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Migration Of Jobs

This year has seen much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the West from where the migration of jobs - especially unionised teams - has continued but with growing signs of an increasing resistance from some government and labour representatives.

The driver has, of course, been cost. Times have been hard and many economies have tottered on the brink of recession with a few falling over the edge albeit not for long and nothing cataclysmic. In such a business environment it is difficult for Directors to meet their responsibilities to shareholders, and to do a good job, without taking advantage of a clear business case to outsource where, and when, that case is made. Put simply if you can cut your costs, increase your resources and make your organisation more flexible in difficult times - who can resist? Who wants to resist?

Some of us can remember the Jarrow marches when decent men took to the streets in a "fight for jobs", certainly most of us can now find a perspective of fundamental change in shipbuilding, in steel, in coal. When in those areas left their traditional homes for new locations there was devastation across whole "working" communities and that was followed by equally brutal changes that began in "the professions" - some of which have continued their quaint restrictive practices to this very day. Often the pain was caused not just by change itself but also by the velocity of change. At the time, certainly in the UK and USA at least, there was much talk of "sunrise" and "smoke stack or traditional" industries; comparisons were made between the desirability of one over t'other, sagely voices were heard in the land claiming that the demise of manufacturing in developed economies was not only inevitable but a required process also. Someone even wrote about the "end of history".

The point is, or it seems to us that the point is, that change is endemic and jobs will relocate to wheresoever becomes the best place for them to be at that time. We can now create facilities so very quickly; more accurately we can recreate facilities with unprecedented ease. Plants, r the technologies of plants that were, only a while ago taken as the very symbols of a country's skill base and industrial capacity are now transported lock stock and management around the world at the touch of a government grant.

What we do not yet perhaps understand this time, anymore than we did when we shifted 4,000,000 jobs in the UK from under efficient and under utilised factories and offices to the public sector by way of unemployment is what the true costs of change are or how to cost properly the change we plan.

Certainly we can relocate whole categories of job to India and elsewhere with the result that we can have a better skilled, more stable workforce at a fraction of the cost in Europe - even if we can get the people and then retain them. However, do we know the real cost of operating in that country - not the cost as it will be when change has penetrated, even, further into the economy, government and society but as it is now, today? Our experience is that we do not. The requirements, skills and experience required to get the best out of your Indian team are well outside the norm for most western trained managers. (As an example, we recently provided a letter under company seal confirming that a young woman had worked for us - we did that to help her and her new employer. Even as I pen this, the scruffiest letter you have ever seen is thrown on my desk by someone in a uniform that defies description. The letter demands that one of our managers presents themselves at a local office to verify that the letter was true or "they will assume that the lady had forged the letter and will act on that basis"! That is a morning, at least, gone for someone. How many of us are truly aware that even when you recruit the most articulate, best educated and western minded team member that you do not ever get them wholly for your company save as an extension of their family so that parents can, and do, to some extent and in some areas set the agenda for your staff? What do you do when you realise that the professional young woman whom you recruited and trained is happy to be told by parents, brother, future in-laws or future husband may simply not return from leave because their parents have determined that they will be engaged and married.

The result is that you learn to adjust your recruitment procedures, you plan and cost your teams and the resources you need with a built in redundancy. You understand that the kit you are waiting for might be hours away in terms of location at the airport or docks but months away in terms when you can get access to them.

There are, as you would expect, a million things to sort out in order to outsource successfully but as ever with change it will take a while before the process, however desirable and of what irresistible force, is properly understood, and as a result can be properly costed.

Proper costings lead to wiser, more enduring decisions, in fact, decisions based on anything less are positively dangerous. However, better information might well lead us to more desirable relationships which can be seen to be productive and beneficial to all parties - customers, service providers and the support teams on both sides of the world.

Recently you will have read about GBOPS (see outsourcing to .. Guernsey?!) where in principle they are working to make what is a leading off shore financial centre into the ideal base from which to develop e-business. The important thing being, it seems to us that the approach is based on brining business to Guernsey that would otherwise go elsewhere, opportunities for high added value services to India and an abundance of highly skilled professional resources to perform as assistants to senior partners who are island based.

"A rare case of win, no losses were made".