With the concept of remote staffing entrenched fairly deep in businesses worldwide and the demand for cheaper offshore remote staff only increasing every year, a lot of players have come in as vendors to supply the existing demand. While that has made market extremely competitive and kept competing vendors on their toes in terms of pricing and performance, it has also meant that a few below average vendors and service providers have also slipped through, unnoticed. Hence, every once in a while, we come across stories of extremely dissatisfied clients and botched projects. With knowledge of English being a general pre-requisite for an offshore destination to attract outsourced work, many deserving places have missed while a few questionable destinations have cropped up, thanks purely to the English speaking skills of the talent pool. Philippines is a very good example of this, a country which has excellent English speakers, but little else in terms of skills.
So, with all sorts floating around in the market, how are you going to ensure that you get your work done and done well? Well, for starters, do a proper background check when you hire offshore staff or hire through a reputed agency only. However, even after doing your due diligence while hiring, your job does not end there and you must be tuned in for your own good.
Online reports and proof of work: Some might criticize is as micro management. However, the ultimate success of your project rests on doing the little things right. By creating a culture of detailed daily reporting, you and your remote employees will all be on the same page. It will also help you evaluate whether any area needs improvement or strengthening as well. Ask your remote staff to submit proof of work which you can corroborate with the reports they update daily. Off course it might not be possible or feasible to for either party to submit proof of work daily in certain domains. In such cases, work out a timeline and demand proof based on that timeline. Trust me, it will not just keep your remote staff on their toes, it will ensure that you have complete control over your project and that the work never veers too much off course. This will help you prevent unnecessary delays and cost overruns.
Live track your employees: If you have on site employees, it is understood that you will track their work and the kind of work they are putting in. So, why make an exception for your remote staff? You can use several tools available in the market to keep a tab on their work and effort. You can track their screens live and also keep a tab on the amount of time they are spending away from their work stations. It might also give you an opportunity to collaborate with a remote employee live and even impart on the job training and suggest improvements.
Eliminate the supervisor: Have any of you realized that there is scope to reduce costs even further? Unless he/she is a subject matter expert, the team lead/supervisor who manages your remote team is pretty redundant. Ultimately all your employees are professionals, and if you can manage them directly through technology, why would you want to keep an unnecessary and the most expensive resource around? The biggest positive that you will accrue by eliminating the supervisor is that you will now be forced to interact with every single employee yourself. And that has the power to transform your team. You see, for a majority of the remote employees, the client is this rare exotic species with whom only the supervisor interacts. As a result, your employees, people with actual talent and experience, will never have the courage or opportunity to even suggest improvements to your product or point out inherent flaws that might derail the project. Now you might have taken such feedback for granted, but how do you know that you are not receiving a filtered version of things? And do you trust someone else to take the call of what’s important and what’s not for “your” product?
Let your team set targets: While it is completely natural to have certain expectations, try and not impose your timelines when you hire offshore staff. Lay it out and allow the other side to grasp the project completely. Once your team has fully gauged the situation, ask them to set a target or timeline. And always ask them for a staggered and tiered timeline, by breaking down your project into different stages. Now you might ask why it is important that you let your team set the targets and not give them one instead. Well, unless you are an expert yourself in the domain in question (in which case everything changes), you might have very little idea about the sort of time that is required and might under or even over quote! And my considerable experience in dealing with offshore vendors tells me that apart from the “biggest and baddest” guys in town, people who aren’t desperate to get your business since they have plenty more, the overwhelming majority of vendors won’t say NO to anything! Understand that they all need your business, and their sales teams will leave no stone unturned and wont shy of making any promise which can land you as a customer, never mind how outlandish that promise is! Inevitably, the resources are unable to follow through with such outlandish promises and the resultant chaos is not a pretty one. Hence, it’s best to let the other side set the targets, while you keep them within reasonable limits in terms of money and in line with your overall business strategy. That ways, there is no excuse to not deliver on time for a vendor or even a freelance remote team.
So, in conclusion, these are the few steps that you can follow to better manage your remote staff and create a sense of accountability within them. Remember, the biggest mistake most people make is to treat remote employees differently from their own in-house and on site staff. Please don’t. Please ensure that your remote employees have the same right and responsibilities as your in house employees. You need to integrate your remote employees within your business fold and not keep them around as a useful appendage. Make them a part of your business and then hold them accountable, because then you can legitimately do so.