Why you need to pay attention to cultural differences with your global-sourcing strategy

Why you need to pay attention to cultural differences with your global-sourcing strategy

In a recent meeting with one of my clients, we reviewed the global-sourcing strategy for his business and calculated the most proactive ways to move it into the next phase.

He had been to both our offshoring seminar and on our Philippines Strategy Tour before hiring his offshore staff in Manila, and the two new team members were already churning through simple low-end tasks. Now he was keen to set out his ideas for phase two.

This next step involved hiring web development staff but he was concerned about the expense as the staffing facility  had indicated that the wage for such skills would be triple the cost of his current offshore staff. Although this would be a third the cost of hiring Australians for these roles, it still seemed expensive to him.  

It sounded expensive to me too until we re-examined the job description. He had asked the facility to recruit someone who could chat with the client about their simple website needs, and then create that website in WordPress.

“I know a woman in Manila with exactly that skill set,” I said.

But before he got too excited, I added, “She runs her own business and sells services to your competitors. You’re wasting your time trying to fill this role.”

“But you told me that almost all skills are available in the Philippines,” he said, surprised.

I nodded. “Yes, and I stand by that statement. But when you try to combine too many skills in a particular role, you’re chasing your tail.”

This is a common issue and a good example of why you should discuss your needs with an offshoring or recruitment strategist before proceeding with new offshore roles or a new phase. One 30 minute phone call can save you three months of frustration.

My client was trying to solve his problem by attacking it from the wrong angle. By designing a role the same way he would in Australia, he’d given no consideration to the nature of roles in the Philippines, nor to the cultural differences. As a result, he’d created a role that was going to be nearly impossible to fill.

You might expect that the staffing facility would tell him that, but they were more interested in making the customer happy than in telling him he had rocks in his head. Instead, they were trying to head-hunt a gun candidate at a high wage.

Solid global-resourcing strategy will involve selecting tasks, or groups of tasks, that can be easily shifted to your team in another country. Trying to duplicate roles is frequently problematic simply because the way roles are typically done in Australia is not the same way they are done in other countries. When you get to the specificity of tasks, however, it’s relatively easy to replicate.

As many people now realise, having a little bit of success offshore also does not guarantee you can scale that to having a lot of success. Offshoring is a journey not a switch. Getting off to a strong start is important, and there’s also new learnings at every stage, just like any other journey.

Scott Linden Jones is the founding adviser at Easy Offshore, providing global-resourcing implementation services to Australian businesses via tours, seminars and consulting.

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