With regional and continental trends moving towards a more mobile workforce, one of the trickiest challenges for African businesses is staff development. Finding the right solution to your challenges can often mean that businesses look outside at the huge opportunities that come with outsourcing. Here we investigate the pros and cons of outsourcing and if, on balance, it is better to develop the talent that you already have within the business.
The advent of the internet has meant that companies have a whole world of potential outsourcing options to choose from. Freelancers offer skills on a flexible basis but can struggle to replicate the quality that is inherent in staff who are based in your business. Here we look at the pros and cons of outsourcing.
● Flexibility - without doubt, the ability to flexibly hire external staff as and when you need them is an efficient way to get work done as and when needed.
● Cost - Only paying someone for pieces of work rather than a full time wage is certainly a way to cut costs for your business.
● Efficiency - Paying people on a job by job basis means that there is no wasted time on the job.
● Lack of knowledge - using an outside contractor comes with the risk that what would be a simple instruction for an internal staff member needs significant explanation and background information to the contractor.
● No retention of skills - once a job is done the contractor moves on and the next time you want to outsource the process will likely start over. Needing to explain thoroughly what would be a simple instruction to a team member.
● No ownership - a contractor has no stake in the long term success of the business, this means that they simply aren’t invested and the care and attention to the needs of the business isn’t going to exist at the same depth.
Developing internal talent takes time and investment, but it is the long term payback that businesses often fail to take into account. The short term nature of much of today’s business world means that staff development is now often overlooked. Here we look at the pros and cons of developing talent.
● Long term payback - retention of skills is vital to the long term sustainability of a business, the repeated use of the skills means that the costs is nullified over time.
● Invested in the business - There’s no doubt that your own staff have “skin in the game”. This, however, cannot be replicated by external staff and is vital to the long-term sustainability of the business as these people have a vested interest in the long-term survival and will ultimately produce better work.
● Future leaders - developing people means that ultimately you will bring a level of experience in the business to the senior levels of management. The experience factor can make a huge difference to the quality of management and their inherent understanding of how the business works and how its people tick.
● Expense - training staff is not cheap, neither is having to lose them temporarily for training. The short term nature of today's business environment means that this a trade off too far for them.
● Potential for losing trained staff - another possibility is that once trained, your staff will then leave the business reducing the long term payback of the training that has been put into them.
● Lack of talent - some people cannot be developed to a high level and there is a risk that training is ineffective for the candidate.
For most African companies the best practice would be to develop the talent of your people who already work for you. Your own staff have a huge stake in the business and insights that could never be replicated by outsourcing. Their unique knowledge of the business and personal relationships with customers means that they are the ideal people to be developed and build their skills as the company continues to grow.