the value of in-house staff

A good friend of mine, a fellow Public Relations professional, is dealing with a situation that may be familiar to many of us: her administrators are trying to outsource the in-house print shop.

If you’ve never experienced the outsourcing phenomena, then you’re lucky. Of course, you may be one of the organizations that actually benefits from this migration. I have been known to pick up business because of the elimination of an in-house PR shop or the complete lack thereof… but that’s a separate conversation.

My friend expressed her dismay last month when she was informed that she had to play nice with the assesors of a coporate print shop company that was going to come in to put together a business proposal to take over their operations. Her administrators told her that it was an exercise, something they were required to do to keep in compliance with the parent company. She was told not to worry.

Being the smart cookie she is, she worried a lot.

She spent half a day going over the print shop operations with the team of three that invaded their space (her words, almost verbatim). And, at the end, she felt better about their inability to provide the same services that her staff does, in a cost benefit way for her organization. She didn’t think they could come up with a feasible plan to replace their current operations for less money while continuing to provide the same level of service.

And let me be clear, the print shop I am talking about is not a copy center. This is a three-man crew consisting of a graphic designer, an offset press operator, and a production coordinator. They collaborate on strategic planning of programming and services, promotional and communications plans, physically distribute printed materials to in-house and off-site locations (which is outside their job descriptions) and come up with ideas on how to improve the delivery, production and effectiveness of printed materials.

My friend’s division has taken budget reductions every year for the past 4 years, without decreasing the amount of promotional materials produced. She likes to say that they’ve learned to be more creative with the resources they’ve been given. It also means that the staff in the print shop have had to take on more duties, as positions that were vacated were deleted instead of restaffed.

This is a staff that thinks nothing of coming in to work on Saturday and Sunday to make a Monday deadline. They have been known to come in at 5 a.m. to finish a project and make the 8 a.m. deliveries. And they have adjusted to the changing environment in their organization, apprarently, very well.

Last week the dreaded report came in, to her administrators and not to her. Of course, the proponents are saying that they can take over the operations at a cost reduction. To do this, they would have to employ the people who currently work in the print shop.

She is dismayed. I understand what she’s feeling.

Her objections?

  1. She cannot imagine that they can actually deliver the same amount of materials for less money than is currently being spent in-house.
  2. Whatever contract they come up with, she knows she won’t have the same ability to adjust to the organizational goals, mid-year. She believes she’s going to be locked into whatever plan she comes up with at the beginning of the year.
  3. She won’t actually control the staff who will be doing the work, the contracted company will.
  4. Her staff, who have been with the company many years, will lose any seniority and job security they have. (And yes, I did point out that this may not be an argument she can make to the adminstrators.)
  5. To actually make money, the contracted company will use the staff and facilities to take outside work, which will put her in a position of having to be prioritized against outside other clients. She probably won’t be the person who decides what is priority and what isn’t.

My concern is that she’s taking this emotionally. She’s saying that if they do outsource the shop, her first step will be to update her resume and start looking. In the current job market, that may not be the smartest thing to do.

Again, I understand her reaction. I think if I had invested five years in a job, improving effectiveness and return on investment every year, making my team one of the best-run in my organization, I would feel betrayed, or something, if my leaders made this kind of decision without taking my objections into consideration. I don’t know if she’s going to be able to maintain her personal commitment to her employers if this goes through.

True, they haven’t actually made the decision to outsource… at least not officially. But she’s worried. She has a meeting with her supervisors next week to discuss the proposal. And, without having seen the proposal before the meeting, she can only guess at what objections may work.

I wish her luck. She’s going to need it.

Author: Paloma Cruz

Find out more about Paloma Cruz through the About page. Connect with her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/palomacruz) and (Facebook).

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