragada

One of the mitigation a transition manager tries to de-risk the transition is re-badging. The task seems like a low hanging fruit which would make things easy. However, a word of caution, if this re-badging is not handled deftly, the entire transition can become a big mess causing irreparable damage to the credibility in the market!

However, all the eggs in the basket may not turn out to be an asset or become a Non-performing one. However, the primary needs to take up re-badging could arise out of:

  • Non-availability of our own employees
  • Lead times to hire
  • 3P incumbent vendor in a time-bound compulsion to move out
  • VISA and other external challenges
  • Time to get the Background verification done
  • Many more

The outsourcing decision is a major one for any organization and requires a decent appetite for risks. This is especially true for BPO kind of engagements. The transition managers on both ends need to work out strategies sitting together to mitigate potential risks. There is critical need to understand the HR scenario, rules, policies, regulations, etc for the transition manager and plan the strategies relevantly.

The need to understand the policies and aligning with the same while creating these plans for re-badging may bring along few challenges which if not foreseen can create a mess. One of the largest example is, in a certain country or organization there could be a policy stating you cannot hire a person for less than 12 months and you need to pay the WFR package when you decide to offload these resources.

Another one is you are mandated to take all the employees of the client organization and then pick and choose to fire them, but not before 6 months at least.  The cost of having the resource on board versus having an onsite fly-in resource has to be weighed at the knowledge levels needed to take over and perform the job. A wrong decision can bleed you both financially as well as from seamless take over.

The re-badging can help but requires one to take into consideration at least 6 major areas of focus

  1. Building new work environment through employee management (they are tagged to us when taken over)
  2. Smooth take-over and calibration of Delivery operations
  3. Smooth take-over of the workplace at client locations (aligning our folks amalgamating into theirs while managing the workplace ethics)
  4. Ensure that transition is more effective through proper documentation while KT is conducted to introduce the offshore component
  5. Conduct the smaller transformations to make the transition more effective
  6. Handling Change management with least disruptions to the client business

All this requires strong governance and monitoring so that the cut-over period and post that are not seeing too many issues cropping up. Many transition plans have a strong assumption that re-badging would help totally derisk the transition and address the critical knowledge part without many challenges. However, I must say that the re-badging poses certain problem areas to be addressed and cannot be taken as a ready made silver bullet to close your risks:

  1. Agreement with incumbent teams for technical screening of the employees to be re-badged (after all, we don’t want to build non-performing assets)
  2. Acceptance of the offers in time from them (avoid haggling)
  3. Right mix of onshore –offshore to keep the costs optimized
  4. Right Team-pyramid structure to influence the Span Of Control
  5. Ability of the incoming resources to align, accept and adjust to the our work culture, HR policies, pay pack, etc.

Before I close, another key advise to all the transition managers who want to bet big on re-badging is to manage excellent, time- bound – right communications. The perception management between the two teams (incumbent and transition-in) should be orchestrated well to avoid any gaps in relating expectations. After all, everybody is working towards one goal of good delivery SLA management!!

5 POINT COLLABORATIVE AGENDA FOR TRANSITIONS

By Sairam Bollapragada

Transition by nature is a very collaborative exercise where the emphasis is on winning the customer confidence through sheer performance and nothing but performance. While being transparent to the customer and drawing customer into action through participative mechanisms is a very critical success factor, being prepared and planned to foster a mutually agreed agenda is also key.

Point 1: Cultural Values: Enablers for effective collaboration include: shared values and cultural fit along with wanting to ensure that both parties are successful. The corporate values on all sides play a very vital foundation role in ensuring collaboration. Unless there is a multi-party mutual acceptance of each others culture and values, Objectives will not become singular in nature. The emergence of transition as a common goal MUST happen.

Point 2: Communication: Collaboration requires a communication framework that ensures openness, honesty, and a focus on having effective discussions rather than always trying to “get it right.” Getting it right is an outcome of all the activities which has its basis as communication. All parties involved must exchange notes and treat it as a the most important factor to succeed.

Point 3: Transformation: Service provider selection criteria for a collaborative outsourcing relationship needs to include the provider’s expertise in understanding the customer scenarios and helping customers change and to drive transformation into its operations, along with the provider’s willingness to embrace challenges and take risks on the buyer’s behalf. The apathy generated would help provider behave like an extended part of the customer entity. A transition manager must have commendable emotional quotient (EQ).

Point 4: Flexible Contract: A rigid contract and governance framework that nails down all the terms and conditions, locking the parties into a certain position, will hinder the ability to be flexible through changing circumstances in any outsourcing relationship. Though the contract is critically essential, in a collaborative relationship, this rigidity can stop the flow of ideas to change for good. An established rule-based playbook would help all to play by pre-consented policies with implicitly built-in agreements providing flexibility across the relationship.

Point 5: Incentivized Relationship: Parties in a collaborative and business-transformational outsourcing relationships will benefit greatly by building an incentive arrangement (gain-sharing mechanism like bonuses, etc.) into their relationships, as it helps to ensure the parties’ interests will remain aligned over time. They also see the gains of a turbulent phase of transition where the learning is hugely exponential as transition manager has his task cut out and cannot accommodate anything else in his sight other than safe and successful cutover.