May 2018
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Government behaving badly on outsourcing contracts

Many of the problems in government outsourcing result from bad behaviour

The boss of outsourcing giant Serco has accused the Government of “behaving badly” by passing off unreasonable contracts to suppliers, ignoring its own guidelines and shrouding its decisions in secrecy. In a Commons hearing on lessons learned from the collapse of Carillion, chief executive Rupert Soames told MPs that a raft of “well run and well respected” outsourcers have lost vast amounts of money in recent years working on government contracts with “unmanageable amounts of risks”.

Mr Soames – a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – claimed the Government has previously tried to pass off controversial and “unreasonable” contracts to outsourcing firms, while also routinely expecting suppliers to shoulder the risk of major law and policy change.

The recent woes in the outsourcing sector, which led to the collapse of Carillion and forced a number of its rivals to raise emergency capital to bolster their finances, was “astonishing”. “It’s been a massive, massive disruption in the supplier sector, the likes of which I’ve never seen – £8 billion written off of the supplier sector and billions of pounds being raised to recapitalise.” He added: “A lot of this is management’s fault, but … the Government as a monopoly buyer cannot stand idly by and say ‘nothing to do with me, Gov’.”


Mitie chief executive Phil Bentley, who was also giving evidence in the hearing, told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that he believed inaccurate data was also to blame for some failed outsourced contracts and called for greater data sharing and transparency. He gave the example of the asylum seeker contract handled by Serco, which he said saw the numbers of asylum seekers “massively underestimated” and led to hefty losses on the work.

Both bosses also said the bidding process was also flawed, with the Government under pressure to choose the cheapest supplier, rather than focusing on quality and expertise. Mr Soames added there are “no benefits for good behaviour, and no penalties for bad behaviour” in the process.

The company chiefs said the Government had tried to pass on the extra cost of the national living wage on some contracts, while also expecting suppliers to take the hit from any future policy changes from Brexit law changes.


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Our beliefs about nationality are mixed and malleable, and may help explain attitudes toward immigration


By Christian Jarrett

What is nationality?

Is it something fixed that we inherit biologically from our parents or is it a characteristic that we can change and acquire? A new study in Nature Human Behaviour is the first to study people’s “folk theories” about nationality – based on surveys of US and Indian participants – and the results show that, at least in these countries, people are broadly sympathetic toward both these contrasting theories of nationality at the same time, although with a bias toward the fluid theory.

The relative strength of people’s endorsement of the theories at any given time depended on the way questions about nationality were framed, the researchers found. Moreover, and perhaps most interesting for future investigation, the results showed people’s ideas about nationality were tied to their attitudes toward immigration, even after factoring out any differences in political leanings. Mostafa Rad and Jeremy Ginges at the New School for Social Research and Princeton University surveyed a total of 2013 US participants and 732 Indian participants. They presented the participants with variations of the following scenario:

Please imagine the following: A child is born to Pakistani parents but is orphaned at birth. When the child is one day old, they are adopted and raised by an American family and are never told about their origin.”

Next, the participants were asked, “all things considered”, to rate how much, from 0 to 100 per cent, the child will match the nationality of his or her birth parents, or – in a different framing – they were asked to make the same assessment for how much the child will match the nationality of their adoptive parents (debriefing clarified that, as hoped, the participants were considering nationality, not citizenship – which depends on more obvious and explicit legal stipulations that vary in different countries).

The participants’ views on what governs nationality varied according to the framing of the question – on the one hand, they stated on average that the child would share 77.8 per cent (US participants) or 74.2 per cent (Indian participants) of their adoptive parents’ nationality, suggesting a fluid view of nationality. Yet, when the question was framed around the birth parents’ nationality, the participants also stated that the child would share 39 percent (US participants) or 45.4 per cent (Indian participants) of their birth parents’ nationality, on average, indicative of a more fixed, genetic-based folk theory of nationality.

Varying the scenario wording so that the birth and adoptive parents’ skin colour was the same or different (based on ethnic and national stereotypes) made little difference to participants’ rates of agreement with both the fluid and genetic folk theories of nationality.

People hold contradictory ideas about nationality

The results suggest that, at least in the US and India, a lot of people hold in their heads two contradictory theories about the roots of nationality at the same time.

“Cultural evolution may have favored such flexible reasoning about the acquisition of nationality,” the researchers said, “as the ‘malleable’ theory allows for a rapid expansion of the group, whereas the ‘fixed’ theory suggests an inborn and immutable essence that gives a sense that nationality is more than a mere social contract but an ineffable primordial attachment encouraging deep moral commitments.”

Rad and Ginges were able to explore some of these dynamics by tweaking the wording of the question that they put to participants. For instance, they tried out versions in which the child’s birth parents happened to share the participant’s own nationality (while the child’s adopted parents had another nationality), and versions in which this was reversed, so that it was the child’s adopted parents who shared the participant’s own nationality.

Results for these different permutations of the vignette showed that participants generally saw their own nationality as harder to relinquish but easier to acquire, as compared with a foreign nationality (which they saw as easier to lose, but harder to gain). In the era of Brexit and Trump’s “great, great wall” these results may surprise some: “… [F]olk theories of nationality are biased towards immigration and against emigration, perhaps facilitating ingroup expansion,” the researchers said.

At the same time, as you might have predicted, the results showed that, in terms of differences between individuals in the strength of their belief in the different folk theories, those people who more strongly endorsed a fixed or genetic-based theory of nationality tended to have more hostile attitudes toward immigration, even after factoring out any differences in political leanings.

“Future work could build on our results to model social and political factors that may influence the distributive strength of malleable versus fixed conceptions of nationality,” the researchers concluded, “helping us to predict variations in attitudes towards migration across time and context.”

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

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Cielo is a Leader in recruitment process outsourcing

“As we continue to explore new frontiers in technology, extend our reach to new places around the world and break new ground in the candidate and client experience, we remain committed to maintaining the high quality of service our clients expect from us,” said Sue Marks, Cielo’s Founder and CEO. “Once again being recognized as a Leader by Everest Group and their peers in the analyst community shows sustained excellence even as we focus on growth and plan for future success in a fast-changing market.”

Everest Group’s 2018 Recruitment Process Outsourcing Service Provider Landscape with PEAK Matrix Assessment evaluated 21 established RPO service providers based on the absolute as well as relative year-on-year movement for specific criteria, including market success, scale, scope, technology capability, delivery footprint and buyer satisfaction. The providers were then categorized into three categories: Leaders, Major Contenders and Aspirants. Leaders, like Cielo, were placed in the top quadrant for both market success and delivery capability.

Cielo was highlighted specifically for the launch of Cielo TalentCloud, a suite of three technologies that includes: SkyRecruit, an exclusive CRM platform that provides the most advanced and recruiter-friendly tools for targeting, nurturing and engaging top talent; SkyAnalytics, a platform that provides prescriptive and actionable insights from market and internal data sources; and SkyLabs, an innovation engine whereby Cielo tests and pilots new and emerging technologies, tools and processes to understand how they could (or would not) help clients reach their goals.

“Cielo’s focus on enhancing its technology and developing new and innovative solutions for its customers has enabled it to stay ahead of the competition, which is reflected in Cielo being consistently featured in the Leader’s quadrant in Everest Group’s RPO PEAK Matrix,” said Arkadev Basak, Vice President, Everest Group.

About Cielo

Cielo is the world’s leading strategic Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) partner. Under its WE BECOME YOU™ philosophy, Cielo’s dedicated recruitment teams primarily serve clients in the financial and business services, consumer brands, technology and media, engineering, life sciences and healthcare industries. Cielo’s global presence includes 2,000 employees, serving 154 clients across 92 countries in 36 languages. The industry has verified Cielo’s reputation for executing innovative solutions that provide business impact through numerous awards and recognitions, including its #1 position on the HRO Today RPO Baker’s Dozen listing, PEAK Matrix Leader placement by Everest Group and Industry Leader designation by NelsonHall. Cielo knows talent is rising – and with it, an organization’s opportunity to rise above. For more information, visit

Cielo Contact:
Matt Quandt




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