So you’re now a growing company looking for more talent and/or looking to cut costs of new hires. What do you do? You start to use offshore outsourcing companies or even setup your own offshore branch office in a country with much lower living expenses. You save costs, great.
However, without the right motivation, planning and execution, hiring and building a team offshore will give you more headaches than benefits. After that, you start justifying why offshore teams don’t work. You roll back your efforts and revert to building your entire team within the confines of your office. You then make a vow to never hire offshore again.
Well, if done right, building and utilising offshore teams is a competitive advantage that goes beyond cost savings.
Why should you consider hiring offshore?
It’s simple, working with offshore teams enables you to hire better and faster. This is especially true in countries with a large human capital compared to where you are normally based since there are more skilled people applying and looking for jobs.
This enables you to scale up faster than your competitors.
On the other hand, cutting costs should not be your primary motivation. This leads to disappointment on both sides of the seas. When costs are the driver, you stop looking after and treating your offshore team as genuine part of the team. You don’t include them in inside conversations. They don’t hear the latest and the best upcoming projects. They miss out on hanging out with everyone else. You do not communicate as much. In return, you get lower productivity and lower retention. If you can avoid this trap, then you’re already underway.
How to build a team offshore
Find someone you can completely trust
You need someone on the ground to represent your best interests. Someone you can vest your power into and allow them to make decisions on your behalf. Whether you are outsourcing to a consulting agency or building your own team, you need to be able to trust them. If you’re looking at building your own remote team, send someone from your HQ unless you have a trusted local contact.
They need to understand customs, culture and communication styles on both sides. They need to understand your company’s culture and have a deep connection with your vision for your business. It’s a must for them to have outstanding communication skills as they should be able to clearly represent what the company stands for.
You likely will not understand the conditions, the environment and the localities well enough. You’ll have to rely on what your trusted agent would tell you. Miss this mark and you might as well start packing up.
Find people you know personally or professionally or those with bright references from people you respect. When you do find a representative, unleash them and trust them to execute.
Find a good headhunter or recruiter
If you’re dealing directly with consulting agencies then this may not apply to you. However, if you are building your own local team, know that your first hire will be the hardest. It does not matter whether the first role is a software developer or a general manager – you’ll be treading the waters on salaries, quality of talent and cultural differences. A good recruiter, can guide you through the process and give you solid advice.
Be as specific as possible with your criteria in character, technical knowledge and experience. Guide your recruiter on which criteria are flexible or not. Keep refining the process until you get to a point where you only look at CVs you absolutely love.
Do not expect recruiters to be mind readers. Honest feedback goes a long way in improving their results and your relationship with them.
Organise paperwork and logistics
If you are working directly with consulting agencies, and if they offer staff leasing solutions, then they’ll have most things sorted for you. They include all costs as a flat rate per day or per hour.
If you are building your own team and you are setting up your own “branch office” you need a lawyer and accountant. They will sort out the details on company registration, legals, accounting, taxes and local compliance. Similar to my advice above, find those that you can trust. Make sure they have good references. This process is different depending on where you are, your circumstances and where you plan to set up, so your local lawyer and accountant will be key to getting this right.
Whether you plan on having an office or everyone working remotely, ensure you provide adequate equipment, tools and support for your offshore team to be productive. Empower them to decide whether they need to work in an office or not. Depending on their role and circumstances, it may make more sense to work from home.
Use technology wisely to communicate
Whilst video conferencing nowadays is as easy as just clicking a url, ensure you maximise value in meetings by organising a clear agenda and allowing time for everyone to prepare. Nobody on both sides of the seas should be accepting a meeting invite without an agenda.
Don’t ask a specific person to take notes. Ask everyone to take shared notes using Google Docs or your preferred sharing tool. This should keep everyone engaged and locked in the discussions and decisions at hand.
The shared docs should bring clarity to all matters at hand. If not, ensure further discussions are organised only with key personnel.
Current and future technologies will only keep improving capabilities to have a distributed team. Companies big and small are increasingly empowered to leverage the benefits of a global workforce. There has never been a better time to work with anyone in any part of the world.