March 9, 2018

5 lessons from 5 years in outsourced HR

5 years is a long time in HR. In the past half-decade, both the modern workplace and the way we practice outsourced HR has changed a lot. On the eve of our fifth birthday, we take a look back on what we’ve learned.

It’s Catalina Consultants’ five-year anniversary! The time has certainly flown, and yet it seems a lot has changed since we opened our doors back in 2012. So, without getting too philosophical or sentimental, here are five lessons we’ve learned – or five things that have changed – over our five years of practice.

1. People now understand the value of outsourced HR

In 2012, our first conversation with a prospective client was usually to explain what outsourced HR meant. We’d then work hard to convince a sceptical CEO that their HR function could still, well… function, even without having the HR manager sitting in the office next door.

In 2017, we don’t have that conversation much at all. Generally, people get what we do. With the rise of flexible working, they understand that you can still learn their business, embed yourselves and quickly add value, without being onsite all the time. People also understand the benefit of outsourcing a specialized function of their business, to tap into the expert knowledge and best-practice experience at a fraction of the cost of an in-house team– whether it’s for HR, IT, or Marketing – and they’re much more used to doing it as well.

And at the end of the day, if we do need to be onsite for any reason, we are there as soon as you need us!

2. There’s no substitute for bespoke

Right from the beginning, we knew that for outsourced HR to be effective and have a sustainable impact on an organization it must be bespoke. Cultures are all different and there’s no room for a cookie-cutter “take a ticket” approach. Just like an internal HR team, your outsourced HR team must be tailored to the specific needs of your industry and business.

That’s why we’ve made one of our real points of difference taking the time to understand our clients’ businesses, the culture in which they operate, as well as their high priority HR needs and then putting together the right combination of skills and experience.

So your HR team is Merilyn, Steph, and Em, or Megan, Brianna and Elena and we’ll never ask you to take a ticket!

3. Variety is the spice of life. It also helps you learn faster. 

When you work in an in-house HR role, thankfully you rarely have to deal with a lot of the really sticky HR issues. And by sticky, we mean something like a difficult termination, an internal investigation or a Fair Work claim. When you’re part of an outsourced HR team, with the breadth and depth of different clients, these sticky issues happen all the time, and no two are the same.

In outsourced HR there’s never a dull moment. The phone will ring, a situation has arisen and we are there to support and advise. And honestly, sometimes this can happen 4-5 times in a day!

We think this keeps us sharp! The variety means we’re constantly honing our expertise and we’re able to apply those skills and what we’ve seen work before, to each different situation. We know what doesn’t work, and what to avoid. We think this provides our clients with a very tangible benefit.

4. The modern workplace has changed…

This goes back to our first point. In 2017, a typical workplace no longer looks like it did in 2012. There will often be fewer people in the office, fewer staff in general and more people working in an arrangement other than as a full-time employee.

We think this has happened for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as we already mentioned, flexible working is now much more generally accepted and is, in fact, a legal entitlement.

Secondly, cloud technology now means that no matter where you are in the world, it’s easy to access systems and databases and strike the right combination of phone, email and face time you need to perform most roles. It’s also more common now to share resources and knowledge across different offices and states, with centralized and shared-services support structures becoming de-rigueur.

So the concept of your HR team is located in a different office or even a different state fits perfectly into this new workplace norm.

5. And being out of the office is no excuse for not delivering

Remember when working from home was often code for taking it easy? We do… that was 2012. In 2017, that doesn’t cut it anymore.

Today more people, including senior executives, often work out of the office and are encouraged to do so for many varied reasons. Whatever the reason, people are contactable, available and proactive.

This is the essence of how we work each and every day. It means we need to think and operate in exactly the way we would if we were sitting in the office next door to the CEO. We need to be accessible, proactive and responsive; keep on top of what’s going on in the client’s business; and provide commercial, relevant advice and recommendations that really add value to their business.

With globalization, technology and increased flexibility in the workplace we see this phenomenon only increasing and we think this places us in a unique position to be leaps ahead when it comes to delivery and service.

Now for the next five years…

So there are five things we’ve noticed in the past five years. Who knows what we’ll be reflecting on in 2022, but we can’t wait to find out!

Thanks so much for all your support on our journey so far.

The team at Catalina

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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