Nevertheless, my team’s job during the transition was to check the vendor’s work to make sure they were doing everything correctly. I was very impressed with their commitment. During this phase, they were working late hours, till midnight, to resolve these issues. They were extremely committed, and at the same time, they were still trying to maintain very high standards.
If some people are impacted [by a layoff], they would think, “Who cares about accuracy? Who cares about working late?” They would just take off. I’ve been quite lucky to have a team [that did not think like that].
It seems you had set up a good system with your team, but part of the process in the outsourcing project is that you have tell them to let go and move on.
Yes. Otherwise, I think this whole project will never, ever go live.
Was money a motivation?
Money was one of the incentives – not just basic pay, but bonuses. We were quite supportive in ensuring that if the team needed to go to [job] interviews or obtain referrals, or help with CVs, we helped them. We were also supportive in terms of recommending them to any open positions internally.
Being Linklaters, we are very mobile. So those staff members in the Hong Kong finance team affected by this outsourcing project were welcome to join or move to positions elsewhere.
Personally, I did help them with the job search. If I heard of anything from the market. I would forward the information to them. I felt that the team knew that we were very supportive, and they did stay on. I’m not sure why they didn’t leave; maybe there weren’t many jobs out there. Also, in 2009, the market wasn’t doing well.
But during that 18-month transition period, the market picked up. My staff were starting to look for jobs and I was a bit nervous. I did ask them if they could stay on for us, and most of them did, with the exception of one. This person had found a job and to be fair to the staff, we should let that person leave.
I assume some of your staff were more needed than others because of their seniority. Did you offer different bonuses for the more crucial staff?
No, it was consistent. The bonus was a percentage of their salary, not a fixed amount, so for a more senior person, the bonus was bigger [than for a junior colleague]. The bonus depended on how many months they stayed on for the transition, and how long the person has been with the firm.
We did tell them to keep it confidential, but of course we can’t control that. Even if they did [discuss with others], because, we applied a consistent way of calculating the stay-on bonus, I don’t think it would create a problem. And it didn’t.
Not everyone got a bonus. Some of the junior team members were brought on as contract staff. We signed them on for one to two years and told them, “This outsourcing is happening. You are going to be contract staff.”
Some of the retained staff were given new roles in advisory and other value-added areas. How did the transition go?
One of the reasons why we did outsourcing was to increase the value of the finance function. Rather than being a very transactional processing team, we wanted them to be finance business partners.