Nestling in the Channel Islands, Guernsey has a reputation for natural beauty, flowers and tomatoes - and, more recently, of being a leading offshore financial centre. It is also thought of as an expensive, up-market place where the lifestyle is great but houses cost a fortune and local skills are in short supply. It is a place also of good management, ethics, confidentiality and good practice in a favourable, stable legislative environment with good government. It is, perhaps, more thought of as ‘the place to go’ for lifestyles reason when you have sold your business and made your pile.
However, the Island has, perhaps, not been thought of as an ideal place from which to build a business and certainly not as a centre for outsourcing. Not till now that is.
Global Back Office, a Guernsey based company, has been established with subsidiaries and links to India so that the best of Guernsey’s track record is combined with the best of India’s skills in an innovative approach designed to partner professionals in Recruitment and HR across 7000 miles.
2006 has, to some extent, seen the coming of age of BPO as it reaches beyond the domains of the global organisations that had previously reserved the benefits for themselves and becomes accessible and affordable to SME’s in professional services such as HR and Recruitment.
In some areas unions and labour have begun to resist what seems like an inevitable, long term re-alignment of jobs akin to the changes that took place in shipbuilding, coal, steel, etc. 25 years ago and which helped trigger similar changes in some blue- and white-collar jobs also. The concerns are understandable but history and experience clearly show that, when the economic fundamentals move on in line with changes in technology that make possible other ways of working, then jobs and process inevitably follow so that people and businesses have to change with the market or risk suffering the consequences.
The virtually unlimited human and skilled resources of India have become the topic for consideration by most business managers who must deal with options to cut costs, increase resources and bring about greater flexibility and innovation in their business - or face the verdict of the market and the success of those of their competitors who do the job properly. If outsourcing works in so many field then why, we asked, might in not work in employment?
Most BPO decisions, as opposed to outsourcing tasks and/or project management, are made by large companies with big wallets and lots of the patience required to get it right. Having, over five years, successfully completed an innovative BPO process for our own Human Resource Management and Recruitment operations,
Global Back Office
began to extend its operations to the business back office processes of other professional services companies also to give them access to additional, affordable resources.
Says Michael P S Taylor, a director of Global Back Office
and the originator of the first BPO activities – “Six years ago we concluded that we could re-engineer our HR and Recruitment processes, web-enable them and we could create a central resource centre that would allow us, and our associates, to operate as a worldwide facility. Had we tried to achieve these objectives in any other way, outside India it would have cost us an arm and a leg and would have required us to raise capital. That would have either made us run harder, for longer, or have left us with little or no equity in our own business. It would probably have been unaffordable by any other means at the levels of excellence we set ourselves”.
When asked about the problems associated with setting up in India Michael told us:
“First, you need endless patience and stamina. Then you need to get to understand how to get the best out of your Indian team for which you almost certainly need a new management and HR process. You need familiarity with the culture, to understand the caste and class system and the hierarchy it brings about. You must gain an understanding of how a team with lots of talent can also have no real concept of health and safety, or customer service or mutual trust or loyalty.”
might sound awful but, only if you recognise the realities, can you really outsource successfully. We have a stable, loyal team working together doing things in a matrix management system that everyone told me would not - could not - work in India. The Global Back Office teams give the lie to that. They love it and have come to realise that when we ask for opinions we want to know what they think rather than to have heir acquiescence to every daft idea we might come up with”.
Michael had the support of a co-director of Indian origin - which presumably means he had a head start.
I asked him if he could have done it without that Indian background?
“No, we could not. Equally, even with that advantage we could not have completed the process at both ends without the balanced team of managers having international experience to draw on”.
Where and how far can this take the recruitment industry, we asked. Michael told us
“As far as you like. Our experience with HR has shown us that by careful planning and working with your client in a transparent way you can develop and evolve a
BPO/RPO approach with a minimum of risk and disruption. We can cut costs, increase flexibility and improve operational effectiveness in terms of research, marketing, billing, data management, web management, job descriptions, response management and candidate liaison and interview arrangements. About 30-35% is a working figure for savings over direct costs but there are other benefits also, less obvious but there to be exploited. You know you are getting somewhere when you hear a young graduate in India telling HR that the candidate cannot get from Liverpool to their location before 0900 unless they stay overnight. Similarly it was a joy to see another member of our team – someone who has never seen the ocean – making arrangements for an employee of NASA who was working in Mexico to fly to Europe for a job interview for work with
ESA.” (European Space Agency).
Clearly this is an approach whose time has come. We are developing ideas with a number of recruitment professionals to create a range of solutions with, and for them, the kind of partnerships that are needed for the future of recruitment, HR and head hunting. It is not really rocket science. If you are a successful, experienced Consultant working in the NW of England with an office in London, then does it matter if your highly qualified assistants are delivering your work and/or research from 7000 miles away rather than from 220 miles away in London?”
Michael cautions, “There is no doubt about the benefits but, inevitably, there are real issues
around confidentiality and working together. To be frank, there is not a lot of trust in the recruitment sector
- which is not known, either, for its willingness to co-operate with
one other. Consequently the first thought of many is: Yes, BUT what about data and client security etc?
Of course there are practical answers to every concern – we have to demonstrate that every day to people who are
canny business folk and not easily convinced. But security is not just a single fix – it is rather a part of a long-term culture. This means that BPO for recruitment is only truly possible between
partners - it is for those who really want to make it happen. The justification is that the benefits can be significant and lasting. Fortunately, there is a growing number of people in recruitment who can see the long-term inevitability of what technology and culture are now making possible”.
So, behind the nice words it is still exporting jobs, we ask?
“Not at all” is the
assuring response. “In terms of our operations - most of the work we are doing or evaluating is actually bringing new services, addition revenue to the Island – business that would not otherwise be viable from the island as a base. In terms of the professional services business we support – they simply shift their resources to spend more time in customer facing roles.”
The real importance is where value is added and that usually demands ideas being developed taking them with affordable resources to the global market? Exporting jobs? No. Exporting ideas and finding new ways to attract new business that might not otherwise be possible? Certainly!
We can see a time when a collective of small agencies sharing a central resource but with their own dedicated teams can become a global operation fully capable of punching above its weight – capabilities and marketing - in the worldwide market along with the ‘big boys’ - but at a fraction of their costs and with none of their bureaucracy.
There you have it – Guernsey as a centre for outsourcing! “Guernsey, where you can cut your costs, increase your resources, become more flexible whilst preserving confidentiality, quality and ethics”. Quite a new message don’t you think?
Michael P S Taylor email@example.com,
* * *