In the IT industry, off-shore teams have been a major player in the productivity and the sheer work-force of a company. Yet companies continue to have mixed (or worse, no) approach to utilizing their potential for the greatest output. Some companies are happy with adopting a process-over-people approach, satisfied with consistent, standardized productivity in exchange for high turnover rates and impersonal communications; others demand a more robust, personal approach that maximizes individual efficacy and work ethic. In my two major successes with off-shore, I’ve come to realize the differences in productivity and quality lies in the way we manage all of our employees.
We believe that it is important to invest in human capital both in house and off shore. I’ve worked with many major outsourcing firms in India (as well as worked for one) and most have a “process over people” approach. Their main priorities are the hiring practices, training procedures, development process and rates (per hour/day) and not the quality of the individuals or throughput of expected output/deliverable. In my experience with these outsourcing firms, the ones that are the most successful are the ones where the people are treated like people. Point is — they are people too and when treated with incentives that reward their work and input, like anyone, they are far more productive.
How we got the most out of our off-shore teams:
1. Treat them like your own: By treating our off shore workers as if they were our on-site employees, they are enthusiastic about their contribution to our product and work more efficiently to meet our company goals. Some of the ways in which we have treated off-shore like our own are:
- Pay for company outings
- Create a bonus pool to compensate them for their extra efforts
2. Invest in cultivating face to face relationships: By creating and investing in more personal relationships with the off-shore team, they not only feel a greater morale and loyalty towards the company, but will recognize themselves as a part of the big picture. Ways we’ve cultivated face-to-face relationships:
- Brought them to the US to work in our headquarters in Edison, NJ
- Sent our employees to India to work with the off shore team
- Invited them to company meetings and parties when they were here in the U.S.
3. Conducting quarterly reviews to make sure the company and individual targets are met ensures that both the company and the employee are growing and getting the most out of each other
4. Real-time communication as much as possible – skype, IM, video, calls, etc.
5. Retain the good people: I strongly believe that the range of production you get out of an average person vs. good person vs. great vs. elite triples at each level. So, the range of productivity from average to elite = up to 27 times greater (3x3x3). So, when I get the good, great and elite people on my projects, I don’t want to trade them in for average (or god forbid “below average”).
6. Make sure everyone sees the big picture. Sub-teams are always necessary to break down tasks and projects, but they have to feel part of the overall team and understand the big picture. By creating an environment where they feel like an integral part of achieving the company’s overall objective, off-shore developers will take greater responsibility for the quality and success of the product.
7. Let the senior people do the work: many cultures want to be in “management” and not do the development, design or testing – incent people to “do the work” at all levels, and everyone will work that much harder to produce something they can be proud of.