Although a company's move to outsourcing can sometimes strike fear in employees, workers may find the process provides them with an opportunity to advance their careers, according to the findings of a new survey.

The research, conducted in Europe and commissioned by IT services company LogicaCMG PLC, examined the opinions of 200 employees in large organisations before, during and after their positions were outsourced. While most of those surveyed, 84 percent, felt apprehensive at the prospect of having their positions outsourced, around 70 percent said that they were more satisfied with the new roles they were given following the transition.

"There is a lot of confusion surrounding outsourcing, when in fact people often improve their positions and get to work for a specialist operation," said LogicaCMG management consultant Paul Dunn.

Outsourcing is often confused with offshoring, Dunn said, which involves moving jobs to lower-cost markets such as India, while outsourcing involves a company's decision to move a particular operation or function out-of-house. When companies outsource, European regulations stipulate that affected employees retain the same conditions they had in their previous positions, Dunn said.

While remuneration packages, benefits and retraining are important in helping employees through the transition, early and open communication from employers about the decision is the crucial factor in easing employee fears, Dunn said.

"A lot of the transition is about perception and to do the process right, communication is key," he said. Dunn suggested telling employees as much as possible about the process, how it will effect them and how their roles will change as soon as the decision is made.

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Another important factor is inclusion and making sure that companies offer workers the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, Dunn said. Participation by work councils and representative bodies can be particularly helpful in moving employees through the transition and giving them a channel for their feedback, the research found. In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed said that representative bodies played a crucial role in the process.

If companies fail to communicate outsourcing changes, they may risk losing employees, the poll found, with 29 percent of those surveyed saying they would seriously consider changing jobs if the process wasn't managed effectively.

But if done right, the research indicated that outsourcing isn't as threatening as it may sound. Some 91 percent of those polled said that their initial fears were at least in part unfounded, while 49 percent said that they saw outsourcing as an opportunity to improve their skills.

Outsourcing isn't always viewed as a threat, however, as different countries have varying views on the practice. The US seems to have the most open and commercial view toward outsourcing, while traditionally protectionist countries like China view it with much more trepidation, Dunn said. In Europe, where the poll was conducted, the perception appears to be in between, with the UK leaning towards the US view, he added.

Still, no matter where employees are located, it appears from the poll that outsourcing can be a positive experience for employees if there is clear communication about the change. "Uncertainty needs to be eliminated as soon as possible," Dunn said.

The LogicaCMG poll was conducted across a range of sectors and employee positions in the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany by marketing research company Coleman Parkes.