Posts Tagged ‘workplace’

7 Ways to Get the Most out of your Off-Shore Team

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

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.

Resolutions

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

It’s that time of year again.  Have you made your New Year’s resolution?   The practice gets a lot of attention – but it’s always in the context of the individual.   Can’t companies make resolutions?  Yes, I’m aware that business entities operate differently than individuals but surely they can join in on the fun.  Not all changes need to come from upper management.  Generally speaking, the smaller your company the easier it is to affect change in your workplace.  But even those working in large corporations can take it upon themselves to make improvements.

I’ve collected some of the most popular resolutions to see how they can be applied to companies in ways that do not require a massive company wide reorganization or even managerial responsibilities.

Lose Weight

Ah, perhaps the most popular resolution of all-time.  The company equivalent: trim the fat, that which serves no purpose.  Ditch what is rather useless and replace with something new.  It could be a copier, a server, or an outdated version of pre-packaged software.

Manage Stress

Individuals can become stressed, and so can departments.   Is a shortage of developers causing problems?   Are people happy with the furniture, lighting, and seating arrangements?  Does your vacation policy encourage employees to take time off?  There are dozens of ways to reduce stress in the office place, and quite often taking action increases productivity.

Take a Trip

Is there a client you’ve neglected to visit?  Perhaps some off-shore folks would benefit from a trip to the US – or maybe a flight in the other direction for an on-shore resource is in order.  Upper management won’t necessarily know if there’d be benefit in people from different locations coming together.  The employees generally do know (or know first).

Volunteer

Does your company give back to the community in some way?  Perhaps it’s time for another blood drive, a scholarship program, or a community service initiative.  This is most definitely something any employee can drive – it need not come from the top.

Pay off Debt

Take action on paying off technical debt – the obligation that a software organization incurs when it chooses a design or approach that’s expedient in the short term but increases complexity and is more costly in the long term.  Every software organization has it.  You can pay now, or pay later.  Pay now.  While large endeavors do require budget, it can be tackled in ways that allow employees to slowly refactor that which they understand well.

Get a Better Education

Does your workforce know what it needs to know?  Are you cross-training?  If there’s room in the budget for formal training, encourage employees to apply.  And if there isn’t, having employees conduct training at lunch time costs virtually nothing.  Documentation, while not a complete substitute for formal or informal training, is often lacking.  Stressing its importance and demanding solid write-ups almost always pays off in the long run.

Quit Smoking

More generically, kick a bad habit.  Individuals have bad habits of all sorts, as do workplaces.  What bad habits can you find in your office?  Meetings, in general, are often thought of as time wasters.  Do your meetings start on time or do people stroll in 5 minutes after the designated start times?  Are people dialing into conference calls while driving or from locations where it’s difficult to give undivided attention?  Is there a designated scribe who types up the notes for distribution to the participants and other interested in the topic?  Do people listed as optional consider themselves optional?  There are plenty of ways to make meetings more productive.

Take a look around and you’ll see there is room for improvement everywhere – not just in your personal life, and not just in your own work life, but in the workplace.  Everyone from the CEO down can take the initiative to better an organization.  Are there any resolutions you’d like your company to make this year?

Jim Buckridge

FAST