Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences

Outsourced development has long become a reality. You can easily find an employee in any part of the world. In the IT industry, this is emphasized to its fullest extent. The margin of technical skills and knowledge developers are capable of acquiring depends solely on the effort they put in.

No doubt there are levels and rankings to this but the fact is – you can find good developers to enhance your business’ online presence anywhere in the world. Technology knows no borders and being a public fare that it is, it does fall under the influence of the external conditions.

There are three polarities in an outsourced remote framework that build the core of potential issues:

  • The rational & the irrational.
  • The manageable & the unmanageable.
  • The intentional & the unintentional.

The Cultural imprint has to deal with each of those polarities. Either as a conscious decision or a natural inclination, these have the potential to impede cost-effective, resourceful, and promising outstaffing opportunities. Let’s take a closer look at this.

Outstaffing People, Not Occupations

First, let’s clarify the term ‘outstaffing’. In general, this concept shares the features of remote work with outsourcing but has a deep-seated difference. Outstaffing means employing people just like you would for your in-house team, only remote. In other words, your in-house team is extended by a remote team, honoring all the legal terms, corporate culture, same core beliefs, and mission.

This is where it gets tricky. If you employ an outsourced team to deliver a product for you, you are expecting an end product. In our case – a website or a mobile application. Outstaffing means you delegate part of your business which is either software or web application design, development, maintenance, and all the product growth strategies on top of all the daily routines.

This is the situation where you don’t hire teams solely guided by their skillset, but take into account a whole bunch of other factors like:

  • National identity
  • Cultural identity.
  • Religious identity.
  • Social standards.
  • Stereotypes.

National Identity

The main concern finding remote employees besides fraud and unprofessionalism is the “us-them” issue. If you are hiring a team of outsourced engineers to build your product, your worry about whether the product will work for your target audience is a fair one. The concern that different ethnicity people don’t always act and see things the way you do is a lot of times a show-stopper.

In the outstaffing scenario, you might be running your business from across the ocean of your technical team. And it doesn’t mean its national identity is erased. What it’s about is the intelligence. Being aware of each other’s national mindsets, traditions, and values, respecting them enough not to require re-establishment is the key to reaching shared understanding and better productivity regardless of the national differences.

Our outstaffing program is a part of the extended team model that we’ve been successfully utilizing for almost 10 years. The main principle helping us blend into any team has been the following:

Thoroughly study our client’s national context in a 360-degree approach. Be open-minded and caring about the national diversity of clients and their clients, regardless of the geo location.

The only way to bypass missing opportunities due to the insufficient cross-national knowledge is by studying the best of every nation you encounter. This is not only a good stepping stone to a long partnership, but it is also a sign of respect and politeness.

Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences | shakuro

Cultural Identity

If national identity is pretty clear, how the hell do you define cultural identity? This is the identity that people fall into either voluntarily, or under the influence of the environment. In a way, relating to a cultural identity is harder, because it does not necessarily go into the geographical factor. But it’s also easy once you figure it out, as cultural appliances are truly international.

For us, this means if we are working in the IT business, our cultural identity revolves around the computer technologies, programming, solving the related tasks, and enjoying the perks of the internet. This is the language that we speak.

Staying in-tune with the world of technology is half the battle of being relevant. Sharpening technical proficiency is the other one. When interviewing a designer candidate, our UI/UX designer team lead always requests some sort of a depot of all the things they like. This helps identify their cultural and artistic inclination.

We do all types of research to get to know the target audience of the product as well as our clients and the executives that outstaff our teams. This includes:

Cultural perception is a sensual and aesthetic process that lies beneath the surface. Our approach to understanding the needs of our clients and their customers is non-judgmental and genuinely inquisitive.

The abundance of resource available makes the discovery of cultural identity simple. Social media, movies, books, everything is there to unveil the intricacies of even the most recent trends in the subcultures around the world. It’s about filtering the incoming information and recognizing the patterns.

At the end of the day, people cherish their culture and are more than willing to share it if you are interested. We are.

Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences | Shakuro

Religious Identity

Why is this even relevant? Religion is a specific world view. And certainly, it does influence the decision making. The core concept here is belief. Often times it goes further than just believing in the higher power. Belief pierces through almost every decision we make.

We are lucky to have been raised in a multi-religious country and had a chance to be introduced to different belief systems, from all the three branches of Christianity to Buddhism and Judaism.

Being sensitive to the best displays of religious consciousness, respecting it, and ingraining it into the product philosophy is our integral goal as an outstaffed team.

Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences | Shakuro

 

Social Standards

The world is diverse not only in ethnic, cultural, and religious variety, but unfortunately, it is extremely polar in social standards and quality of life. They say “A man with a full belly thinks no one is hungry.” Does this mean no shared mindset can be achieved if the gap between the teams’ social environment is as immerse as the gap between the Worlds?

In a way, outsourcing helps raise those standards. More complex tasks and challenges create better professionals who can then, pass their knowledge, grow the IT crowd and up their skillset. At the same time, outstaffed teams do not collide with this discrepancy, as they are working in a “bubble”.

We strive to create the affiliated technical structure which requires us to invest in quality equipment, scrupulous candidate screening, and corporate excellence.

One of the feared situations in outsourcing is having a team that is so remote both geographically and socially that the communication almost becomes irrelevant.

The way to be on the safe side of outsourcing and outstaffing is to stay in the middle of the scale. You don’t want to hit rock bottom in price, save a ton, and end up with an irrelevant product. At the same time, you can’t go full rockstar and neutralize the sheer concept of outstaffing.

Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences | Shakuro

Stereotypes

Overcoming national and cultural stereotypes is an essential part of building a trustful relationship between an in-house and an outsourced team, or between a management and an outstaffed team.

Any major executive with an international experience has hours of stories and anecdotal evidence of how people from different countries handle business. From our experience of working with clients from all over the world, our team members shared these:

“Israeli IT guys are usually slow-starters but when they see the goal, they’ll move mountains to reach it. The’ll put in mad extra hours, all they need is believe in what they do. I guess this is a national trait – finish what has been started and do it with the best result.”

Our long-time partnership with Israeli companies has taught us a lot about their culture and national demeanor. But this was the result of a lot of work as well – every 3 months we would make visits to one another to establish a personal bond. The output was tremendous. Then we started setting up remote “happy hours” when we would hang out in the offices and do all sorts of fun stuff besides work while on a call. It’s amazing how much fellow liking you can generate once you open up in a casual setting. Not to mention the sheer fun of celebrating each others’ holidays.

“The problem working with Indian people is you never know what they truly mean. They’ll be smiley and positive while there is fire going on. At the same time, among themselves, they are pretty rough and straightforward. You have to consider that and not let things slide.”

This is where some knowledge of psychology along with good communication skills help us. Micromanaging the projects where most of the time you’d skip the details as a matter of course, becomes a great way to induce transparency to the fullest. Setting up daily meetings with strict reporting routine helps boost shared understanding of the real state of affairs in a project.

“There is a reason why American employers are the best in terms of management. They are incredibly respectful and polite, everything they do is strictly guideline-based. Makes sense that they require full transparency and honesty in return. This might not always help to establish the real personal relationship, but hey, it’s all business, right?”

Again, there is nothing better than personal contact every once in awhile. We usually make visits every 6 months. On top of being a good confidence and trust boost, it’s genuinely good for business from a technical point of view either. But that’s icing on the cake. The real grind happens behind the scenes… and the monitors. I’m talking about paired programming on Skype. No wonder it a lot to deal with online gaming and has some common attributes, like working towards the shared purpose, occasional excessive emotional intensity, and real-time problem solving, which are all gold for a productive outsourced work.

“Middle East is a very specific place to do business in. They are willing to generously pay, but the requirements are high and you can expect to work off every dollar. They will take into account your manners and demeanor, not just technical skillset.”

Stereotypes exist to simplify recognition. As a general set of exaggerated behavior patterns, they help people break down the worldview and often times humorously, create the simplistic and self-uprising narrative. Business, however, requires equality, neutrality, and respect. We are killing off the stereotypes and are excited to work with startups and enterprises from all over the world. Whoever creates the ethnic dissention, they won’t stop the good things from happening.

Outstaffing Challenges: Winning the battle against cultural differences | Shakuro

Afterword

Cultural differences contribute to the diversity of the world and make it exciting. However, there are reasons why we tend to trust our own when doing business. People work most effectively with the people they understand, who see things and behave the similar way.

You can inherit some of the national and cultural features of your co-working team or management, show respect, and credit their identity, but you always have to consider the residuals.

Our common guidelines to reinforce the best outstaffing experience are the following:

  • Don’t assume you understand. Verify.
  • Don’t assume you are understood. Verify.
  • Don’t rely on the rational. Break down the obvious things.
  • Train employees and encourage them to educate themselves about the cultural identity of the people they are working on and for.

We are open to anything and not forcing practices we are used to in our cultural environment is a part of the company policy. We adapt, change, and grow together with the people we work with. Regardless of their identities, customs, and beliefs.

In my opinion, it is extremely important to rule the issues of cultural misunderstanding out of the picture. Any web or mobile development project presents multiple technical challenges and social ones do not belong there. Intelligent approach, deep learning, and genuine interest and passion for what we do help us rise above any differences and make progress for what really matters – the successful business operation.