BPO, Contact Centre, Customer service, Human resources

Managers must Manage their Bosses well

A key role of a managing director is managing his or her board. A well-managed board can be a great source of support, expertise and different perspective. A badly managed board can consume large amounts of management time, delay the making of strategic decisions and even lead to the removal of management altogether.

It is in the best interests of the whole leadership team to ensure that the board feels it is being heard, and that management is operating in a way compatible with the principles, intentions and strategic direction of the board. The relationship between a board and its leadership team is unique. When the board of company structure changes, so too should the approach the leadership team takes to its board management.

This is easier said than done. If a management team has invested heavily in devising its strategy, structuring the organisation and implementing new systems, it can get very attached to what it has created. Suppose the company is then merged or bought out, or the board changes for some other reason and the new board wants things done differently. How easy is it for the leadership team to back itself into a corner? Why change something that was working just for the sake of politics? Doesn’t it make more sense to invest time and energy in running the company than in answering a whole raft of questions from the board?

I remember working with two divisions of the same global company. The manager of one division thought the changed reporting requirements of head office were pointless and so ignored them (against, I might say, my advice). Not unexpectedly he was replaced. The head of the other division realised that unless he had the support of his leaders they would make his life and job untenable. He gave them what they wanted which allowed him the freedom to keep his independence.

Skills in upward management are essential for any leader. The job of a leader is to provide his or her superiors with information in the way they desire it so they can feel confident enough to grant a licence to operate. A licence to operate allows people to get on and do what they need to do to be successful.

By learning the political ropes and reporting in a way that builds trust, leaders create an environment in which their people can concentrate on the job at hand. This just doesn’t happen. The relationship between leaders up and down every organisation can be a winning tool for success or a constant block and annoyance. The difference is the willingness of each leader to manage his/her bosses’ need to know.

Margot is the creator of 12 Steps For Business; a strategic leadership and corporate transformation toolkit which enables leaders and organisations to envisage and achieve unprecedented levels of growth and success.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Strong Employee Engagement = Exceptional Customer Experience

Creating exceptional experiences for customers requires having engaged employees who are enthusiastic about their workplace and their role within the organisation. According to a recent Gallup study however, employees are disengaged at work – worldwide only a tiny 13% of workers are engaged.

Considering how much time we all have to spend at work, it must be soul destroying to go to a place everyday that eats away at the very fabric of your being. Of course if you are paying off a ridiculous mortgage like people do in Sydney then you may not have a lot of choice. The rat race is a very stressful endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It invokes the image of the fruitless efforts of a lab rat spending its existence running around and around on a spinning wheel or maze. And remember at the end of the rat race you are still a rat.

In a parallel to the modern urban environment, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of energy running around, but ultimately achieve nothing either collectively or individually. The rat race is often used in reference to modern work places, particularly repetitive, monotonous and dull work. This terminology contains inferences that many people see work as a seemingly sad endless pursuit with little reward or purpose other than a place to go everyday so that they can pay their bills.

The increased image of work as a “rat race” in modern times has led many people to question their own attitudes to work and seek a better alternative; a more pleasant-sounding ‘work –life balance’. Many people believe that long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, commuting, less time for family life and/or friends life, has led to a general malaise in our communities, an unhappier workforce who do not have time to enjoy the benefits of increased economic prosperity and a supposed higher standard of living. The output of this way of living is manifested in divorce rates in first world countries of over 50%.

The Gallup report also says that the vast majority of people, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning that one quarter pretty much really hate their jobs. Ouch! That cannot be a good thing for employee or employer. They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish.

Add the last two categories and you get 87% of workers worldwide who, as Gallup puts it, “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.” In other words, work is more often a source of frustration than one of fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers. That means that most workplaces are less productive and less safe than they could be and employers are less likely to create new jobs.

The major challenges with employee engagement starts with defining the term. Employee engagement is a workplace methodology designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, inspired to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well being.

Author of Employee Engagement 2.0 and Employee Engagement for Everyone, Kevin Kruse, states, “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.”

The definition of employee engagement and how one measures it depends on which part of the organisation and how the organisation is structured. Charlene Li, from Altimeter highlights how HR will have a program to increase employee feedback, communications wants everyone to read the latest company newsletter and the Social Media team wants everyone to participate on the enterprise social network.

Research recently published by Altimeter revealed the following challenges when it comes to employee engagement[i]:

  • Most organisations don’t have a well thought out employee engagement strategy
  • Authentic employee engagement only happens when there is trust in the relationship — only 43% of survey respondents believe they have an organisational culture of trust and empowerment that supports employee engagement.
  • Part of the problem is that there is no owner of employee engagement. In 41% of organisations, HR leads employee engagement efforts, while 17% and 11% have Employee/Corporate Communications and Marketing leading efforts, respectively.
  • There remains significant untapped opportunity to use digital tools to enhance employee engagement. Only 36% and 25% of respondents have organizations where many employees use their internal collaboration platform and enterprise social network, respectively.

Mapping the Employee Journey

Creating exceptional customer experiences and engagement requires understanding and mapping the customer’s journey. Likewise employee engagement is dependent on creating exceptional experiences based on understanding and mapping the employee’s journey. The nature of the experiences an employee has will impact the level of engagement they have with your organisation’s goals.

It’s about understanding their role and the experiences they have of the organisation from their perspective. It’s going beyond the typical hire, train, and retain approach to HR and exploring how relationships can be deepened to drive business results and organisational change.

Employee engagement is not about establishing a specific state, but building relationships that can be developed.

There are differences between attitude, behavior and outcomes in terms of engagement. An employee might feel pride and loyalty (attitude); be a great advocate of their company to clients, or go the extra mile to finish a piece of work (behavior). Outcomes may include lower accident rates, higher productivity, fewer conflicts, more innovation, lower numbers leaving and reduced sickness rates and in the BPO world better NPS scores.  In reality all three – attitudes, behaviors and outcomes – are part of the engagement story. There is a virtuous circle when the pre-conditions of engagement are met when these three aspects of engagement trigger and reinforce one another.

Engaged organisations have strong and genuine values, with clear evidence of trust and fairness based on mutual respect, where two-way promises and commitments – between employers and staff – are understood, and are fulfilled.

Just like the customer journey. Company silos, overly strict and inflexible rules and poorly integrated systems and processes can impact the employee journey. The frustrations an employee can feel in trying to do their job can easily be passed on to the customer. In an outsourcing environment it’s the kiss of death.

Steve Rogers of Rusher Rogers HR Solutions, a leading HR practice in Melbourne Australia, offers this bit of sage advice, “If you have got your employee engagement model in place you still want new hires who are most likely to embrace your model, fit in with your culture and achieve the outcomes you need. You need to identify the behaviors that your star performers, who are most engaged, exhibit and the look for evidence of the same behaviors in the candidates that are applying for your roles. But remember look for “evidence” of behaviors. Not their opinion.”

In the BPO and outsourcing world where customer engagement has been outsourced to a third party , having disengaged employees / agents is bound to bring down measurements like NPS scores. Happy engaged employees really do equal happy customers.

Discuss.

[i] http://www.altimetergroup.com/2014/12/strengthening-employee-relationships-in-the-digital-era/

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Success in outsourcing starts with the RFP

The road to engaging an outsourcing partner starts with the RFP (Request-For-Proposal). Many organisations have a structured and rigid approach to the RFP process, which from the very outset can limit the opportunities of developing a relationship based on innovation. It straight jackets providers by limiting what they can offer potential clients.

RFP is a detailed process where the services and requirements of a client organisation are documented and a range of potential vendors are then invited to bid for the contract.

It’s up to the potential vendors to demonstrate their capacity to provide the requested services, specifying time frames and costs. The client selects the winning bid based on  criteria that usually involves some combination of price, timeline, reputation and the proposed solution.

The process creates a standardised structure and approach for creating and analysing proposals. The problem that emerges as highlighted by outsourcing consultant Information Services Group, the traditional prescriptive RFP approach puts providers in a box, limiting what they can offer a potential client[i].

Clients can spend too much time focusing on service levels and price neglecting the broader scope and potential of the project. It’s a risk adverse protectionist approach which limits the possibility of forming a long-term relationship that adds value to both organisations.

Providers compete to deliver the best solution within a narrow framework. The RFP process is designed to allow for apples to apples comparison. However, it constrains innovation since the client has dictated the terms and scope of the solution.

Brian Pullen, director for Playground observes, “An over structured RFP document is often too specific about project details. This specificity discourages providerss from being creative and proposing better solutions to the core problem, as companies are often already sold on the solution in their RFP”[ii].

It may not even be in the provider’s best interest to highlight errors in the requested solution. The structured communication policy and strict rules in the submission process can make proposing new ideas a deal breaker.

ISG recommends, rather than dictating specific terms to be adhered to, clients should allow providers the flexibility to propose unique solutions. The relationship can then begin around fresh thinking and innovation.

[i] http://www.isg-one.com/knowledgecenter/whitepapers/private/papers/White_paper_-_RFS_Innovation.pdf.[ii] http://playgroundinc.com/blog/whats-wrong-with-the-rfp-and-how-to-fix-it/

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Multi-sourcing: When One is Not enough

The trend in outsourcing and BPO deals towards smaller deals continues. In managing smaller deals multi-sourcing offers significant benefits but there also challenges. The greater number of additional  vendors involved increases the level of complexity and management resources required to ensure the different parties work effectively together.

Businesses are no longer willing to sign up large outsourcing deals that span multiple years due to concerns over vendor lock in and the lack of transparency, among others, and best-of-breed solutions emerge as the better option. However, while a multi-sourcing model may offer benefits such as higher flexibility and less dependency on a single vendor, it can be extremely complex to manage and may require additional management resources that some companies may not have.

Additionally, outsourcing lets organisations convert a fixed cost into a flexible expense, and transfer risk and management to another party

Multi-sourcing allows organisations to employ the best vendor in terms of price and capacity for a particular activity. Multi-sourcing promotes competition among various providers.  Best-of-breed sourcing recognizes that providers have different strengths and weaknesses and carves out work best suited for each of several providers.

It can cut costs related to repetitive service contracts and improve quality. Vendors must bid more frequently because contracts are shorter, suppliers face more competition because smaller-sized deals mean that more vendors qualify to bid, and suppliers need to attract more customers in order to meet growth targets.

Scott Feuless, principal consultant with outsourcing consultancy Information Services Group, recently said, “The number of service providers each company uses will grow dramatically, driven by growing popularity of cloud in general and Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] in particular”.

These multiple companies need to be managed and monitored. The job is made more difficult if they are off shore and hard to travel to.  Governance requirements can greatly magnify in multi-vendor BPO and outsourcing environments.

In multi-provider environments the resources needed to manage outsourcing can cost between 4-15% of total contract value.

Organisations pursuing a multi-sourcing arrangement should craft strong internal governance strategies with regard to vendor relationships and share the details with all of their service providers to promote better cooperation and more seamless delivery of services across organisational lines.

There is more risk in depending on one or two providers as much depends on their capabilities and their financial strength, for example. With multi-sourcing the risks move into other areas, including cracks between service, security issues,  hidden costs with continued monitoring and renewal of contracts, and possible replacement of providers.

Multi-sourcing can limit the scope of innovation you can expect from an outsourcing relationship in regards to a particular business function or IT service. IF there’s a range of vendors who are focused on their small bit of the equation there’s unlikely to be enough incentive for any of them to view what they do from a broader perspective.

Partnering with a single provider who can assist in reshaping an entire business process from end-to-end, will offer greater scope for innovation. Rather than a series of smaller contracts focused on transactions.

Moving from a single provider to a multi-sourcing environment or vice versa requires some considerable adjustment to how you manage your outsourcing relationships. You must change your contract negotiation strategies, procurement practices, and the governance models for you outsourcing contracts.

I recently consulted with a client who had a single vendor for the lion’s share of the work that they outsourced. As additional projects were being outsourced they asked the vendor to become a ‘master’ vendor and manage (for a fee) the other smaller vendors. The problem was that they constructed a complicated and very legalistic contract that was never going to achieve what was intended. They basically set and forget and were relying on a legal document that ended up making the parties adversarial. In the end when it came around to renewal time the whole process broke down with the vendor having to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to honour a deal that it was getting smashed on. Malicious compliance was the end result and it did not end well.

Multi sourcing provides companies with lower cost options to get their outsourcing service delivered. However multi-sourcing relationships’ must be maintained and closely monitored to deliver the best possible outcome.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Take Me To Your Leader!

“Take me to your leader” is a science fiction cartoon catch phase, said by an extra-terrestrial alien who has just landed on earth in a flying saucer to the first human it happens to meet. It suggests that every organisation has to have someone in charge.

Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”  (Chemers M. (1997)

Many organisations struggle with leadership development at all levels. Recently, Deloitte unveiled its Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, highlighting leadership as a top ten concern for most companies. The success of any outsourcing relationship is dependent on the quality of leadership from both the vendor as well as the client. Unfortunately, too many organisations adopt a one-size fits all approach to leadership development.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.

Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.

Anyone in any position of authority likes to think they are a good leader. We can all think of examples of good and bad leaders, no matter what the incumbents thought themselves. Each executive, manager, team leader, and supervisor in your organisation most probably has his or her own definition of what leadership is.

Everybody has his or her own ideas about what it takes to be a good leader. For some it’s about having a strong vision and the capability to share it and have others support it[i]. For others it’s about empowering people to achieve their best. While some view leadership as the ability to encourage others to be leaders.

Leadership is all these things.

Fundamentally leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and obtain the necessary support from others to make things happen. Good leaders are necessary for organisations to grow and succeed. Good leaders are inclusive and bring people along with them.

Companies and BPO providers invest small fortunes in leadership development programs. Around $US 170 billion is spent globally on corporate training each year with 35% of this being spent on leadership development[ii].

Why many leadership programs fail

Many leadership programs assume that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, commercial situation and organisational culture[iii]. A BPO service provider may need to develop different styles of leaders depending on the contracts and nature of the clients they need to work with. It may need different leadership styles depending on the industries they target and general economic conditions.

Is the organisation in a fast growing and dynamic space requiring leaders brimming with ideas and technical know-how, who are prepared to take risks. Or is the organisation facing sluggish market demand and needs people who can control costs and streamline processes.

A good starting point for developing leadership within your organisation may be to come up with your own definition or range of definitions for the term. Define what characteristics are necessary for someone to be a good leader in your environment and at what level within your organisation.

Characteristics may include things like honesty, active listening, the ability to delegate, confidence, good communication, be organised and so on. What characteristics you choose and the importance you give to each will depend on the culture and objectives of your organisation.

Are good leaders made or born?

There are various debates about whether leaders are born or made or some combination of both. One thing that is fairly certain is that a brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another[iv].

As an employer you must decide which characteristics or skills you can help people develop to become good leaders, specifically within your organisation and what characteristics do they need to bring with them when they are employed.

As the BPO industry continues to evolve, diversify and adapting to an ever-changing world and business environment, leadership is becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Meeting that gap is a significant challenge requiring more than a one-size fits all approach.

And lastly: “My Religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”    The Dalai Lama

Kindness is a leadership characteristic that will deliver financial and humanitarian returns beyond imagination. It helps us create work environments that are based on trust and that allow people to express and experience meaning and purpose at work.

Kindness is the willingness to open one’s heart to another and to do so as instinct, not as calculation. Kindness is a show of respect for someone, whether you agree with his or her point of view or not. Kindness leads to listening, to curiosity and to the creation of environments at work, home and in the community, where there is an unspoken covenant of honour and of worthiness. It helps us internalize and cultivate an understanding that none of us can survive or achieve personal or organizational success alone.

Focus on happiness

What about your company makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? By asking two such simple questions, a manager can discover how best to motivate his employees, persuade his customers, and support its shareholders. According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the highest universal form of motivation. A happy company is a successful company. You are more invested in success when you care about where it comes from.

[i] http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3647-leadership-definition.html

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/04/the-recovery-arrives-corporate-training-spend-skyrockets/

[iii] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail

[iv] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

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Are you talking to me?

Despite being the channel customers love to hate IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is still growing and is predicted to be worth $2.78 billion by 2017, according to a 2012 report from Global Industry Analysts (GIA)[i]. The growth is being driven by outbound IVR to deliver important notifications and proactive customer service functions.

IVR has had a mixed history, on one hand reducing call wait times and improving overall efficiencies and service levels, on the other, driving customers to switch to competitors.

We’re all familiar with the experience of having to navigate through a complex and confusing IVR menu to finally be put through to the wrong department or service or for the call to drop out. The experience leaves you frustrated. Badly designed IVR systems may have contributed to bad customer experiences more than any other channel.

Key areas in IVR development in recent years, that are altering the previous negative perceptions of this self-service technology, have been in Outbound IVR and Visual IVR.

Outbound IVR

Outbound IVR allows organisations to proactively and automatically engage customers through a variety of channels such as automated voice calls, SMS messages, email or social media posts with personalised communications. Providing immediate, faster and real-time information and services to customers Calls can range from personalised, event-triggered notifications and two-way interactions to broadcast messages to hundreds or even thousands of customers.

It can be used in a variety of situations including:

  • Sending emergency notifications,
  • Personalised offers and promotions
  • Travel-related notifications
  • Problem reporting
  • Change notifications (account status, billing, rates)
  • Shipping notifications

Visual IVR

Steve Morrell, founder and principal analyst of ContactBabel, an analyst firm for the contact centre industry, highlights how smartphones and tablets can give companies the option of offering visual representations of their IVR menus[ii]. This can enhance the customer experience as most people find it easier to read and select options in text and visual format than to listen to it being spoken.

Visual IVR presents customers with a menu driven interface to the IVR system which is available from a website or mobile app.  Visual IVR can be used to send video or push other content. This content can be educational or for marketing purposes or to assist the customer’s self-service requirement in some way.

Visual IVR allows companies to connect their traditional contact centre channels to new mobile platforms, enhancing their ability to serve customers. Visual IVR can be implemented with existing DMTF technology and IVR systems, requiring few modifications.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Innovate or Die!

By Martin Conboy (theOutsourcing-guide.com)

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, then the end is in sight” Jack Welch, CEO, G. E. In fact, the world is changing so rapidly that organisations are struggling to keep up.

I always remember my first boss telling me that if you are not going forwards then you are going backwards! For businesses and economies to thrive and adapt to change they must innovate. These days, clients expect their BPO and outsourcing providers to be innovative in adding strategic value to the outsourcing contract. But how does one become innovative? Primarily, it requires a willingness to take risks. There is no guarantee that trying something different is a pathway to success, sometimes it means it just might not work.

In its early years, 3M aka Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, was on the verge of failure. After years of mining losses management came to a crossroads. Close down or do something different. As Albert Einstein said, “If you want different results, do not do the same things.” 3M executives did what most successful executives do when faced with failure. They used it as an opportunity to find a new way forward. Today, the company generates billions in revenue and employs over 80,000 people.

What is the ingredient that brought 3M back from the brink of failure? While there are several candidates, the one that stands out is innovation.

Many organisations place innovation on their list of corporate values. However, much fewer actually have a culture in place that actively encourages it. Some organisations and industries are particularly risk adverse, preferring to rely on practices and traditions that have produced results in the past than invest in new ideas that might not succeed.

According to a recent McKinsey survey, innovation has become one of the top business objectives in organisations that want to grow, out perform their competitors and, indeed, even survive by creating a higher value proposition. More than 70 precent of senior executives said ‘innovation will be at least one of the top three drivers of growth for their companies in the next three to five years.”

Furthermore, leading strategic thinkers are moving beyond product innovations to innovations in business processes, distribution, value chains, business models and even the functions of management.

Another major barrier to innovation are managers and executives who are resistant to new ideas and suggestions from others, particularly from staff and employees. Internal jealousies stemming from turf wars, departmental or staff rivalries can make change very difficult to achieve.

McKinsey again, 65 precent of the study group expressed concern about the ability to stimulate innovation. Saying ‘mountain; and climbing it can be very different things.

Innovation is not about technology

There’s a tendency to think of innovation in terms of technical innovation. Though technology is important, it is only a part of the picture. According to best-selling business author, Scott Berkun, “Innovation is significant positive change”[i]. That change can apply to technology or to products and processes, or it can apply to people.

In terms of an individual business or enterprise, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving existing services. Innovation can be a catalyst for growth and success, helping companies and industries to adapt and grow.

Being innovative does not mean inventing. It means creating a culture of innovation and promoting innovative thinking and creative problem solving.

The drive for innovation

Businesses that are innovative create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance. Research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity in the US highlights how high-performing organisations are up to three times more likely to implement people practices that drive innovation[ii].

It’s not just individual businesses or industries that need to innovate to survive – it’s entire economies. The 2015 Intergeneration Report produced by the Australian government has highlighted the need for the Australian economy to create new industries and for existing industries to adapt to a changing Asia-centric world.

As a nation Australia needs to be a lot more innovative.

Being innovative

When outsourcing their business processes clients now expect innovation and for providers to add real strategic value. In fact the term innovation is bandied about so often that saying you are innovative is hardly a point of difference. The world has moved on from BPO 1.0 –lift and shift and clients want a value add that goes way beyond price.

Even very risk-adverse organisations will claim to be innovative. But being risk-adverse can be the main stumbling block to innovation. Relying too extensively on tradition and what has worked in the past will inhibit the ability to enact positive change for the future. “That’s the way we have always done it’ or ‘It’s policy” are attitudes that could be the kiss of death.

Developing BPO and outsourcing relationships that are focused mainly on avoiding risk with for the vendor or the client or both, will inhibit innovation and creative problem solving.

Be prepared to take risks

You’ll never be ahead of the pack if you don’t do something different from everybody else. This is not to say you should become reckless and invest in every idea that’s developed. You do need to develop a process for evaluating the risk and benefits of any particular initiative and decide if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.

A good example is Apple the most valuable company in the world. Apple has a program called ‘Blue Sky’ that lets a few select team members take a few weeks at a time to work on a favourite project. This frees up brainpower for innovation.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

Innovation is not delivered by a single visionary within the company. Regardless of how innovative or visionary a CEO or director of the business maybe as an individual, that does not mean the organisation as a whole will be innovative.

Vital to driving innovation is greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, within the organisation and with external stakeholders such as partners and customers. Collaboration encourages discussion, new ideas being put forward, appraisal and revision of those ideas and greater awareness of the problems being faced by the organisation.

Each employee and stakeholder will have a unique perspective on a problem and are capable of developing a possible solution or suggestion to resolve it.

Driven and inspired from the top

It’s the responsibility of senior management and executives to ensure a culture of innovation is promoted, encouraged and supported throughout the entire organisation.

[i] http://scottberkun.com/2013/the-best-definition-of-innovation/

[ii] http://www.i4cp.com/productivity-blog/2013/04/02/i4cp-research-human-capital-practices-drive-organizational-innovation

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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