Your boss swoops into your office, and plops a pile of material onto your desk. You look up quizzically as her perfume hits you in a pretentious wave, “Look, this is really last minute, please follow the detailed instructions provided, and have the report on my desk by tomorrow lunch.” You glance up at the clock, then at the long list of instructions, and back at your boss. “Do you have what you need?”, she asks expectantly. You say, “I guess so”, with a shrug. She nods with a terse smile and exits.
So far so good, you have kept all the swearing in your head, and you think you did a pretty good job of keeping your face emotionless during the encounter. You slump back in your chair and pick up the list of instructions.
If this kind of experience happens to you on rare occasion, you can remind yourself that this is part of having a job, and a boss, or even be happy that detailed instructions were provided due to the short timeline. On the other hand, if this is status quo you are probably spending a lot of your time on http://www.monster.ca/, http://jobbank.gc.ca/, or the like.
People, especially capable, experienced & smart people, need a level of autonomy to be motivated and engaged in their work.
In search of efficiency, many top executives look to outsourcing to help reduce personnel costs, and leverage economies of scale, by using industry specialists for a variety of tasks from manufacturing to sales. And often, they throw out the baby with the bathwater, when they inadvertently revoke autonomy from their most engaged and creative employees.
A recent conversation highlighted this beautifully for me: A friend in the publishing business –a very energetic, motivated, and creative individual– described to me their elation at having previously outsourced elements of their business re-integrated into their operations. In order to streamline operations in a tough market segment, key elements of layout and design were outsourced, and roles that previously included a creative input into these elements were relegated to filling in templates. Not surprisingly, my friend described this period as some of their darkest days with the business. With their level of autonomy regained, you can see the excitement & motivation they have at the opportunities it presents (albeit, probably more excited than before they lost the autonomy in the first place!).
This isn’t a diatribe against outsourcing –I often see cases where it is preferable to rampant hiring– but a warning to consider the level of motivation that might be lost by functions, and functions adjacent to those, subject to outsourcing.
Because frankly, employee engagement can’t be outsourced.