Companies Increasingly Seeking to Outsource Human Resources, According to Conference Board Study Sponsored by Accenture

Study Identifies Cost-Reduction, Improved Service and Resource Management as Key Drivers of Outsourcing Trend

NEW YORK, July 18, 2002 Fortune 1000 companies are increasingly outsourcing their human resources functions, according to findings of a new study released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN), in conjunction with The Conference Board.

The study revealed that the outsourcing trend is driven by ongoing pressure for companies to reduce costs, improve service to employees, and maximize resource availability across their organizations, according to David Clinton, managing partner of Accenture HR Services, the Accenture unit that provides outsourced human resources management services.

Conducted by The Conference Board, the study was based on responses from 165 executives at companies in the United States, the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

“Outsourcing is now a fact of life in well-managed human resources organizations, and we do not see companies pulling back,” said David Dell, a research director with The Conference Board.

While U.S. companies are twice as likely as their counterparts in the United Kingdom and continental Europe to outsource major portions of their human resources functions, all companies surveyed intend to increase the number of functions they outsource.

The study revealed that the three human resources areas most often outsourced are 401(k) programs (80%), health benefits management (70%) and pension benefits (69%); employee communications (11%) is the area least often outsourced.

“Companies have clearly demonstrated that they are under increasing pressure to generate revenues, and outsourcing support functions such as human resources can help them do so,” said David Clinton. “When tied closely to business goals and properly executed, outsourcing has been shown to help companies gain access to additional expertise, cut costs, improve efficiency, and achieve their growth and profitability goals.”

Among other key survey findings:

  •  About half of the survey participants reported that they have fully achieved their outsourcing objectives; another 42 percent say their objectives were partly realized.

  • Two-thirds of U.S. companies surveyed fully or partially outsource five or more functions, making them heavy outsourcers compared with their counterparts in the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

  • Ninety-eight percent of the companies surveyed said they would still outsource today, despite any challenges they may have faced up to this point in their outsourcing initiatives. Seventy-eight percent are moving to a shared-services model for their human resources departments, often a precursor to outsourcing entire functions.

  • Less than 1 percent of previously outsourced functions have been brought back in-house, and virtually none of the companies surveyed plans to take outsourced functions in-house.

  • Twelve percent of companies surveyed outsource the bulk of their human resources functions to a single provider, and another 9 percent are in the process of or are considering outsourcing the bulk of their human resources business processes to a single provider.

  • Survey participants’ top reasons for outsourcing were cost savings, higher service quality, access to expertise and technology, and the ability of staff to focus on core activities.

The researchers also noted:

  • Cultural compatibility is seen as extremely important when selecting a human resources outsourcing provider.

  • Change management implementation and quality of team and staff are major determinants of outsourcing success.

  • Outsourcing has enabled human resources executives to focus on strategy and be a more integral part of decision making and planning.

  • A growing need for skilled resources to maintain high-quality human resources service and reduce costs has generated increased interest in human resources outsourcing.

The research, conducted over a six-month period, was designed to assess attitudes about, and the potential use of, human resources outsourcing. Executives at 125 companies from a variety of industries — including automotive, banking, insurance, retail and telecommunications — completed written questionnaires, and executives at 40 other corporations were interviewed by telephone. Approximately two-thirds of all respondents were from North American-based companies and 35 percent were from European-based companies.

About Accenture
Accenture is the world’s leading management consulting and technology services organization. Through its network of businesses approach – in which the company enhances its consulting and outsourcing expertise through alliances, affiliated companies and other capabilities – Accenture delivers innovations that help clients across all industries quickly realize their visions. With more than 75,000 people in 47 countries, the company generated net revenues of US $11.44 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2001. Its home page is

Formerly known as e-peopleserve, Accenture HR Services is an Accenture solution unit that provides people management services to global enterprises on an outsourced basis. Employing advanced technology and best-of-breed human resources practices, Accenture HR Services works in close collaboration with its clients to accommodate the unique needs and characteristics of their business operations and people. The goal of Accenture HR Services is to enable clients to concentrate on optimizing their core business activities while reducing their costs and achieving the greatest possible value from their assets, including their people.

About the Conference Board
The Conference Board creates and disseminates knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance and better serve society. Working as a global independent membership organization in the public interest, The Conference Board conducts conferences, makes forecasts and assesses trends, publishes information and analysis, and brings executives together to learn from one another. The Conference Board is a not-for-profit organization and holds 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United States. Visit The Conference Board’s website: