Entrepreneurs’ and small business owners’ access to offshore contractors and staff is, I believe, one of the most significant game changers in the last 30 or 40 years.
The internet has opened markets and modified business processes for SMEs. With fast broadband internet connection now easily accessible in many corners of the world, the opportunity to access offshore virtual staff drives benefits to a whole new level.
First, it tackles small businesses’ inability to add staff due to cost or availability. This being an issue just to address traditional admin needs, let alone dealing with the growing list of new business requirements like online marketing activities.
The second game changer is a byproduct of the first. We can easily quantify the cost benefits of offshore staffing, or any staff, in hours/output versus dollars against administrative- or process-driven activities. However, this newly-available resource delivers the opportunity to gain significant leverage on your most important business assets. By doing so, your business starts to address ongoing frustrations due to cost of lost opportunity.
Offshore staffing addresses the most dynamic building block of any business: people.
In order to understand how offshore staffing can benefit your business, I believe it’s important to first clarify terminology you may stumble upon. Offshore staffing, outsourcing and business process outsourcing or BPO – what’s the difference?
As a business owner you may have been outsourcing locally for years. If you ever ventured outside the business to use a graphic artist, web developer, printer, cleaner etc., this is outsourcing.
Offshore staffing is different. It is an extension of what’s practised at a local level, more commonly known as remote staffing. Remote staffing is where staff are not located in the office but can be on the road or even working from home. With high-speed broadband, your staff can now be located anywhere in the world, working and cost-effectively communicating as if they are in the same room as your local team.
BPO is more of a big business grade activity. You would commonly be made aware of this through the newspapers when it is reported that some large corporation has moved a whole department to an offshore site. Because of the benefits of scale, large corporations have been doing this for years.
Offshore human resource models
Accessing offshore staffing in any form is not always straightforward. Selecting the model that fits your requirements places you in a better position to achieve desired outcomes.
For SME’s there are typically three main models used.
These people can be sourced directly, but more often through specific websites that link freelancers to customers. While it may represent a sizeable percentage of the sector, it generally works best in addressing ad hoc activities that may take a few days or a few weeks.
Generally used where the client is quoted a fixed price to deliver an agreed outcome. This can be delivered by a sole freelancer or a business. As a rule, a percentage is paid as a deposit, with the remainder at the conclusion of the project.
The recruitment model serves business owners that need dedicated staff on an ongoing basis delivering greater control on an increased output.
Through this model the business owner seeks to enjoy the productivity benefits of having dedicated staff that are able to grow with the business.
In order to gain the advantage of a dedicated staff member, the business owner needs to identify sufficient work to keep someone for 15-plus hours per week.
Important questions for would-be employers
In order to use offshore staff, first you must understand your needs. Ask yourself:
- What type of work do I need them to do?
- Is the work only a little bit here or there?
- Is it a one off requirement?
- Am I finding that more and more of my day is being eaten up by non-productive, backend activity?
- Do people require more than rudimentary training to be able to carry out the work?
- Is the monthly amount I’m spending to address the specific need sufficient for me to place dedicated staff?
Selecting the right model will help you get the most out of the offshore experience.
What technology do you need?
If you’re a technophobe you will struggle to use any type of offshore staffing. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t delegate the supervision of offshore staff to a tech-savvy member of your team.
The good news is you don’t need to be a computer engineer to succeed. All you need is general computer skills. It’s not uncommon for clients to source people with superior computer skills in order to more effectively address those areas they’re struggling with.
So what are the basics that you need?
- A broadband internet connection
- An up-to-date PC plus a headset with microphone attached
- A chat program such as Skype (free)
- A VOIP phone account – only required if you want staff to receive and make phone calls
That is it.