The importance of cultural fit in Facility Management outsourcing

 Price and quality often play a significant role when selecting a Facility Management provider. What initially appears as economically lucrative, can, however, become very expensive mid-term, if not right amount of attention is paid to one of the most important decision criterions of all; the Cultural Fit.  

Let’s face it. Outsourcing relationships do not always run smoothly.  In Deloitte’s Global Outsourcing and Insourcing survey, respondents from 140 companies in nearly 30 countries ranked issues they were facing with their outsourcing providers.

According to survey respondents, most issues are derived from the service provider being reactive rather than proactive or from the provider delivering poor service despite achieving service levels.

Overlooking the results, it is interesting that only 19% of those surveyed viewed “incompatible culture” as an issue. Yet issues such unqualified resources (36%), lack of responsiveness (34%), ineffective issue resolution (33%), communication barriers (30%) and poor quality of relationship (30%) were all considerable problems.

This prompts the question; aren’t all of these strongly connected to the culture and values of the provider?

Best relationships are built between like-minded people

In business just like in real life, the best relationships are built between like-minded people. Research into psychology has proved repeatedly that we have higher trust in people that are similar to ourselves in both looks, values, behavior and culture.

Culture especially is the essence of a company’s DNA. It’s the company’s genes, norms, values and personality that often isn’t captured in formal documents or processes. Culture is what holds a company together. Often, the larger and established organization the more persistent the culture tends to be.

Now imagine what happens when an older, conservative, established organization with processes, policies, and procedures meets the informal, agile, fast-moving and fluid startup, designed to change as rapidly as new customer demands arise.

The potential for a cultural clash between those two is clear. The outsourcing firm doesn’t fit into the corporate environment and the corporate environment can’t work with the culture the outsource firm brings to the client.

Instead of working towards the same goals, sharing values, pride, purpose, missions and belief, the client company and outsourcing provider end up working at cross-purposes.

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Cultural Fit as a Facility Service provider selection criterion

No companies can risk a cultural clash in outsourcing. To secure a good fit between cultures, the buying organisation must to extensive homework at the front end of the solicitation and selection process.

Look inwards and analyse your own culture, values and where you’re heading. Interview your colleagues across all levels to get a broad sense of understanding of how your company culture and values are perceived. Build your own cultural profile and set up guidelines that can help you determine whether an external service provider will be a good fit for your organisation.

As a next step, set up an outsourcing steering committee comprising of key customer groups and critical management representatives. The steering committee can help you determine what attributes an outsource firm needs to possess to be successful within the company, and to syndicate, the risk involved the buying decision.

Include “culture” in the Facility Management RFP

Aside from evaluating cultural attributes internally, the topic of culture needs to be addressed in the RFP document. Be proactive and encourage the bidding firm to describe their own cultural profile and how it translates in real-life. Ask the bidding firm to also describe the process they use to blend the “three Ps” – personnel, policies, and procedures – with those of the client company.

Remember, if the buying organisation and the outsourcing firm do not talk the same cultural language from the beginning of the relationship, it is destined for failure.

The RFP process with the assistance of the steering committee, establish a great prerequisite for finding a great cultural match. And there’s no doubt that a strong cultural match lays a great foundation for an even stronger outsourcing relationship.