How to Effectively Manage an Offshore Team

7 tips for running a team overseas
by
Management
January 22 | 8 min

It’s common for businesses to outsource teams offshore, especially when hiring permanent employees is not an option. If your business can’t afford to hire permanent employees at the moment, or only requires contractual workers for special projects, it’s time to consider outsourcing offshore employees. The 2015 statistics on IT outsourcing found that 44% of businesses in America opt to outsource teams to reduce cost. Thanks to the global economy and the internet, outsourcing teams outside the U.S. has become ultra accessible.

Getting a hand from offshore freelancers means reducing costs because offshore workers most likely get paid significantly less than American workers. By having a global team, you’ll also be able to have your business running around the clock, considering time differences.

Once you’ve built your team, the next step is finding the right dynamic between your business and your offshore team. There will be some difficulties in terms of language, culture, and/or socio-economics, but when you have a well-organized system and work culture that can be adapted without your direct supervision, outsourced teams can be highly efficient. Here are a few tips to effectively manage your offshore team:

Avoid getting lost in translation
Don’t put yourself in a situation in which there is a language barrier. When you are ready to build your offshore team, try to find candidates who have good English communication skills. Hire team members from countries where English is common, such as the Philippines, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Netherlands, and some countries in Latin America. When screening candidates, utilize communication tools like Skype or Hangouts to determine whether they are conversationally adept or not. You need an offshore team that is comfortable with the English language so that you can avoid as many misunderstandings as possible that could negatively affect work outcome.

Assign team leaders
Zac Carman, CEO of ConsumerAffairs emphasizes the need for a team leader who understands both cultures of the main U.S. team as well as the culture of their local country. By assigning a team leader who can relate to both, the work culture from home base can easily be assimilated to the offshore team. Having a designated team leader not only makes task delegation smoother, but also ensures a sense of continuity throughout the company.

Country leaders or heads will also be responsible for training, assigning, and reviewing the works of each member of the offshore team and will be directly reporting to you. This helps manage communication between your teams. Once you have an assigned team leader, take the time to properly orient each new employee to everything they need to know about the business.

Be detailed in assigning tasks
Why are you looking to outsource in the first place? A business may require outsourcing for a range of projects, from IT to content writing. No matter what tasks are required from your offshore teams, being able to provide clear instructions makes the jobs easier for both parties. By clearly communicating the instructions for each task, fewer mistakes will be made. For your offshore team, clear delegation and understanding of the scope of each project ensures more efficient work.

One great viewpoint to look at as an example is management of outsourced content writers. Steve Lazuka, founder of Interact Media, states that if you want to receive amazing content from your offshore team, you must also be good at providing amazing instructions.

Set timelines & due dates
Remember that the individuals on your offshore team have lives that almost always revolve around a different time zone. Therefore, it is important to establish timelines for what you expect them to accomplish, based on their time zone. Don’t be the jerk who makes something due at a ridiculous hour, just because it is convenient for you. By providing due dates and scheduling when tasks need to be reviewed by you or the team leader, you’ll be able to manage your own expectations.

After assigning a team leader and orienting each new team member to your business, be sure to provide a timeline of what to expect in the weeks or months to come. You should already lay down the number of output or projects expected from each team member as well as solid due dates to establish a sense of urgency.

Make use of task management tools
Task management tools were created for a reason. It’s difficult to regularly touch base with your team without being there in person to keep track of their daily activities. Use a task management tool to keep track of each team member’s list of deliverables. When you give this responsibility to team members and leaders, it encourages them to be more proactive with work and gives the bosses a platform to view everyone’s progress. Have a “to-do” list for each project and make this the basis of managing your offshore team. There are hundreds of tools nowadays, but here are a few tried and tested ones that Hubspot recommends:

–   Wunderlist
–   Todoist
–   Trello
–   ToodleDo
–   Any.DO
–   Things
–   TickTick
–   Google Keep
–   OmniFocus
–   Habitica

You can read more about each tool and its unique functions here.

Schedule alignments with your team
The internet is an amazing thing — communication across continents is at your fingertips. Take advantage of this by regularly communicating with your offshore team via Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts, or whatever platform you like best. By setting alignments and weekly meetings with your team, you will create a sense of closeness by making your offshore team feel part of your office, even if they are thousands of miles away. Make sure to be accessible around the clock to assist in any inquiries and make an effort to build a relationship with them.

When you decide on a schedule for team alignments, do not forget to schedule with respect to your offshore team’s standard time. Some may have 9-5 jobs, so what may work for you might not work for them. Open up a discussion and work towards a schedule that is good for everyone.

Keep your team motivated
Last, but definitely not least, is to keep your offshore team motivated. Just as you would spend time incorporating your startup culture and employee happiness at home, don’t leave out the rest of the team working hard abroad. The quality of work you will receive from your offshore team directly relates to how you treat them and the perks you provide. Try to build a relationship with your offshore team just as you would in the office.

Do your best to instill your company culture within your offshore team. Recognize when a team member has been exceptional and reward them for it! When there is room for improvement in their work, give constructive criticism and open up a dialogue rooted in mutual respect. If you show your team that you appreciate them just as equally as everyone else in your company, they will put more effort into their work.

Thanks to modern technology, managing an offshore team is easier than ever. When you think about it, it is not that difficult to manage your offshore team if you have a solid structure of communication. Set clear instructions and timelines for your offshore team and manage everyone’s expectations. Assign a team leader to overlook operations abroad and choose someone who understands the culture of both local and non-local teams. Be accessible to your offshore team in case anything comes up. Schedule weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily catch up sessions to touch base on work progress. Build relationships with each team member and encourage them to be proactive in managing tasks, but most importantly be fair. Work relationships founded in mutual respect and understanding will help keep your team motivated to produce great output and even encourage them to build a long-term relationship with your business in the future.

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