Lost in translation: knowledge transfer
Nilsen (2006, p. 1) stated that ‘normally off shoring means to practice a replacement of wares and services beforehand produced internally with wares and services produced overseas’. Previously, this process was called ‘contracting out’, the ‘use of sub-suppliers’ or ‘business reengineering’ (Pyndt and Pedersen, 2006), but contemporary businesses refer to it as offshoring. In essence, offshoring is about defining the boundaries of the firm and defining aspects that, from a business perspective, make sense to obtain from other companies. Attracted by burgeoning markets, cost advantages, access to capabilities and local talent pools are making the companies to move their services and processes from countries with high cost countries with low cost. In effect, offshoring means bringing in new teams coming from different countries of origin to work for the outsourcing firm.
In any team, transfer of knowledge among the team members is the first step in bringing on a new member in the team. Typically, there should be a high degree of interaction and knowledge transfer from the outsourcing firm to the outsourced company in order for the partnership to work to the advantage of both parties. When a given task is completed in an offshore model the knowledge is stored and shifted within the different global sites. However, when a suitable knowledge source is positioned the difficulty of transfer of knowledge arises. Mostly the challenge lives, when you have questions like how to transmit the information between the outsourcing organization and the outsourced venture. Knowledge, which could usually transfers among people belonging to a same organization, now has to be transmitted across the two dissimilar organizations. As a result, the transition plans for transferring the information or knowledge would be much more official and uncongenial. As such, there is a need to design transition plans that enable the efficient and effective knowledge transfer, a topic, which will be discussed in the next section.
Designing Transition Plans that Enable Effective Knowledge Transfer
As a result of outgoing decision, the communication environment in specific area of a company would be severely distorted, thus a transition plan needs to be in place so that knowledge transfer could be facilitated in the freest manner, for both the source and the recipient business. To ensure that this happens, and that the peers and managers sustain outsourcing tasks, that both organizational members are encouraged to be taught, and that the work situation is constructive for knowledge. Several companies are concerned with the management of knowledge and are trying to become learning organizations. A learning organization is a business that has a superior capability to be trained, adjust, and transform.
Transition plans of such organizations are analyzed carefully and lined up with the goals of a. In a learning organization, the process of knowledge transfer is taken as a part of a system intended to produce logical capital. According to Kehal and Singh (2006), intellectual capital not only comprises the basic capabilities learning needed to do the jobs required of the outsourcing effort, but also motivating the innovation and creativity of employees to obtain and pertain knowledge. Such learning organization stresses that learning takes place not only at the personal-employee level (as one conventionally thinks of learning), but also at organizational and group levels.
The knowledge that has to be transferred from one organization to another refers to what team of employees or individuals learn or learn how to do (human being and communal knowledge) as well as a company’s tools processes, rules and schedule (prearranged knowledge). This knowledge is either an explicit knowledge or tacit knowledge. The types of tacit and explicit knowledge that is important for employees include knowledge about the company, knowledge about customers, and knowledge about the company’s business processes. Employees need to understand the company’s business, strategy, and financial statements as well as how the company is organized.
This gives them some idea of where to go with new ideas, how to seek help with problems, and how to create opportunities for cross-functional businesses. Employees must know who the company’s customers are, what they need, and why they choose to do business with the company. Finally, employees must have a general understanding of the major business processes and a more detailed understanding of the business process they are involved in. permitting employees to obtain some break from work in order to attend training, study problems, obtain knowledge and exercise technology would greatly aid the transition process. For knowledge transfer to be more effective, the source and the recipient organization must collaborate.
For knowledge transfer to aid a company get a viable advantage, it desires to be able to be conveyed as required to support business goals to employees who may be dispersed geographically and who may be doing their work in another country or at home. Benefits obtained should be maximized including transfer and seeking of knowledge and costs such as travel costs should be minimized (Delaney, 2004). Learning principles like feedback, practice ability to learn by communication others and meaningful material must be included in the process in order to make the learning and transfer to occur. With the help of new technologies it is possible to decrease the cost of delivering the transition plan to employees, to enhance the learning environment efficiency, and to assist to put in to business goals. Kinds of new technologies are knowledge management software, electronic support systems, multimedia, expert systems, distance learning. These new technologies imposed a great impact on the delivery of transition plans, its support and administration.
There are several observations, which include changes not only in the manner the service or procedure, are going to be provided but also in managers and employees roles, transfer of knowledge is significant. There is a need to train the employees and managers so that they become able to deal with new systems whether they include redesigning of job, selection systems, performance management (e.g., use of 360-degree feedback systems), selection systems (e.g., a structured interview), or new technology (e.g., manufacturing systems based on computer) in the face of the decision to outsource a particular business activity (Noe, 2005).
Training should be used to help employees to understand business concepts including return on investment and shareholder value. This will raise their awareness of how their performance affects overall outsourcing costs and could create a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Also, understanding how they affect the bottom line should increase employees’ pride in the products they build. To overcome employee skepticism of the program, managers should also receive leadership training and mentoring that will teach them how to model the behaviors and attitudes they expected of employees. Because employees frequently work in teams, managers should learn how to align teams with the company goals and provide them with the resources they need to reach those goals.
In the training program, managers should learn how to coach employees and motivate them. They should also gain a better understanding of how they could help teams contribute to the company’s profitability. The redesign of the work is predicted to increase efficiency, and the training reduces costs and delivery time. Noe (2005) identified that trainee motivation to modify the nature of job or to apply that had been learned is the most difficult condition of effective transfer of training because it needs compensations and penalties, encouragements and restrictions in the job situation, which should be coupled with continuous management support. Ensuring the effective relocation of training content to the place of work is a critical phase that needs the ongoing support of management.
As part of the transition process, employees should be given the chance to test and apply new skills and knowledge, and they must recognize that they are given that opportunity. Supervisors must assign trainees to the kinds of jobs, tasks, or special projects that will not only give them the chance to use what they learned but actually require them to apply it. Besides providing the opportunity for practice, these assignments also help to prevent the natural tendency for trainees to attribute the reason for not transferring knowledge and skill to the actions of their supervisor. Managers should give trainees some control of their transfer destiny by assigning them to viable tasks that allow them to experiment with new learning. Trainers often accumulate rich data (comments overheard, anecdotes, observations, and inferences) as they watch, teach, and interact with trainees. It may be fruitful for supervisors to arrange a debriefing meeting with trainers to seek out such information. Answers to questions during the debriefing plus all other trainer observations, will indicate ways in which future training sessions might be revised, and also guide the development of a follow-up plan for each trainee.
This paper recognizes the fact that without knowledge transfer, no amount of investment put into an outsourcing decision could be successful, and is therefore leaned towards making the design of transition plans work to the advantage of both the source and the recipient organization of the knowledge to be transferred. In forward-looking organizations, managers recognize the clear need for effective knowledge transfer that is fully applied on the job; they will welcome all constructive initiatives. The success of the organization depends in large part on effective transfer of employee training to the offshore work site. The lack of full knowledge transfer requires a comprehensive response, pulling together all who have an impact on the organization’s offshoring activities. Joint ventures in offshoring can generate a competitive advantage by way of strategic distribution of the business’ vital information and knowledge. By transferring knowledge between the outsourcing firm and the outsourced company, organizations will be able to sustain a more effective outsourcing relationship over time.
Delaney, J. (2004). The Outsourcing Revolution. New York: Practising Law Institute.
Kehal, H. ; Singh, V. (2006). Outsourcing and Offshoring in the 21st Century. Pennsylvania: Idea Group Publishing.
Nilsen, S. (2006). Offshoring of Services: An Overview of the Issues. Pennsylvania: DIANE Publishing.
Noe, R. (2005). Employee Training and Development. (3rd Ed.). USA: Irwin McGraw Hill.
Pyndt, J. ; Pedersen, T. (2006). Managing Global Offshoring Strategies: A Case Approach. Denmark: Copenhagen Business School Press.