Your Offshore Team and You

Bringing the best out of the people you see every day can make coming to work plenty of fun and be rewarding for your entire company. This is true whether you are working with your local staff or with an offshore team. As is the case when you start working with new people, there are still a few things that you need to work out initially once you have gotten to know them on your first day.

Closing the distance between you and your offshore team is already an immediate problem that is solved thanks to current technologies. What was once a complicated task, communicating with an offshore team has become a seamless experience that it almost feels like they’re in the same room with you. Regardless of this, there are still a few delicate intricacies that face to face communication brings that you cannot emulate over services like Skype and VSee. It is, therefore, important that you communicate with your team as frequently and as clearly as possible to assign tasks properly, plan your objectives and meet other challenges working with them poses.

Change management

Transition and change are always major issues to discuss in any workplace. Resistance, whether active or passive, should be expected especially if it means talking with your local staff about functions that will potentially be sent to an offshore team. A poor implementation of change strategy may bring uneasiness and uncertainty to your office, which may also result in a number of good staff members leaving for a more stable job.

This highlights the importance of maintaining constant communication and engagement with your offshore team. Everyone that will be affected by changes in management should be communicated with and personalised depending on the level of each staff members. Issues and questions that are raised need be addressed while also giving your staff the floor to be heard as well.

Cultural Differences

When looking to secure an offshore team for your company, cultural differences are bound to arise. Behaviours that are considered norms in Australia may not be the same case for countries in Asia or America and vice versa. From a Filipino point of view, there are some cultural dynamics which are part of our everyday life that while we don’t notice them, foreigners, on the other hand, may be surprised by them. We’ve touched on the significance of being aware of cultural differences previously and it is important to note that aside from this, there are also particular corporate differences you need to also keep in mind.

Corporate culture in Asia puts a much higher premium on respect and understanding within the workplace. In an effort to minimise any confrontation, politeness and clarity are second nature to many people based in Asia so as not to lose face in front of others. This is also especially prevalent in the Philippines, where the concept of being “hiya” or embarrassed is something that is actively avoided. Australian and American workplace cultures have an approach that Asian cultures might feel is too aggressive for them and being unaware of this may cause plenty of friction among your team.

Tempered Expectations

It may sound tempting on the surface to let your offshore team handle a bulk of your functions in order to free up more local opportunities. You want to expect plenty from your team since, after all, they were through a very extensive screening process. However, if you raise your expectations too high for them, the results may not be what you were looking for in the first place.

You need to be aware of what your offshore team can bring to the table as well as potential risks that may come. It is easy to brush away how managing these expectations aren’t a difficult task but it is also an often overlooked one that leads to even more problems that need confronting. Tempered and properly managed expectations not only become beneficial for the company but also further develop the relationship with your offshore team.

Cultivating the right offshore team for your company takes some time, but it becomes incredibly beneficial in the long run. Diversify prides itself in being able to provide highly skilled and dedicated members for your offshoring staff. Drop us a line today if you want to learn more about offshoring.


The greatest challenges facing businesses today

The business environment in which we operate is dynamic; with the only constant being change. Adapting to this change is critical if businesses are to remain successful in this highly competitive environment; innovate or die. With this in mind, I wanted to share some of the key business challenges that I feel pose the biggest threat to businesses, of all sizes, at this current stage.

These are all business challenges that I have had to face in my role as a CEO of a growing Australian business and ones that we have had to meet head on to remain competitive.

Global labour market

The global labour market is now more accessible than ever with the continued breakdown of geographical communication barriers. More and more organisations are taking advantage of the competitively priced global labour market. As identified in a recent Deloitte report, the continued rise of offshoring has been driven by largely economic factors as it offers more competitive price points for the same service levels.

Businesses of all sizes are able to access talent for many skilled and unskilled roles at a fraction of the cost of local employees. Although this is not the most significant driver for offshoring, reduced costs allow businesses to reinvest the funds into other areas of the business.

The question you should be asking yourself is, are you leveraging the power of the global labour market? Are your competitors accessing it?

Growing revenues without increasing fixed costs

Cost has always been the root cause of many business challenges. The ultimate goal of any business is to grow without increasing your fixed costs. This is one of many significant business challenges when you take into account how competitive the global business market is. Bearing in mind the costs of adding local labour to service your desired growth, providing operational support in the form of office space, IT and human resources support, while maintaining fixed costs can be a challenge.

Offshore workforces are just one way businesses can grow revenues without increasing fixed costs. Your business can hire highly-skilled offshore employees who are then provided full support in a serviced office. This, in turn, reduces your overheads as your business is simply liable for a monthly, fixed service fee – it’s as transparent as it gets.

Empowering your local employees

It’s an amazing statistic, but in a recent Harvard Business Review article into employee productivity, it was identified that employees can spend, on average, 41% of their time on activities that offer little value and could easily be performed by others. The article states that “we instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important, while our bosses, constantly striving to do more with less, pile on as many responsibilities as we’re willing to accept”.

Employees that are dragged down into low value work are, in my experience, more easily distracted and less engaged. One way to overcome this is to identify the low-value tasks and consider offshoring them to cost-effective labour solutions. Not only does this allow your local, and more costly, employees to focus on high value tasks, it empowers them. They’re able to focus on the tasks that matter, while low-level and process intensive tasks that would usually take up their time are performed cost-effectively offshore.

Adding capability

The local labour market is incredibly competitive; especially with digital and technology roles. As a result, many skillsets and capabilities that are required to effectively service clients are unattainable. They’re either unattainable due to high local wage costs or due to the lack of a sufficiently skilled talent pool.

This may mean not expanding your capabilities to meet the market or having to source expensive contractors. Capabilities such as data analytics, application and website development can take your business to the next level. Although these roles are hard to come by locally, the offshore talent pool is vast, and of course highly skilled.

You can add the capability you need to keep up with constant change.

Expanding Flexibility

We all live in the age of now – customers want instant responses and service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Businesses need to meet this need in order to continue being competitive. With the continued advancement of social media and increase in customers using online channels to interact, businesses need to adapt.

Doing this locally may not be possible, however, many businesses are using offshore teams to service customer requests and queries 24/7. Businesses can add social media monitors, customer service staff members and online chat capability to support this need without impacting significantly on the bottom line.

Leverage the power of offshore resources to take your business to the next level

Ultimately, companies are facing more business challenges than ever in trying to remain competitive. There are many approaches that can be adopted to tackle this change head on and one of these is via the use of offshore resources.

Offshore teams are now more viable than ever – however, there is a perception out there that offshoring is difficult to implement and manage. We want to debunk this myth which is why we’ve launched ‘The Art of Offshoring’ – a four-part educational series aimed at taking you through the entire offshoring process – from learning what it actually is right through to implementing and managing your team!

Diversify is currently conducting an industry first survey into the state of offshoring in Australia 2016. This survey aims to examine the perceptions of offshoring in general and understand whether or not businesses who have adopted an offshore approach have achieved success.

 

Complete the survey today


Understanding the importance of family to your Filipino workforce

Different cultures place different value on the importance of family in driving their behaviour. In regards to Filipino and Western ideals, the difference is substantial. It is important to acknowledge the cultural norms, in both how Westerners deal with family, as well as the Filipino value system. Understanding this properly will shape how you interact with your offshore workforce in a positive manner.

Family at the heart of personal development

It is well established that a person’s values and ideals drive their actions, behaviour and demeanour. An individual’s closest relationships are often formed form birth and then honed over many years of interaction, collaboration and emotional and psychological development. In a Western environment, it can be said that as an individual grows and develop focus is placed heavily on promoting independence and separation from the family unit. This growth and focus on ‘leaving the nest’ is often signified with children maturing, moving out and severing any financial dependence on their parents. On the other hand, this move to independence also means that offspring are not compelled to support or provide any assistance to their family. This may of course change as family members start to age and require assistance, whether it is slight financial support or a move into a facility.

The above is the complete antithesis to how Filipino’s deal with their family unit. It really is a “unit” as throughout the lifecycle, a family stays completely together. Their complete and utter commitment to their family is at a different stratosphere. In order to articulate it in a simple way, it can be said that the Filipinos embrace and encourage a more centralised approach to family conversely as a Western family matures it becomes far more fragmented, with individuals moving out and severing any links of dependence.

Family above all else

More often than not, family will always be the highest priority to Filipinos. Gatherings are large and loud, including up to 30 people all at once! As mentioned earlier, Filipinos deal with the transition to adulthood in a completely different fashion, whereby Western parents raise their offspring to leave the nest as soon as possible (usually 18) as young Filipinos transition into adults and turn 18, they aren’t expected (forced) to move out and live on their own. They are raised and encouraged to continue to contribute and play an active part in a highly centralised family unit. Consequently, the idea of putting elderly parents in a home or with an external care provider is considered an absurd concept and often frowned upon. As a result of this fierce loyalty and dedication exhibited in regards to the family unit, many Filipinos centre their work efforts and professional development as a means to provide for their families, especially those family members who had to migrate from the provinces and settle in Metro Manila or abroad. Despite inconveniences to them many Filipinos are often willing to go the extra mile if it means being able to provide for their families, even marginally.

Treating everyone like family. Literally

The importance of family is also very prevalent in the everyday language used by Filipinos; this is usually to the point that it’s almost unnoticeable for them. While we would normally use “sir” and “madam” to refer to people we don’t know informally, Filipinos occasionally use “kuya” and “ate” – meaning “older brother” and “older sister” in Filipino – to address them. These can be, but not limited to, their taxi driver, their local barista or even a stranger on the street they want to get the attention of. When amongst people they know personally, Filipinos use “tito” and “tita” when addressing the parents of their friends, and this translates to “uncle” and “aunt.” It may seem unusual for foreigners to hear them refer to people outside of their family as one of their own, but this is second nature to all Filipinos and shows just how deeply rooted familial bonds are in their culture.

Staff should feel like they belong to an extended family

By understanding the importance of family to your Filipino workforce, you will begin to understand an critical facet of Filipino culture and how to properly approach it when it comes to engaging with your staff based in the Philippines. Too often do we hear stories of great employees leaving their companies because of other staff being inconsiderate or unaware of particular cultural differences. When people feel like they don’t belong or are in a closed, unwelcoming and hostile environment, they are more likely to quit rather than stay on for as long as they can. For those that do choose to stick it out, doing so would take a toll on their well-being and can lead more damaging effects.

We’ve discussed how a culture of engagement and belonging in your workplace can help keep staff motivated and driven and in the Filipino context, this can be done by creating an office culture that feels like their second home. By creating an atmosphere that feels like they belong and allowing for proper balance with work-life integration, you will have staff that will stay continuously productive, work to the best of their abilities and remain loyal to you, just like they would with their real families.


Dealing with Filipinos in your offshore workforce

In order to get the best results from an offshore workforce, it is important to first understand the things that make them unique, their personal beliefs and most importantly, the cultural differences. Before I dive into discussing the most important things that you need to consider when you are engaging with your offshore workforce, it is important to understand that they are different! Different in how they behave, how they communicate and how they disseminate and understand the information they receive from you. If you enter the offshoring game with an open, understanding and flexible mindset, you will find dealing with your offshore workforce extremely rewarding.

Family matters

Regardless of where you are based, family is always important. In the Philippines, the concept of family surpasses what many western countries may consider normal. Filipinos are a very family orientated people with large and very closely-knit extended families. The role of parents extends a lot further than in most western countries, with children continuing to strictly follow their parents’ advice and directions well into adulthood. As a rather funny example, one of Diversify’s offshore staff members, who is in her early 30s and has her own children, still has her mother buy all her clothes for her and lets her decide which clothes she will wear to work each day!

A side effect of this can be a reluctance to think independently or question instruction. This is very useful if you are looking for offshore staff that will strictly follow a predetermined process, however, it can actually be a hindrance if you are looking for staff who will be independent thinkers and who will question the status quo when required.

Saving face – knowing when ‘yes’ means ‘no’

We all try our best to ensure the delivery of the best outcome when undertaking a project or task for our employers. The key thing to understand is whereas a locally based resource may question and provide objective feedback if they do not understand the instructions or if they believe it can be done in a more efficient manner, an offshore Filipino resource may not actually understand the instruction but still dive into the task! This is attributed to an overwhelming desire not to disappoint and then subsequently lose face.

The saving of face is a big issue with the Filipinos, as it is with most Asian countries. It is important to understand the potential impact that this unique cultural element can have on the success of an offshoring project. The most obvious issue being their propensity to receive instructions for a task and then confirm their ability to complete the task, even if they do not actually understand or even worse, if they can’t even complete it! The actual reality may be that the staff member has neither the time nor experience to do what you ask but does not want to lose face by admitting as much.

Provide feedback in a reasonable way – the cotton wool approach always helps!

As you can tell by now, Filipinos are different. They have a different value and belief system in regards to family and friends, are always looking to complete the task or project at hand (even if they do not have the capability to do so), are quite sensitive and do not take criticism as a locally based worker may. It becomes quite important to understand that you can rapidly destroy relationships with your offshore staff if you do opt to reprimand them or vocalise your dissatisfaction in front of their peers. The loss of face that is associated with that can sometimes be irretrievable and result in them moving to another job at the first opportunity.

Work is family

At the start of this article, I discussed the important of family for Filipino employees. This belief in family transcends their flesh and blood and can actually include where they work. Relationships are a critical component of Filipino life and they will strive to form close, collaborative and energetic bonds with their fellow employees. This is an area that I have focused on building and one that Diversify does differently than most offshoring providers. Our goal in regards to work/life balance and office environment reflects that. Staff engagement is all geared to creating one big family and as a result of this, our clients enjoy happy, productive, engaged and loyal employees who will stay!

Every workplace has challenges – it is how you deal with them that matters

I have run through a few cultural peculiarities that I believe must be acknowledged and understood when dealing with an offshore workforce. In the implementation of an offshore workforce that successfully works, knowledge is power. If you understand and accept what makes an offshore workforce different then you are more likely to achieve success. It will help you deal with the inevitable roadblocks and struggles that you will face (no different to any other major business transformation strategy).

In my experience in this industry, I have found that if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. There is no substitute for practical experience and intimate industry knowledge, especially as you are considering a major transformational project that will have a notable impact on your organisation. The impact could be positive or negative depending on the provider you partner with.

An experienced offshore provider will work with you collaboratively and step you through the process. A few of the critical components that an experienced provider would advise you on includes a change in management, achieving organisational buy-in, strategy development, and overall execution.

They say that using experts is expensive but just wait until you use an amateur…

If you are ready to talk about how offshoring can work for your organisation contact us.

Key takeaways

  • Invest time in developing an understanding of the key differences between your offshore workforce in comparison to your local workforce.
  • Your offshore workforce is different – accept it, buy into it and celebrate it.
  • Education is important. Investing time in developing knowledge about the cultural, psychological and personal traits that make your offshore workforce different may be the difference between success and failure.
  • Undertake a reasonable and soft approach when dealing with the provision of feedback or criticism if you are unhappy with an outcome.
  • NEVER publicly reprimand or shame an employee – it could have a drastic effect on culture as well as possibly driving that employee somewhere else.
  • Work is considered family – your offshore provider should make this a big focus of their strategy. A happy, engaged employee is a productive and loyal one.
  • Be prepared to deal with issues, roadblocks and challenges.
  • Always use an expert!

How do you find the right Filipino staff?

If you are looking to successfully offshore, then it should be of paramount importance to find the right calibre of staff. This sounds simple but can be one of the hardest things to achieve. If you want to access the top Filipino talent, there are a number of things you will need to get right.

Location, location…

As with most countries, the closer you are to the centre of a major metropolis, the deeper and more experienced the talent pool. This is even more so the case in the Philippines, with the greater Manila area being home to approximately 14 million people. The depth of the talent pool available here will far surpass that in any other area of the Philippines.

Once you are in the right location, you then need the right quality facility to both attract the staff and then also ensure they stay happy. Unfortunately, there are still many offices which operate in a “battery hen” style – while this might save you money in the short term, it also a surefire way to scare off any serious talent. Things to look out for with your facility include good access to public transport, high-speed lifts, comfortable maximum staff densities, backup power generators, high-quality staff amenities, facilities not subject to flooding and 24/7 building security.

Reputation

The Filipinos are prolific users of social media and are quick to share their experiences working with employers. For this reason, employers quickly develop reputations as good or bad places to work. If you (or your offshoring service provider) doesn’t have the right reputation in the marketplace, you simply won’t even get to meet with the good quality candidates. Developing and maintaining that reputation is certainly no simple thing but it starts with honestly valuing and respecting your offshore staff and treating them accordingly.

Recruitment channels

There are a range of different ways to find the staff you need. Which is most suitable will depend on the type of role you are looking to fulfill. Most good facilities will guide you along this path (or completely take the headache away from you) and chose the channels most suitable to find your prospective staff. The channels which can be used include advertising in industry-specific publications, LinkedIn Premium, job boards and industry/university partnerships. In addition, high-quality offshoring facilities usually maintain a pool of pre-screened and available candidates for common roles.

Due Diligence checks

Once you think you have found your future staff member it is essential to do thorough DD on them which should include as a bare minimum:

  • An English language test (supervised)
  • Workplace specific test (supervised)
  • Reference checking from previous employers
  • Full medical
  • Basic police checks

In addition, with more senior roles or ones that involve access to financial information, you should also consider:

  • Interpol checks
  • Full police checks
  • Civil litigation checks
  • Identity verification
  • Qualification verification

Getting the right staff to begin with is the foundation for a successful offshoring experience.


Change management strategies when considering offshoring and outsourcing

Often times, a business new to offshoring will implement the idea with the primary focus being on what is happening offshore – how to find their staff, where will they be based, how they will be supervised and trained etc. This approach overlooks what is often one the most important considerations in successful offshoring – the impact on the local workforce and how to ensure that your local staff will understand and support your offshoring plans.

When considering how to approach the issue of offshoring with your local staff, the key things to remember are:

  • In the absence of information, people will always assume the worst
  • Self- interest is the main driver for most people – they will want to know “What does this mean to me?”
  • Without the support of your local staff, your offshoring plans will almost certainly fail.

So then how do you get the buy-in and support of your local staff?

Communication is the first and most important factor. You need to communicate your offshoring plans to all your staff and more importantly, let them know what it will mean to them. It is also essential to remain true to what you tell them – trust, once broken, cannot be repaired. If jobs are going to be made redundant and moved offshore, the staff should be made aware of it. Let them know which jobs will remain onshore. It might be that your plan is not to make anyone redundant but rather add resources offshore and also look to move roles when the opportunity presents as a result of local turnover. Regardless of your message, make sure you get it clearly received by your staff at the start of the process.

Next is to have the staff get to know your offshore workforce as soon as possible. We recommend that our clients bring some of their Filipino staff to Australia for training as early in the process as possible. We’ve talked about the importance of training your staff and it should be emphasised that this helps everyone get to know each other and build a mutual cultural understanding. It is much easier to be dismissive and unsupportive of the offshore team when you haven’t met them and spent time working together.

Try to make the offshoring experience a positive one from the outset. Adding resources that you cannot afford locally can be a great way to achieve this. One simple example we have seen a number of times has been the addition of a graphic designer to the staff. This person can have a profound effect on the quality of all the business marketing materials and communication, significantly improving appearance and professionalism. Starting with an offshore staff that makes the working lives of your local staff easier or better in some way will help greatly with local acceptance and buy-in.

Lastly, publicly recognise and reward those local staff members who support your offshoring strategy and help drive its success. These offshoring “champions” can help you drive a culture that is both supportive of your offshoring strategy as they look for new and constantly finds better ways of how to get the most of your offshore team. In line with this, you should also make sure that the local managers of your offshore team have KPIs linked to the success of that team.

If you are thinking about offshoring or outsourcing then getting things to work with your offshore team is only one-half of the equation. Equally and perhaps even more importantly is how you manage your local staff to ensure they support and help drive your plans. Without these, your offshore plans are almost certainly doomed to failure. Diversify wants to make sure that you are getting not only the right people for your offshoring team, but also those who will bring out the best of their abilities. Drop us a line today if you’re ready to get started with offshoring.


The importance of training when offshoring/outsourcing

Many companies and organisations have waxed eloquently on the value of training and how it contributes to the success of both the employees and the organisations/companies themselves. The recent changes in the way the world works – expanding economies, borders becoming more porous, and collaboration between cultures – corroborates this assertion. It is undeniable that most companies acknowledge that time invested in the development of employees is critical and have one or another form of training in place.

There is also a consensus as to what results are to be expected when a premium is placed on training and development. Improved performance, increased productivity and a higher employee satisfaction achieved are some of these results. Having established these, there are other benefits observed from being immersed in an environment of disseminating knowledge and information for the last decade.

It is significant to note the distinction between just having training in place versus the provision to train that has a resounding impact felt by the individual and the organisation. Below are some benefits resulting from observing the proper utilisation of training and development:

Training helps nurture initiative and loyalty

The availability of training opportunities translates the value the organisation places on the development of its employees. Training truly becomes a tool for seeing employees as valuable to the company if these opportunities and programs are malleable enough to suit the employee’s perceived and actual needs. Customisable training encourages initiative in its employees, helping them to assess their strong and weak competencies. The investment in tailored personal development aids in the discovery of the individual and their ties to the organisation.

Knowledge builds confidence

Human beings by nature require acceptance and affirmation. Weakness or a lack of proficiency at work is perceived as a trigger to be ostracised or singled out. This leads to a waning belief in the individual’s capabilities. When there are options to improve competencies and skills, even if it something as basic as being a more effective communicator, employees can see, hear and feel themselves improving – provided that there are effective evaluation methods alongside the training. This renews a belief in themselves which is the root of confidence.

Expertise is a strong motivator

Training’s primary purpose is to equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary for performing tasks and executing business functions. Because training is a continuous path towards mastery, employees start to enjoy what they do as they get closer to being fully proficient in their desired skills and competencies.

Autonomy and self-direction

Training, as touched upon on the first point, should have the latitude to be self-directed. It should always be coupled with development which dictates the frequency and kind of learning to reach a specified proficiency level. When these opportunities are too controlled, limited or restricted, employees no longer see it as a motivator. Technological advancements, particularly in online learning or learning-on-the-go, have made development opportunities more achievable.

In conclusion, organisations that are aware of the value of training and development should take a step further and ensure that the framework in place ensures continuous feedback, evaluation and improvement and that all programs elicit the maximum impact for the employee and the organisation. Supporting and encouraging full engagement in training and development can truly reap the most benefits.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

― Benjamin Franklin


Offshore Digital Marketing Teams

Digital marketing is a very recent and quickly evolving space. As more and more business is transacted over the internet, the importance of managing your digital strategy is growing exponentially, both in terms of the direct marketing of your products/services and also the quality of those products/ services.

Many businesses are coming to realise that it can be difficult to completely outsource the responsibility of effective performance of this function and instead, are moving all or at least a substantial part of their digital marketing activities in house. With the skill sets required to effectively implement a digital marketing strategy, this can be a difficult outcome to achieve cost effectively – this is where the use of offshore Filipino staff can be a great advantage.

The Philippines has an excellent reputation for staff with high-quality creative skills

In recent years, this has led to an explosion in the amount of digital marketing work that is being performed for Western countries by offshore Filipino staff. From graphic designers to social media monitors, copywriters, web developers and digital marketing managers, it is possible to build a complete offshore digital marketing team in the Philippines.

When it comes to setting up an offshore digital marketing team, you will need to take your time and be careful with your recruitment. A number of the staff you will be looking to recruit will be in high demand and in order to attract their interest, you will need to make sure that both your salary package is attractive and that the offshoring provider you are partnering with has a reputation as an employer of choice. Filipinos are extensive users of social media and will quickly find out the reputation of your offshoring provider in the marketplace. The best indicator of a providers’ performance is their annual staff turnover – this is a question well worth asking through the provider selection process.

In addition, it may be worth consider recruiting graduates and training them to meet your needs. Some providers have partnership arrangements with well-regarded universities that will help give you access to quality graduates. Whilst there may be a greater initial investment of time and effort, the medium term payoff of proceeding this way can be both a high level of staff loyalty and also a much better value proposition – graduate salaries can be up to one tenth that of candidates with 5+ years’ experience.

Regardless of which way you chose to proceed with your offshore team, the cost savings are worth it. If you do an apples and oranges comparison of the total costs of employing someone in Australia (including all on costs such as rent, electricity etc) against the cost of engaging the same person in the Philippines, the savings are likely to be in the order of 70% or more.