As the pandemic has taught us, working with colleagues in different locations brings its own unique set of challenges.  Zoom brainstorms aren’t *quite* the same as cramming around a whiteboard in the office.  Not everyone interprets awkward silences the same way. Just because you emailed a project brief and nobody asked questions, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re confident in meeting your tight deadline!

When it comes to building a strong team culture and common understanding of workplace expectations, managing offshore resources is not much different from onshore teams.  Great communication and collaboration are at the heart of any high-performing team. Building relationships and taking every individual on the journey is essential.  The biggest mistake you can make in managing your offshore people is to treat them as separate, less-valued workers who don’t need to feel part of the bigger organisational picture.

The most successful offshore teams are those that have been onboarded and engaged in the company’s values and purpose. Not only do they undertake the specific requirements of their role, but understand how their efforts contribute to their onshore team’s objectives and broader business goals.

The following tips will help you establish an effective and productive working relationship with your offshore employees.

1. Keep the conversation going

As the pandemic has reminded us, when you’re not sitting in the same office pod or bumping into colleagues at the water cooler, extra effort is required to make sure everyone is on the same page. When face-to-face is not an option, managers must invest more effort in helping employees maintain their connection to the company and each other. Make sure that their voice is heard and encourage participation as you would any other employee.

2. Get everyone on the same page

Locking in regular 1:1s is the most obvious way to connect with your offshore people – they’ll get as much out of the routine catch ups as your onshore team and it’s the most obvious way to build strong relationships. If you’re hosting a team WIP or quarterly update, make sure your offshore team receive an invitation. Integrating your remote employees into your company culture and avoiding a ‘them vs us’ divide should be your priority – reinforcing that everyone is working toward the same goals and fostering a ‘one team’ mindset.

3. Ground rules: establish team norms

Take time to clearly set the norms of your culture and explain “how work we work together”. Some things may feel second nature to you, but unless expectations are explicitly stated, there’s room for confusion. Make sure you’ve explained how long it should take to respond to emails/messages – are you a manager who expects an immediate response or is a reply within the working day reasonable? Be clear about task expectations and ownership within the team, including when they can move forward if a team member is unreachable and when it’s preferable to get a response. Advise the best way to share information – does the team have a WhatsApp or Slack chat, or do you encourage email for all discussions?

4. Set the tech

Make sure that your offshore team has access to the same tools as your onshore team – your technology preferences should increase collaboration, not create a barrier. Whether you rely on Zoom, Slack, Skype, IM or WhatsApp, your offshore team will be quick to adopt and enthusiastic to adapt.

5. Recognise good performance

Working remotely makes it easy to forget the little moments that matter – like saying a quick ‘thanks’ or ‘great work’ when you walk past a colleague’s desk. A short email, instant message or call-out in a team meeting is a great way to let your offshore team members know when they’ve done something well. Likewise, consider how your company’s recognition program might extend to your remote team. Particularly during the initial phase of employment, recognition is the easiest way to reinforce ‘what good looks like’.

We advise our clients that one of the most critical factors in successful offshoring is matching the right person to the role requirements and company culture – as they would in Australia. From there, ConnectOS will guide you through induction, onboarding to job-specific training and milestones in the employee lifecycle to help set you and your new offshore team up for success.