Specialization of labor, an economic concept that took hold after the Industrial Revolution, is based on the premise that productivity is increased and cost decreased if employees each perform different tasks within an organization and become experts in performing just those tasks. Fast forward to early 1990s, and an extension of the specialization of labor concept, outsourcing, has become an integral piece of the business model of many organizations. According to www.outsourcing.about.com, outsourcing can be defined as “the strategic use of outside resources to perform activities traditionally handled by internal staff and resources. Outsourcing is a strategy by which an organization contracts out major functions to specialized and efficient service providers, who become valued business partners.”
So why do so many companies outsource certain functions to third-party service providers? The main reasons are that outsourcing saves money and provides the best possible expertise and specialized labor available for a particular service. It allows companies to focus on core business issues while having a component of the business addressed by outside experts. The significant resources and attention of in-house professionals can be utilized to address broader issues within the company. In addition, the specialized, external experts often have experience, knowledge and capabilities that the company does not have.
While you may not think of outsourcing as typically applied to gender diversity initiatives, it does not take long to see that all of the benefits of outsourcing are equally applicable to outsourcing a gender diversity initiative. Outsourcing an initiative saves significant time and money. Gender diversity initiatives typically require the time of a dedicated point person along with the time of various other employees in the organization to make it a success. Outsourcing relieves that time burden on the organization, increasing productivity. Moreover, outsourcing allows companies to meet the three core components of a great women’s initiative – commitment, creativity and consistency – without breaking a sweat.
First, commitment. If a company or service firm engages a third-party to provide gender diversity initiative services, it demonstrates the commitment to gender diversity to employees and the outside world. It shows that gender diversity is important enough to warrant bringing in professionals in to ensure that it is done correctly. It also communicates that the initiative is supported by senior management and is viewed as part of the long-term strategy.
Next, creativity. Professionals that specialize in supporting gender diversity initiatives come with innovative and original programs that internal personnel simply do not have the time or resources to create. As experts in the field, they are up-to-date on current issues facing women in the workplace and have the ability to address and solve problems in novel ways. They understand how to maximize engagement utilizing inventive approaches and can deliver a different perspective as an independent, unbiased service provider.
And, finally, consistency. Utilizing the services of a third party allows a company or firm to plan ahead and provide a consistent gender diversity initiative over time. Many companies find themselves offering programs or events sporadically, which makes it very difficult to create momentum or spur real change. An outsourced program can provide reliability and can make measuring and benchmarking results possible. In addition, the consistency of the outside professionals providing the program can foster trust and open dialogue, allowing those professionals to really drill down on issues facing the company.
A recent article in Law 360 discussed how more law firms are turning to outsourcing, contract attorney businesses and off-site service centers. These firms are looking to alternative models as part of cost-cutting and efficiency strategies and they understand how these different practices can help them get there, while simultaneously generating new revenue sources. The same is true when applied to outsourcing the services necessary to make a gender diversity initiative successful and profitable. So many companies and firms have gender diversity initiatives in place, which is a start, but they are not always equipped to maximize value from them or to properly help their women develop into leaders. Outsourcing provides that solution.