One of the most significant challenges of outsourcing is alignment.
There’s the alignment of company values and strategic goals, but there’s also alignment with time zones and scheduling. Coordinating and collaborating with an outsourced team can present various challenges compared to working with an in-house team.
So how can you manage and schedule your outsourced teams effectively to reach the highest productivity levels?
Challenges and Solutions to Scheduling Outsourced Teams
Before we jump into tips and tricks for scheduling outsourced teams, we want to call out common challenges so you can identify what your main obstacles will be.
Unlike managing in-house teams, managing outsourced teams requires a lot of proactivity and flexibility since you’ll be juggling time zones, schedule conflicts, and much more.
Here are a few ideas of what you can expect when scheduling outsourced teams:
Challenge #1: Time Difference
As obvious as it may be, by far, the most significant challenge of scheduling with outsourced teams is the time difference.
Time differences will be more or less of a challenge based on your outsourcing strategy:
Nearshore - Time differences will likely be minimal, closely mirroring the challenges of scheduling an in-house team.
Onshore - Depending on how far out you look, onshore outsourcing can present some time difference challenges, especially if you’re hiring on the East coast and you’re based in the West.
Farshore - Farshore outsourcing will cause you the most time difference headaches, as you’ll constantly be checking time zones.
Time differences are also a factor that you’re going to encounter more often than not, so it’s worth creating an effective strategy to deal with it if you plan on outsourcing.
While you can set boundaries on how much of a time difference is too much, it’s more prudent to put parameters into place that allow you to hire from anywhere in the world.
Solution: Prioritize Asynchronous Communication
The easiest way to manage time differences is to be adaptable and embrace flexibility.
Make an effort to prioritize asynchronous communication methods. You can’t expect to hop on regular conference calls with an outsourced team in another country, but you can set up channels of communication that don’t require both parties’ presence at the same time.
Most project management systems allow team members to leave comments on tasks, for example, notifying their coworkers when it’s their turn to jump in.
Challenge #2: Culture Clashes
The other more obvious challenge with outsourcing is culture clashes.
While that may sound exaggerated, there’s a lot that goes into the term culture, and misalignment in this regard can provide a host of challenges.
Here are some examples of where culture can prove challenging in the work environment:
- Language barriers: This especially applies to farshore outsourcing, where you’ll likely hire non-native English speakers. If English fluency is an issue, this can cause communication breakdowns internally, and customer support issues externally.
- Work habits: In some cultures, constant communication is valued more, whereas in others, employees are left to their own devices to get their work done. This can make it tricky to schedule outsourced teams and go about monitoring work performance if their habits are different from yours.
- Different outlooks: Outsourcing services to someone that has a vastly different disposition and outlook on the world can be jarring and prevent synergy between teams.
Solution: Vet Outsourced Teams Thoroughly
It’s easy to want to jump ahead when outsourcing and skip over thorough due diligence in favor of getting up and running quickly, but this approach could well backfire.
When interviewing outsourcing agencies, make sure to ask questions not only about performance, but also about how they might fit into your work environment considering the above-outlined factors.
You can also run training programs once onboarding outsourced teams to get them up to speed with how your company communicates and collaborates.
It’s also worth implementing computer software to monitor activity from day one, so you can use cloud based employee monitoring to find out if your outsourced team is working as intended. A pc monitoring app like Insightful can help you hold the team up to the standards you initially agreed upon.
Challenge #3: Mismatched Expectations
Going into the outsourcing process, you might have high expectations.
It’s natural to assume that you’ll hire a team, and from day one, they’ll be firing on all cylinders. However this isn’t a safe assumption to make.
The closer to home you hire, as is the case with onshore outsourcing, the more likely you’ll find employees with similar expectations of performance and productivity. The further out, the more likely you’ll encounter differing expectations.
Solution: Set Clear Expectations from the Start
Ideally, before you even make contact about hiring an outsourced team, you’ll have drawn up a clear plan for how you’ll integrate them into the way you work.
While the company’s expectations will be crystal clear to your team, your outsourced team will need to be brought up to speed. That’s why it’s important to lay out all the tasks and responsibilities you expect your outsourced team to complete before you make the hiring decision.
Ensure that the outsourced team knows exactly what is expected of them before they start work, so there can be no excuses regarding performance.
It’s also a good idea to consider software that lets you monitor work from home, since it’ll allow you to monitor your outsourced team’s productivity and performance levels over time. Establish a benchmark from the outset, and use a tool like Insightful to make sure the team hits it consistently.
Challenge #4: Rigid Work Schedules
There is one last factor to bear in mind as you look to outsource is how everyone will work together.
Time differences aside, work schedules vary from company to company, and country to country. As such, it’s naive to expect that the outsourced team you hire will seamlessly integrate into your work schedule.
If you prioritize the 9-5 schedule, and you expect your outsourced team to adhere to a similar work model, you may run into issues with schedule conflicts due to time differences. Plus, outsourcing agencies may be more familiar - and work best with - alternate work models.
Solution: Embrace Flexible Ways of Working
This can either be in the form of finding overlapping times for meetings and check-ins so everyone is on the same page, or moving towards a ROWE (results oriented work environment) whereby all that matters is the results your outsourced team produces.
Consider the fact that there is no one right way to work, and that should open the doors to finding a solution that works for all parties.
Bear in mind that by affording greater flexibility, you run the risk of idle time becoming an issue. To prevent this, employ an hour tracker for work like Insightful, as you can use the software to monitor employee internet usage.
The best desktop monitoring software for measuring and evaluating employee performance, Insightful gives you the tools to effectively prevent time theft.