February 16, 2024
Today, outsourcing has become far more than just a means to save costs—it’s become a strategic route that businesses and firms take in order to gain competitive advantage. Outsourcing has also become expansive, breaking boundaries and bridging large distances across the world. Offshoring is a popular option for large Western-based companies, and offshoring countries such as the Philippines, India, and Malaysia are leading the list of the top outsourcing destinations in the world. However, there are several differences that make offshoring difficult and, often, discouraging for Westerners: language barriers, time differences, and cultural contrasts.
These differences are inevitable, yes; but there’s a way to turn these differences into your strengths. Read on! Here are some tips to help you get the most out of offshoring.
This is one of the leading challenges that managers face, especially when offshoring to Eastern countries. The large cultural difference—language, accent, and dialect differences included—often heavily affect the way home and offshore countries work together, more on the negative side.
To solve this, it’s advisable that you study and understand their culture. Cultural differences such as those concerning norms, values, and beliefs should never be overlooked because this is what can make or break your relationship with your offshore team. Understand their culture and you can start building a good relationship with them, but a small disregard for their values and you’re slowly pushing them away. Respect their culture, and you’ll be happy to see them do the same for you.
You can even make these cultural differences work in your favour. A study on cultural differences in global services outsourcing revealed that although large cultural differences slowed down the pace in which the team achieved expected service levels, it does increase the chances of reaching cost (savings) targets. Because of the “fear due to the anticipation of challenges” met in offshoring to countries with big cultural contrasts, decision makers make more efforts in information gathering and processing, hence leading to better decisions that help them stay well within their cost estimates.
Another big hurdle in offshoring is the large difference in time zones, but it’s up to you as the manager to look at it as an advantage or a disadvantage. Try to look for overlapping work hours between you and your offshore team which you can use to meet and coordinate. However, experts suggest not to use the first and last hours of the shift, as people can either arrive late or leave early.
There’s another way to go about the time differences: use the differing time zones to complete business functions and necessary tasks round the clock. Couchsurfing.org is a hospitality and social networking service that’s spread over 15 time zones. How do they manage the time differences? They prioritise their tasks based on the time zones. In a Quora question, CouchSurfing.org User Experience and Design Team Lead Ben Hanna says, “If something needs to happen first in an early time zone, get it to the person responsible there. Good timing can make a project literally zip around the globe with work being completed 24 hours a day.”
However, if you still think time differences will not work for your business, try looking for offshore service providers who can accommodate your preferred working hours.
A regular visit to your offshore location can do wonders for your offshore team, possibly your in-house team too, and your business in general.
When you visit your offshore team, you’re making a conscious effort to reach out to them. Through your efforts, they can feel the real sense of being part of your company despite the large geographical distance, and that’s a great way to keep a team motivated. Spend a few days (or maybe even weeks if your schedule allows it) to travel to your offshore country and sit down with your offshore team. Take that chance to get to know them individually, know their strengths, know what they’re passionate about, and talk to them about problems at work. You can also use this time for strategic planning and collaboration with them in person.
While staying in the country, you also have the chance to know more about their culture (Remember, Point #1!). You might also want to try arranging for your offshore team to visit your main office too. That would be a great opportunity for your offshore team and in-house team to know each other, bond, and develop better collaboration.
If you’re looking to expand your business, visiting other countries could also lead you to find new opportunities in the country.
Take for example one of our clients, James Stringer, Managing Director of CleanLink Software. Stringer visited his Cloud Employee team in Manila last November 2017. He has never worked with anyone from the Philippines previously, but he found his team of Filipino offshore developers to be of high quality. His visit to the country also gave him a peace of mind because he knows that his team is happy and well taken care of at Cloud Employee. Read more about our client's story and see the benefits of visiting your offshore team.
While you’re building a good rapport with your team, don’t forget to connect with your offshore managers as well. They are your partners throughout your offshoring endeavour, so it’s going to be beneficial for both you and your offshore team if you build a good relationship with offshore managers right from the start. They help you in a lot of ways: they act as a liaison between you and your offshore team, and they conduct performance reviews and assessments on-site. Work for a smooth flow of communication and efficient collaboration between you and your offshore manager, and say hello to an easy and hassle-free offshoring experience ahead.
Aside from offshore managers, it will also be helpful to designate a team leader among your offshore team who will be in charge of coordinating all tasks and deadlines.
Keeping in mind the differences in language and culture, this is one tip you should never forget as a manager. Always, always be clear in your instructions. Clearly define everything you want to be done, unless you want to be frustrated later on. The biggest disasters in offshoring often come from assumptions—assuming that your offshore team already knows what to do, assuming that everyone thinks the same way as you do, and assuming that they can read between the lines. Remember, you’re working with people from different backgrounds. Avoid future mistakes caused by vague instructions by being straightforward. You can also use tools such as visual aids, charts, diagrams, or what-have-you; the important thing is to end a meeting knowing that your offshore team understood what it is exactly you want to be done.
Aside from this, don’t forget to update your team immediately when changes are made. You can make use of messaging apps such as Skype, which is useful for instant messaging and one-to-one voice calls, and Slack, which is great for real-time communication, collaboration, and file-sharing.
For members of an offshore team, recognition coming from the main office is a lot more special. It makes them feel that they belong and that they are remembered, and that their efforts are appreciated. Commend your offshore team for a job well done or a consistent performance, and give credit when it is due. This definitely boosts your team’s morale, inspiring them to work harder.
If you’re currently working with an offshore team, study these tips and see which ones work for your set up. You can also check out these productivity tools which you can use while working with remote developers. There’s a lot of resources available today which you can use to encourage high-quality output from your offshore team, all you have to do is put some effort and explore these solutions. In the end, you’ll be more than satisfied with the results.