A decade ago, almost 900,000 jobs in the US were moved offshore to countries like India and the Philippines, with roughly 50% of them dedicated to IT and computer programming. Many employers believed that the benefits of remote teams (most notably cost) made it the perfect business solution during a tough economic period – though others had concerns about the sustainability and longevity of offshoring.
Today, we know that offshoring has been massively successful and has become the de facto standard for many companies around the world. Thanks to lower
In this piece, we’re going to walk through 8 key strategies which will not only make managing your offshore team easier but will also significantly increase the productivity of your remote workforce.
1. Nailing your recruitment & onboarding process for your remote team
Before anything else, it’s crucial to understand your hiring needs. What qualifications should potential employees have? What are the technical skills, mindset, and attitude they need in order to add value to your business?
Once you’ve defined your candidate persona, write out all the ‘WHYs’ and ‘HOWs’ underpinning your company and brand. Once you’ve got this nailed down, communicate it clearly to applicants for your remote team: be as precise as possible in your expectations to ensure that you’re only processing the most relevant applications.
This is a pretty simple process, but it gives potential employees a crystal clear picture of what they’re applying for. Just as importantly, it leaves you better able to assess candidate compatibility with your company’s values and culture.
2. Establishing the right goals
Today’s workforce is more interested in constant learning and self-improvement than stability and longevity. When building your virtual team, establishing short-term and long-term goals – for both the individual and the company – is crucial.
Try to align the interests of your remote team with the larger goals of the company. Help them understand what is expected of them and how their work contributes to the bigger picture; that kind of perspective can do wonders for motivation.
More than ever, you need to recognize what your team expects from you as an employer. The simplest way to figure this out? Talk with your team regularly and ask them directly!
3. Leveraging communication tools
Failure to compensate for geographical distance used to really hurt businesses working with remote teams. With a time difference of anywhere from 5 to 12 hours, with very little overlap between your working day and theirs, phone calls and email chains were virtually untenable.
Studies have suggested that between 60-90% of all communication can be nonverbal – basically, it’s easier to get on the wrong page when working with remote teams. Thankfully it’s 2019 and modern communication tools make worldwide communication (specifically in a business, task-oriented environment) a walk in the park.
Using effective communication tools is essential for avoiding bottlenecks, confusion, and sour relationships between your home and remote bases. Here are just a few technologies you should leverage:
Emails are fantastic and they serve a good purpose. However, day-to-day messaging with multiple team members is impossible with email; it gets too chaotic and too messy, too quickly.
Instant messaging is different. These are essentially chat rooms where you can leave messages at any time, regardless of your location. You can easily attach files/links, or create separate rooms for different conversations: one for the marketing team, one for your directors, etc.
Slack is an excellent example: it’s easy to use and has useful integrations (such as with Google Drive) to make collaboration between remote teams even simpler.
This is an obvious one, but VoIP or Virtual phone systems (centered on cloud technology) allow for quick calling and messaging across borders. Packing a tonne of useful functionality like voicemail, email transcription, call screening, and conferencing, it’s a great option for managing calls with your colleagues.
The days of emailing the latest crudely-named version of your Word doc are over. Cloud-based platforms like Google Docs have become the worldwide standard for collaborating on documents and sharing files. It is simpler, faster, and way more effective to collaborate on the cloud – especially when you’re working across the world.
Sharing your screen in real-time through applications like TeamViewer can also add a big boost to productivity. Your virtual team will see your screen during demonstrations or explanations, effectively placing them ‘in the room’ for important discussions.
For all that communication is essential, it’s easy to go overboard. Too much messaging can be distracting or overwhelming for users, so always take measures to ensure your team only exchanges messages which are relevant to them and their work.
4. Implementing tools to manage and track activity
If you work with an in-house team, chances are you see them almost every day. Even if you don’t track their attendance, you’ll have an idea what each team member is working on and will be familiar with their tasks and upcoming deadlines.
Working with a remote team is a different story.
Logistical challenges (i.e. different time zones and locations) make it hard to keep tabs on productivity. The work culture and approach can also vary dramatically in different countries where people have their own way of doing things. This can lead to the things being done the ‘wrong way’ compared to standard practice.
That’s why implementing a system to track and manage tasks is crucial. Here are a couple of suggestions for how to do this:
- Set up a productivity tracker where each employee notes the tasks assigned to them. They will then record their progress, delays, and problems. By making this transparent to the whole team, management can see exactly how each individual is coping with their workload.
- Conduct a quarterly review meeting with your team to make sure that everything is working well on their end. This is also an opportunity to review individual performances and assess their contribution to the growth of the company.
5. Creating a culture of belonging
It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with a third party agency or your own offshore team: every single team member should feel valued and like they ‘belong’ within the company.
Let’s say a business in Los Angeles has an in-house development team and an offshore remote development team in Bangalore. They’re working towards the same goals, at the same time, for the same employer.
What’s crucial is that both teams are aligned with those goals. Only a unified culture of belonging across borders and time zones can provide this. An open door policy creates a culture which embraces the ideas and backgrounds of every employee, both in-house and offshore.
At the same time, keeping your team informed about how the company is performing on a global level helps them have clarity about how they are contributing to the big picture.
As someone who leads both teams, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that every employee feels significant. Though it takes extra effort to make them feel connected to their team, this can go a long way in building a healthy work culture.
6. Assigning valuable work
The simple fact is that the cost of living in countries like India and Ukraine is significantly lower than in the west. Despite being exceptionally qualified (often more so than their Western counterparts) Indian developers are frequently given work that is well beneath their ability.
Building an offshore team isn’t about cheap labour; it’s about cost-effective access to world-class talent. If you want to establish an offshore team that will truly grow your business, you need to set your expectations high. When working with incredibly talented and skilled individuals, you have to respect their ability.
7. Visiting your remote team
You can’t force remote teams to feel connected to the company; you have to make that happen through action.
Visiting your offshore office – even just once a year – can do wonders for building real cohesion within your team. During your visit, you can conduct strategic meetings to review company goals and analyse the performance of your employees. However, you should also use this opportunity to connect with your team on a personal level. Team-building activities, socials, after-work beers – whatever works best for your team!
8. Recognizing great performance
It’s easy to forget about the men and women working thousands of miles away in your offshore team. If they do good work, the business runs like clockwork and everyone is happy. But recognizing the hard work or excellent output of remote team members is significant in building stronger relationships. So what can do you?
Sending out congratulatory emails when an employee hits a milestone – making sure to copy in their managers – is one easy but effective approach. This will make the employee feel appreciated and noticed, while also adding weight to their performance reviews at the end of the year. Distributing non-cash rewards in the form of gift cards to a coffee shop or even movie tickets are universally-appreciated gifts which will not only make the employee feel appreciated, but will also give them a reason to have some fun.
This can increase loyalty to you and the business, but also helps keep everyone motivated, happy, and producing great work!
At the end of the day, working with a remote team requires patience and persistence. Building a skilled team is just the first step; the next challenge is sustaining it over the long-term.
Here at The Scalers, we don’t just build world-class teams: we guide you every step of the way, helping you nurture and support your team as effectively as possible. Working with us, the sky’s the limit for the growth and profitability of your business.