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Outsourcing in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond

Published January 16, 2021

Written by: Marian Shepherd

Marian Shepherd

Marian Shepherd is the Director of Operations & Client Services at VoiceNotes Ltd. The stops along her somewhat eclectic career path include 15 years working for several record labels and subsequently as editor and business/event manager within the music industry, teaching EFL in Cambridge, and, on returning to London, an extended period within the then fledgling “no request too bizarre” world of lifestyle management. Marian has been overseeing operational activity within VoiceNotes, providing copy editing, proofreading and transcription services to the business community for the past 11 years. 

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Among the multitude of challenges the COVID pandemic has inflicted on businesses, the heightened requirement to straddle the precarious divide between prudency with operational budgets on one side and not throwing the return-on-investment baby out with the expenditure bathwater on the other represents a particularly painful headache. 

Recouping lockdown losses while re-establishing and building new business flows to even survive (let alone compete) in increasingly difficult markets demands innovation, a highly skilled workforce and reassurance that all critical role bases are covered. However, with the level of commitment involved (budgetary prudence being the key, but not the only, aspect to consider) in engaging employees to deliver those vital skills, particularly in tough times when headcount, inevitably, is in the cost-pruning crosshairs, “to recruit or not to recruit?” is a conundrum at best. At worst, it’s unfeasible wishful thinking.

It is, then, unsurprising that more organizations are turning a fresh eye to outsourcing. The pandemic-driven acceleration of shifting towards some degree of remote working by in-house employees has arguably contributed to increased confidence in engagement of other forms of “satellite expertise” that previously may have been viewed with suspicion.
 

Remote Working: The New “Office”

The infrastructure to support remote working was established during the first lockdown in the early spring of 2020. Business leaders were pleasantly surprised to discover that, far from employee engagement diminishing when not under the beady in-situ gaze of the presenteeism culture, motivation and, subsequently, productivity actually flourished. Work-life balance was no longer compromised by the relentless slog of the daily commute.

It became clear that it simply isn’t necessary for people to be entrenched within the same office building for 40 hours a week to successfully work together as a team. Quite the opposite was found. In fact, many organizations viewed remote working as an advantageous way forward. This sentiment was expressed by PWC’s Director of Experienced Recruitment, Sam Ellis, in a recent Guardian online feature [2020], “Location and where you actually do your work may be less relevant in the future. I think we’ll still come together as a knowledge-based organization to share and collaborate but maybe not all the time.”

High Quality & Reduced Overheads: The Outsourced Solution

With remotely-based individuals and teams now a natural part of working culture, engagement of a trusted outsourced supplier as another off-site, dedicated team “within” a business represents an even more attractive prospect today than it did previously.

The benefits of building a relationship with the right external supplier team are manifold, including:

  • Relieving management from a lengthy recruiting process
  • No longer wading through a mountain of CVs
  • Easily accommodating worker absences
  • Efficiently providing onboarding, ongoing training and performance management
  • Expert service delivery from specialists in their field
  • Flexible expansion of capacity to meet changing demands in uncertain times and tighter budgetary control
  • Uninterrupted business continuity because supplier teams will never be absent from their “posts”
  • High-level service delivery from Day 1 with no training or bedding-in period necessary, leaving permanent employees free to focus on core roles, increasing productivity and profitability
  • Stability during uncertain periods because as businesses negotiate their way through challenging days, they are reassured the outsourced field of activity is being expertly handled, while demanding no internal management time
     

Only the Best for the Best

The emphasis above on locating the right outsourced team is critical. Outsourcing will undoubtedly reduce costs in comparison to permanent employee recruitment but, as with anything, basing a “purchase” on cost alone while disregarding all else will often subsequently (and painfully) reveal the “cheapest deal” as being a false economy.

Taking the time to research and choose a professional and conscientious supplier who will work with you to become an integral part of your business operation is crucial and certainly worth the time invested. At the very least, seek a company with ISO 270001 accreditation as reassurance that the company has been stringently examined to ensure quality and security at the heart of its operation.

When a crisis compels businesses to find new ways of working and employ fresh initiatives to navigate through the turbulence, and the tangible worth of those initiatives soon becomes apparent, they endure beyond the crisis and become part of the organization’s standard practice.

If skills are needed that fall outside of an organization’s own area of expertise, it makes sound sense, even in terms of quality alone, to seek and engage the same premium level of expertise that they themselves deliver to clients. When benefiting from that quality also sees reduced financial outlay, it is clear how in both challenging and more benign economic climates an outsourced model is a wise choice.

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