How do you know when an outsourcing initiative has been successful? At what point can you sit back, look at all that has been done and actually congratulate yourselves on a successful implementation, transition and effective and stable ongoing processing environment.
I think back to the system person I dealt with on a 401(k) conversion one time. This particular provider had gone through a major conversion to a new recordkeeping system and this system person was very proud. He claimed a perfect conversion. “Not a penny was lost. All financial data reconciled to the penny!”
Of course, I had been engaged to determine what went wrong. For while the financial data was in tact, the issues log was longer than the toilet paper lines in the former Soviet Union. Loans weren’t getting processed in a timely fashion, allocation percentage changes were getting lost, and deduction changes were taking much too long to post.
What was missing in this particular conversion was adequate training on the new systems. The people who had to actually process information didn’t have the tools and training to ensure continuity. The clients of this record keeper certainly wouldn’t agree with the system guy’s evaluation, and neither would the participants.
To me, this is where the rubber meets the road: satisfaction. All sorts of metrics can be tracked: speed to answer, case resolution time, system availability, and scores of others. For me, all of those metrics will take care of themselves and should actually take a back seat to satisfaction of the participant/employee and the employer.
Unfortunately, this can be a problematic measure when a new outsourcing relationship is begun. How fast can a new environment be expected to attain superior levels of satisfaction? One month? Three months? Six months?
Certainly, to expect a service provider to score great on satisfaction surveys on day one is unreasonable. It takes time for participants to get used to a new environment, and satisfaction surveys can reflect experiences they may have had in the old environment.
It is for these and other reasons that I am a firm believer in establishing a baseline for satisfaction at the employee level BEFORE the new environment is entered into. By establishing a baseline, improvement in satisfaction can be tracked over time. Success, at least in terms of the all important satisfaction, can be measured and evaluated.
A satisfaction score of 57% may sound dismal, but it takes on new meaning in the context of improvement from a 34% in the month before.
In terms of overall relationship management, this provides a meaningful basis for partnering with your outsourced provider. For service providers reading this, consider recommending this baseline, and conducting the survey as part of the implementation plan. Establishing a satisfaction baseline can protect all parties involved.
But this isn’t just about protecting yourselves. Ultimately, the participant employees benefit from this satisfaction-centric approach.
So if you are entering into a new environment, be it insourced, outsourced or other, please consider establishing a baseline for satisfaction in the old environment. You’ll be glad you did!
About the author – Donald Glade is President and Founder of Sourcing Analytics, Inc., an independent consulting firm specializing in helping companies optimize their HR / benefits / payroll service partnerships through relationship management, financial analysis, and process improvement.