Outsourcing, or offshoring, is not an option in today’s business. It simply needs to be done. The mantra is: ‘Outsource or perish!
Consequently, how you do it has consequences to the very future of your business. A key challenge starts with hiring. Everyone knows hiring is a challenge. When it comes to offshore staff, it is even more daunting. But, obviously, its complexity far outweighs the benefits. So the real lesson is to get up to speed on the task.
Here are 10 top tips to get your outsourcing hires right:
Mark out the outsourced job. Having a defined job role is critical, especially in outsourcing. If you don’t know the specific tasks you want accomplished, how will your staff? Before you start hiring, create a complete job description, along with the qualifications/skills you are seeking in the right candidate.
Get domain knowledge. A great way to stuff up and waste a lot of money is to hire someone technical without having a clue about technology. If you are hiring a developer, make sure someone in your team understands tech. Otherwise you’re headed down a long, painful and expensive road.
Look for English skills. One of the more frustrating things in outsourcing is trying to manage staff with poor English skills. In such a situation, it becomes hard to communicate clearly what you want, affecting quality of work. There are some countries such as the Philippines where English skills are generally high. Still, make sure you speak with each and every person before you hire.
Give clear instructions. Most staff won’t need babysitting. Still, you need to hand out clear and unambiguous instructions. A good way to do this is to set up regular meetings and keep written notes. This helps staff understand what is expected and gives them a chance to clarify any doubts before they begin work.
Believe in the interview. One of the worst mistakes you can make is considering the interview as a formality, and going through it in cursory fashion. Always interview on Skype and satisfy yourself fully about the person’s abilities, communication skills and personality. If it is a technical job, give them a mini project or test to confirm they have the required skills. There is no substitute for a rigorous interview.
Don’t expect miracle workers. Don’t go into offshoring expecting to hire a godsend for your business. Even in a developed country like Australia, there are important gaps in available skills, or cross-functional skills. So don’t expect overseas staff to.
Manage with an even hand. Just because a staff is overseas and not in the office doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Or treat them any differently than you would local employees. Make them feel part of the team by including them in meetings and company emails. This will go a long way in ensuring loyalty, engagement and hard work.
Communicate daily. If there is one thing that can doom outsourcing, it is the lack of communication. Communication is key with in-office employees and is doubly important when dealing with virtual employees. Make sure you communicate via voice or video chat at least once a week and be in contact by email or messaging daily. And keep a communication channel open for outsourcing staff to reach out to you.
Use efficient collaboration systems. Remote teams can be just as efficient as working in an office-based setting. But to achieve that, you need tools that can make the transformation of data and ideas seamless. Google Drive, Dropbox and Basecamp are all great tools to create and manage projects and documents. When working with offshore developers, make sure they are saving all code to a central depository such as GitHub.
Recognise and understand cultural differences. People communicate and work differently in different places. These arise in communication styles, life priorities and conflict resolution, and have a strong bearing on business. Understanding these differences is key to a long-lasting business relationship. The better you comprehend these differences, the more you will get out of outsourcing.
Kevin Mallen runs Virtual Coworker, a company that connects professional staff in the Philippines with Australian companies.