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Leading employees through outsourcing

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This thesis examines the ways to support employees in an outsourcing project in order to achieve a satisfying situation for both the company and its staff. Outsourcing is commonly understood as shifting of certain operational activities previously accomplished using internal staff and resources to an internal or external third party. This kind of radical change induces often major impact on the company’s staff. Thus, the purpose of this work is to elucidate employees’ perspective and thus to enable managers to adapt their approach accordingly. At the beginning, the thesis offers a model for an outsourcing project taking into account the perspective of the employees. Based on this model, relevant aspects to successfully conduct an outsourcing initiative are considered. Furthermore, this work includes recommendations on how to adjust the highly acknowledged change management model by Kotter (1995) specifically to outsourcing initiatives in order to approach the desired win-win situation. Finally, the thesis provides a set of specific and prioritised measures that would help to lead employees through outsourcing and a transfer to an adjusted process model aimed for practitioners as well as for scholars.

Since perceptions and behaviour of the affected employees are highly dependent on their individual attitude and circumstances, the underlying philosophical approach in this research is an interpretivist perspective. Based on the findings from the literature on outsourcing and change management from various domains, semi-structured interviews based on a interpretivist view and an abductive approach were developed. The study was conducted with fourteen respondents from six different industry sectors and different hierarchy levels such as operators, administrators and middle mangers with various organisational functions. The following three headlines, or major codes, highlight and summarise the findings of the study: credibility of managers, communication concept and individual support of the affected employees. Within these three major codes, the thesis highlights twelve main codes and 39 sub-codes relevant for the support of the employees during outsourcing and gives an indication about their importance. The study identified that about a fifth of the aspects underlined in the literature play a minor role in case of outsourcing or are even critical, as for instance to celebrate achieved milestones. On the other hand, several additional elements could be identified that are not mentioned or are not prioritised in the existing body of research, but have strong contribution for successful outsourcing. Those are for instance a mentoring program during the transition phase, the impact of age and job tenure or detailed aspects of the required individual support.
Original languageEnglish
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Award dateAug 2017
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ID: 8902387