A friend told me this story.
He heads the IT department for the Canadian division of an international telecommunications company that has more than 60,000 employees worldwide. Four years ago, in preparation for a proposed merger, the executive management decided to divest itself of several functions. Accordingly, IT, facilities management and a few other bits and pieces were all outsourced.
My friend found himself working for a company to whom he felt no loyalty, reporting to a invisible and practically unreachable manager at the other end of the globe. His benefits and salary were cut, but in these difficult times, he considered himself lucky to have a job. So he soldiered on.
Two years after the outsourcing move, the telecom company reconsidered its decision. The merger had gone through, but the anticipated savings had never materialized. Worse still, due to the presence of a middle organization, IT projects proceeded at a glacial pace and duplications of work abounded in a confusing mishmash of divisions and functions. So the telecom decided to rehire all (well, almost all) of its IT people. Naturally, the clock reset itself for these people in terms of seniority and other benefits.
This month, my friend has just been informed that with a new CEO at the helm, the decision has been made to – surprise! – outsource IT yet again. The message from the top is that this is being done “to promote efficiency”.
If my friend still had hair (sorry, mate), he would have torn it out by now. Once again, the employees with the least amount of control over their working environments are having the stuffing kicked out of them.
My friend tells me, “Nick, I’m good at my job. I encourage innovation within my team. I bring projects in on time and on budget, with the resources that are allocated to me. But it often seems I do this despite hindrance from upper management. I know that they will do anything, absolutely anything, to save a buck. They don’t care about their employees, even though their website states, ‘Our people are our greatest asset’. They are disconnected from the reality of our business, and incapable of communicating with and supporting their employees. It’s like working for morons! My resume is up to date and if I can get something elsewhere, I am gone.”
Does this sound familiar? I’m sure many of you have heard versions of this sad tale. Maybe you have lived through something like it yourself. And I can’t believe, that with all the knowledge that we have, with all the management books that have been written, that the same mistakes keep happening, over and over again.
Next week in Part II: I’ll explore some of the reasons (and a different point of view) for this uncomfortable situation.