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Motivating Your Outsourced Offshore Team

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Outsourcing word in magnifying glass with network background

How do you sustain the interest of your new outsource team? Here are ways to keep the team passionate about providing you with top-quality service.

The success of a business relationship between a company and an outsource vendor depends on how well the delivery team implements projects on-time and on-budget. But while these three items present only the quantitative facet of this relationship, the dedication and professionalism of the outsource team sometimes tell a different story.

Establishing a new relationship with your new outsource team is important to the success of your venture. How do you sustain the outsource team's interest in your project? What will keep them passionate about providing you with top-quality service? Will you keep the top outsource performers?

Human resources, and not technology, are a company's prime asset, said Linda Lucas, a psychologist from the New-York based Lucas Research International, when asked about the need to address the high attrition rate in the BPO industry.

On the Human Resources front, retaining new hires and recruiting top personnel become a real challenge as companies compete for skilled workers. Andreas Bieber, a consultant of Bieber Consultancy, says that BPO companies need to immediately address the challenges of keeping their trained workers from getting hired away by competitors.

The quality of an outsource team's output is directly proportional to the satisfaction they have in fulfilling the demands of your business. And much of this hinges on how well you value them as workers and their work. How do you make them feel that they are an integral part of your success? How do you make them feel as if they were your employees instead of outsourced consultants and workers?

  • Give them a clear idea of your business objectives. Give your outsource team a bird's eye view of your business goals because knowing these goals promotes accountability for the project. It allows them to align their professional goals with your success. It pushes forward the idea that a successful business is a reflection of the quality of their work.
  • Respect them as knowledge workers. Aside from lowering your operating costs, the reason why you hired them in the first place is because of their knowledge and skills. Involve them in brainstorming sessions, ask for their ideas and consult them about process improvements. Most outsource teams do not only see themselves as engineers, communicators, or managers. Prior to your business engagement, they were groomed as consultants. So, picking their brain once in a while is a good exercise.
  • Provide training. On top of pay-checks, health care, and other fringe benefits, one of the major perks that outsource teams often consider is training. Providing technical trainings enables your outsource team to address the most difficult aspects of your business. Giving them soft skills trainings in business etiquette and communication paves for smoother project management and escalation procedures. The confidence that comes from knowing that they have the right knowledge and skills to do the job well becomes apparent as the relationship matures.
  • Make room for learning curves. Outsource teams need significant learning curves to fully acquaint themselves with the nature of your business, your corporate culture, your own processes, and the technical requirements of your project before they can function effectively. Give them time to learn the ropes and adopt your business culture as theirs.
  • Communicate clearly your business and project requirements. Do not assume that once you have given them your requirements document, your team can implement the project right to the last detail. Frustration happens on both sides of the project relationship when requirements are not clearly communicated. Make sure that you have exhausted all channels of communication, and that objectives, designs, and requirements are clearly communicated or interpreted. Use visual aids, screen shots, charts, and diagrams. Set up Placeware sessions or video conferences.
    Having an agreement on requirements is especially crucial when your off-shore team resides several time zones away. Email takes at least 12 hours to be addressed, while phone calls require one of you (often the off-shore team) to sacrifice personal time. And there is nothing that discomforts any worker than sacrificing personal time.
  • Provide the required infrastructure. Make sure that your off-shore team has the necessary hardware and network in place to enable them to accomplish their tasks. If you are worried about data security and requires your off-shore team to work within your network environment through remote desktop access, giving minimal network allocation will only upset your team as they scuttle to meet your deadlines. Frustration leads to stress, stress leads to absenteeism, and spotty attendance leads to missed deadlines and possibly, low-quality outputs.
  • Respect their time. Always remind yourself and your management team that outsource workers live several time zones away. While you are fast asleep, they are already developing, documenting, and checking your project. When you login to work, they have already earned their keep for the day. Do not expect them to extend their working hours or be available for you round the clock to give immediate answers to your questions. They, like you, need to spend time with their families and friends, and that they have to attend to personal responsibilities.
    When India-based Wipro Technologies, one of the world's top outsourcing firms, reported a 48% annual attrition rate last year, its chief executive TK Kurien reported "odd working hours" as one of the top reasons why employees left the company.
  • Respect their culture. Take the time to get to know the outsource team's own corporate culture, their approaches to quality control, their communication styles, and business ethics. Because your outsource team is of a different nationality, be aware of their customs and traditions. Plan delivery schedules ahead to allow room for the observance of religious holidays and celebrations. As you become aware of your cultural differences, you can find better ways to make the team more receptive to your corporate culture and customs.
  • Provide a budget for extended working hours and working shifts. There are times when your outsource team may have to extend working hours. In some countries, outsource vendors charge a premium for extended working hours or night shifts. Set aside a budget for this scenario. Otherwise, do not expect members of the off-shore team to stay beyond the daytime working hours or accept shifting schedules.
  • Will work for travel. Many off-shore workers treat business travels as perks of the job. Pick the key players in your off-shore team to get on-shore trainings or attend client meetings. Bring them on-shore to experience your working environment and to meet the in-house members of your company. Provide a budget for the necessary travel requirements, such as Visa and passport, transportation, and accommodation.
  • Allow key players in your outsource team to telecommute. As a business continuity plan arrangement, telecommuting enables off-shore consultants to stay in the loop and communicate project development status. Some companies allow employees to work from home on Fridays when work is slowing down while withholding the same privilege from consultants. Telecommuting allows parents to stay with their kids while working on your projects. Even consultants need to stay away from the stress and hassles of daily commute without missing a days worth of work.
  • Recognise their achievements. Celebrate small victories. Workers want recognition for their hard work. Getting the proverbial pat in the back not only means that they have done well, but that you have approved of their job. Your recognition for their hard work is a card that they can play when performance review rolls around. Your most motivated outsource workers will work harder if they believe that a promotion or bonus is affected by your recognition.
  • Pay them well. Just because you are outsourcing part of your business in a low-cost economy to save on operating costs does not mean that you can scrimp on workers' paychecks. It is common knowledge that outsourced projects are more demanding and require higher levels of knowledge, skills, and commitment. Outsource vendors from all over Asia, Central America and Eastern Europe are now fighting for top talents, and these talents are hard to come by. Therefore, if you wish to keep the best among your outsource team members, pay them according to the worth of their diplomas, certifications, professional histories, and the wisdom that they bring in to your business.

ExecutiveBrief, the technology management resource for business leaders, offers proven tips, techniques, and action plans that companies can use to better manage people, processes and tools - the keys to improving their business performance. To learn more, please visit: SoftServe Blog

© ExecutiveBrief 2008

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