What Companies Owe Their Employees

Steve Hamm

Over the Christmas weekend I spent time with two people who see the writing on the wall: their jobs are likely to be outsourced and off-shored to India. In both cases, both women, they're taking a very sober and realistic look at their prospects and thinking hard about what they can do to avoid becoming victims of globalization. One of the women works for UBS in Stamford, Connecticut. The other works for Time-Warner in Manhattan. In both cases their companies have sent signals that big changes are on the way. Time-Warner's financial executives are spending a lot of time in India. UBS has told employees that it's hiring Wipro as an outsourcing partner. But neither has given employees very much info about what’s coming and how they can prepare themselves for it.

Both of my friends are taking their fates into their own hands. The Time-Warner woman is taking courses to allow her to shift career direction. The UBS woman has shifted into a new job that seems less likely than some others to be shifted off shore. While neither woman is happy about the situation, neither of them is belly-aching about it.

They have reason to gripe, though, in my opinion. I don't fault American companies for outsourcing work or shifting it overseas if that's the financially and strategically prudent thing to do. But I do fault companies that don't give their current employees adequate warning of what's coming and information about the changes that is specific enough to help employees re-position themselves. It's not just employees who are harmed by these practices. The companies risk losing the good will and trust of the employees who stay on after the outsourcing strategy is implemented. And that's a valuable thing to lose.

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