Western economies have been through the process of discovering that outsourcing can be good for businesses, if structured in a considered way and focused on customer needs.
The next big step is that large businesses discover how to really outsource their permanent work force. Instead of bodies merely wanting and waiting to pick up a weekly pay check, they could have a work force who are motivated to deliver real results for the company, and in the process demonstrate their own uniqueness and excellence.
There are some major obstacles in the way, however, and it requires a 3 stage process of Darwinian evolution in business owners and managers to reach the stage where they start to appreciate the benefits of the "virtual" or "extended" work force that is the dream target.
- The ability to "really think outside the box". Many business people can talk the talk, but very few can actually walk the walk.
When meeting random business contacts, a new contact may not currently be able to meet a business objective, but the smart ones are on a learning curve, and may prove in future that they can add substantially to business turnover, cost savings or efficiency.
The trick is to consider which role a person might fill. Could they be a customer, a supplier, a partner, a mentor ?
Staying in touch is then a crucial step, along with trusting that each contact won't abuse a confidence and rain unwanted marketing through the letter box.
Our resident business consultant, Peter Jones, of Business Innovation & Strategy Ltd, says that there are now many ways of building a superior business network, and finding people who can undertake specific and unique work. Sadly, UK business is lagging seriously behind in adopting these new approaches and business tools, and needs to be givn a kick start to head in the right direction and catch up the 4 year deficit on the USA.
- Having established that someone can perform a service, the next step is to agree terms. This is crucial, because the wrong terms mean an unhappy relationship for customer, supplier, partner or adviser.
So many of us are so poor at explaining what we want, and so often this is a verbal explanation, which leads to mis-understandings and recriminations.
There is a great benefit in taking the time up front to write down what it is that is needed. This exercise on its own is a great benefit, as it can often lead to additional realisation and clarification. Peter Jones says that it is actually worth spending money to get terms which state clearly what is needed, getting a supplier to agree that they will deliver service X, in timescale Y, for remuneration Z.
- Having established a working relationship based on mutual understanding of the working "contract", then like any other relationship, this needs nurturing and care. Without care the relationship will fall into mutual apathy, dislike and eventual parting of the ways.
So share in the successes. Recognise work done well, work hard at the areas that need improvement, and the relationship will flourish, and so will the fortunes of the participants.
If all this seems like hard work, compare the relationship tyrant bosses have with their workforces against those that bosses who earn their colleagues' respect have. We all know that hard work can be difficult and time consuming.
As in the relationship we have with our children, time and love pay dividends. Business relationships are no different.
Also, clearly, current employment law is too restrictive and not flexible enough to allow businesses the scope to attract the resources they really need. This is the box that employers need to think outside.