Outsourcing and offshoring – how should you treat your staff?

I am surprised by the number of business owners that I meet who have offshore staff but don’t really know anything about them, often including their names!

When it comes to outsourcing, offshoring, business process outsourcing and the like as an industry, it is still in its relatively early days. In fact, this industry pretty much did not even exist 30 years ago.

The industry’s initial development has of course been primarily fueled by access to low-cost labour. Unfortunately, this has also produced a dynamic where some employers have treated their staff as a cheap and readily available commodity which is neither properly appreciated nor respected. In some cases, where these staffers are easily replaced and loyalty and retention is not a big issue, then perhaps this may not matter, at least from a commercial perspective. The reality though is that for most businesses, once the necessary time, effort and money have been invested into their offshore staff to get things working well, the last thing you then want is to lose them. As a result, it is essential that strategies are developed to engage and retain the staff.

Not very surprisingly, it is often the simple things that make the biggest difference, starting with ensuring that your staff members feel properly understood and appreciated – knowing their names definitely helps here!

Getting to know your staff

This concept is easy to understand but can be far more difficult to put into practice. In order to properly value your staff, you need to understand them, their local culture and what is important to them. You also need to ensure that their office premises are laid out in such a way as to treat them as individuals and not simply as a production line. Their roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined as their key performance indicators. Reviews need to be conducted at an appropriate frequency to ensure that those staff who are excelling are given the opportunity to move forward in their careers and that remuneration and benefits for all staff remain in line with market rates. There also needs to be clear career pathways and, very importantly, a well-funded engagement program to build and maintain a good office culture and ensure ongoing enjoyment.

Most Australian employers have little difficulty in understanding the relevance of these issues to their businesses here in Australia. However, they often fail to take the same approach and put in the same effort with their outsourced or offshore staff.

Put simply, if you don’t treat and value your offshore staff in the same way as you do with your local Australian staff, you are likely to find that their loyalty and engagement falls, productivity drops and turnover becomes an issue. Fail to get this right and it is almost certain that your offshore strategy will also fail. On the other hand, if your offshore or outsourced staff can be properly engaged, rewarded and motivated, it is very likely that you will get a very significant return on your investment for a long time to come.

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