By Cyrus Deyhimi
Outsourcing offers many attractive benefits for organizations of all sizes. In the decision to outsource, financial concerns are the chief driver. There are, however, other appealing incentives. Among them are a broader time zone coverage, and access to a more varied skill set among employees.
Along with these benefits, outsourcing brings with it a range of challenges. These are often unfamiliar to small-to-midsize companies.
In making the determination of where to outsource, a number of factors are at play. A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, has, for the past seven years, conducted the Global Services Location Index (GSLI). The Index “tracks the contours of the offshoring landscape in 55 countries across three major categories: financial attractiveness, people skills and availability, and business environment.” The GSLI found that “offshoring to India remains a highly attractive proposition for many companies, and it is the undisputed industry leader.”[i]
When choosing to outsource, companies have many options to weigh, and many concerns to consider. This paper provides a framework to address some of them.
Create a Company Culture Across Both Teams
Much of a company’s culture is created around the water cooler. “Water cooler conversations” allow employees to get to know each other beyond a formal business relationship. In an environment where they can talk more freely, personal bonds are forged between coworkers. When employees are more comfortable around one another, they feel more at ease in expressing new ideas. A positive company culture can be a catalyst for innovation.
When teams are spread across different time zones, it’s necessary to find tools to emulate the “water cooler” experience. Our company has found great success with Slack, a business-oriented social network. Through Slack, our employees, wherever they live, can engage in discussions both professional and casual.
Cultivate Cultural Understanding and Respect
India, like the United States, is a country of diverse cultures, religions and languages. It is critical to educate your team on key cultural differences. Understanding faiths, traditions and holidays is essential to maintaining a diverse and tolerant company culture.
While English is the business language of the Paradigm office, three languages and four religions are represented. Because of our diverse workforce, we’re almost always planning coverage, so that one or more of our team members can focus on their holiday. This is not seen as a negative. Rather, because we’ve emphasized understanding, we look at it as another part of business.
Prioritize In-Person Discussions
Between employees at home and workers abroad, there is often limited face-to-face interaction. The introduction of programs like Skype and Facetime have done much to help, and we have encouraged our teams to employ them frequently. Far more personal than a phone call, video chat helps further relationships and decrease misunderstandings.
Ultimately, though, there can be no substitute for a physical meeting. We know this, and have facilitated frequent trips for our U.S. team to visit India, and vice-versa. These in-person meetings reiterate the important role each team member plays in the overall ecosystem of the business.
Rally around process to scale the team and business
Detailed scheduling is an integral process in any company’s workflow, and necessary to ensure 24/7 operations. Outsourcing affords us greater coverage, allowing us to offer a more seamless experience to our customers. Clear handoffs, though, are critical, and great attention should be paid to transitions between shifts.
In addition to scheduling, it is critical to set international company standards. Both domestic and overseas employees should agree to adhere to commonly-held guidelines and policies. Examples include an understanding that meetings start and end on time, and that shared calendars are always updated. This allows teams on both sides to be more efficient and reduce misunderstandings.
Your overseas team should feel like an extension of your local work force. Outsourcing is a vital way to broaden the reach of your company, and to make a company’s services available to customers for more hours of the day. In addition, it is an opportunity to learn about different cultures, and to foster a deeper understanding among people in general.
[i] Sethi, Arjun and Johan Gott, 2016 A.T. Kearny Global Services Location Index, available from atkearny.com, accessed April 28, 2016.