Overcoming Cultural Barriers To Ensure Offshoring Success—Part 1

Offshoring isn’t a new concept, but it’s certainly one of the most important practices used in the modern world. There’s a reason why organizations all over the world choose to invest in it—it works. But more than that, however, many understand that outsourcing is the best way to uphold their business operations without worrying much about costs—in light of significant projects and dizzying numbers, offshore outsourcing teams come to the rescue. And so, the offshore outsourcing practice continues to flourish.

The saving rates are outrageous, but of course, one must always tread with caution. As with everything in the business world, the offshore outsourcing process comes with its own set of challenges, most of which take place in the rocky realm of cultural barriers. It’s difficult to balance onshore and offshore teams, after all, particularly when they operate halfway across the world.

Culture is cited as one of the biggest challenges to successful offshore projects, but it can be addressed with the right strategy and mindset. Such cultural differences can impact communication, understanding, interpretation, and even comfort, all of which can impact staff productivity and commitment. 

How can one effectively address these gaps? The key is to dive in deep and understand your offshore team’s culture. You’ll need to gain a sense of their culture, as only then can you see the similarities, differences, and even nuances—all of which can be addressed with the right data on hand. 

From there, you’ll be able to build trust and establish relationships, understand behaviors, and of course, adapt accordingly. It’s all about giving and taking, after all, and with your business success at stake, it only follows you adapt and address carefully.

To help you fully grasp how you can overcome cultural barriers and reach offshore success, we’ve curated this mini-series, a quick and easy guide for you to follow. Without further ado, here’s part one of “Overcoming Cultural Barriers To Ensure Offshoring Success”:

The Theory: What Needs To Be Understood

More often than not, cultural differences and barriers occur mainly due to language differences. Many businesses fall under the impression that the way to overcome these challenges is by learning the language, or by investing in a team that can already understand English on a native level. While all these are good practices, it’s important to remember that there’s so much more to culture than just the languages involved.

If you wish to build a bridge of trust between you and your offshore partners, you’ll need to look beyond just the language difference. Keep in mind that societal cultures reflect and shape how people think and act, serving as the very foundation of human behaviors. By understanding how this works, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to properly work and communicate with your chosen team—regardless of the language. 

There are practices to honor, customs to learn, and even behaviors to understand—all these eventually affect your bottom line, more than the language differences ever can. By learning more about the thought processes of your potential staff, you’re allowed to develop a communication strategy that works—free of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The Implementation: What Needs To Be Done

The question now stands—how can companies better address the cultural differences brought on by more than just a language barrier? Two types of routes are taken so far, such as cultural awareness and the conscious choice to build relationships. 

Culture awareness involves more than just reading and learning, however—it necessitates the need to conduct training and workshops, which should involve both offshore and onshore teams. In doing so, both sides of the culture can be put in the limelight, to be examined, probed, and understood by both teams. You may also choose to have local and onsite people manage either the onshore or offshore teams, allowing your people to have a direct impact on the bottom line. 

It’s also important to consciously decide to build relationships, which goes beyond just planning and contracts. Bear in mind that you are working with people—not faceless papers that depict legal obligations and salary packages. It’s important to build relationships with co-workers in the office, even if the other team members operate halfway across the world. Doing so allows you the chance to get more work done, effectively, and with greater chances of success. 

Doing all these, however, can be easier said than done. You’ll need to put in the time, effort, and focus, as well as resources. You’ll need to commit to on-site meetings, where you can meet your team to ensure that everyone remains on the same page. 

Frequent communication is always important, done through sophisticated communication channels and rich media content. If your operations permit, you’ll also want to select team members to work with you onshore, thereby allowing them to gather important insights they can bring to the offshore team. 

More importantly, it’s also important to remember that similarities still exist. There will always be shared goals and values, as well as concerns. For this reason, it’s important to treat them with the same level of respect as you would their onshore counterparts. It’s also important to remain as transparent and open as possible, especially when it comes to opinions, approaches, and other concerns that may arise. 

Welcoming The Big Shift

Now that you understand the theory and actions necessary, it’s now time to address the most important yet difficult part—a choice to shift individual thinking. Anchoring on the implementation part, keep in mind that your offshore team’s culture comes with unique perspectives, all of which are laid down on the table to help you solve challenges. They may be different from your current practices and beliefs, but it’s important to let existing judgments go and simply listen. 

The Bottom Line

Executing and maintain a successful offshore project can be difficult indeed, especially when your team members operate on and live on the other side of the world. The timezone differences will be the least of your worries, especially since cultural differences are likely to be present. Left ignored, these differences can eventually fester and lead to unproductivity and other costly problems. 

The only way to ever reach success is to consciously accept the differences and build relationships. In doing so, you allow the trust to develop and morale to increase. In truth, cultures shouldn’t be barriers at all—in the modern world, they should be deemed as strengths that will lead to new heights. 

As the adage goes: two heads are better than one. Use culture to your advantage, and build your strategies from there. More importantly, understand the importance of being human—and you’ll find things will fall into place. Stay tuned for part two!

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