A global employer’s guide to managing an outsourced team

August 12, 2021

how to manage outsourced team

If you’re looking to expand your business into new markets through international expansionconsidering outsourced workers that live locally often makes sense.  

But there are many challenges to consider with the employment outsourcing process. Cultural differences, communication preferences and the onslaught of HR-related nuances—such as recruitment, payroll, benefits and more—can be difficult to navigate and take time away from ensuring your outsourced team is happy and engaged on the job. 

Fortunately, understanding these potential challenges when considering how to manage outsourced team members is half the battle. 

Managing time for team collaboration  

One of the most common issues that comes up when managing an outsourced global team is scheduling time for team collaboration. With people working in different time zones, there are some challenges in figuring out the best time to communicate. But it’s about more than coordinating acceptable conference call times; it’s also about understanding the cultural factors that can influence time.  

Some cultures, like Japanese culture, are more sensitive about how time is managed. If work begins at 9 a.m., it’s 9 a.m. on the dot, and tardiness is not appreciated. But in other countries, like Mexico, a 9 a.m. start time could be flexible, and being late is socially acceptable. Managers can set clear expectations about the importance of promptness for team meetings, but flexibility is also important when navigating cultural differences in a global team.  

Managers should also be explicit about how many hours they expect their outsourced team to work during the week, and if their team needs to be available during “off hours.” 

Keeping tabs on the holidays in other countries is also key. You’ll want to plan time off for your dedicated team and adjust deadlines to accommodate local holidays.  

Handling potential communication challenges  

If you’re working with a diverse international team, there are cultural communication differences to consider that could impact team dynamics. For example, small talk may be important to workers in America to build rapport with colleagues, while some Europeans might use humor, and those working in Asian countries may need to check with their business unit or manager prior to responding to an email.  

It’s also common to address people by their first name in the U.S., but if you’re working with someone in Austria, they may prefer to be addressed by their title. Understanding these small details can help you communicate with your managed team more effectively.  

As a general practice, email is a good first line of communication, but it’s also helpful to follow up with your virtual team via phone or video call to clear up any potential miscommunication.  

Aligning with local employment expectations  

As you expand your team to include international hires, there are many global compliance considerations. Everything from payroll to benefits and cultural norms can create challenges for your organization’s global expansion strategy  

Payroll. Paying employees in different countries comes with many challenges, including local regulations, tax laws, banking requirements and more. Fast growing organizations often elect to work with a partner that handles this task to avoid the complexities that come with processing cross-border payments.  

Benefits. There are many elements to consider with a benefits package, including healthcare coverage, holidays and other perks. Traditional benefits packages don’t always translate in new countries.  

For example, your American sales representatives may love the perk of having a company vehicle, but professionals in Brazil may feel burdened by this “perk.” In the U.S., you might give employees a 401 (k) match as a perk, but in France, local law may require contributions to a private pension fund. Additionally, paid time off benefits can vary significantly from country to country. In Brazil employees are entitled to at least 30 days of paid vacation—in addition to traditional holiday pay.  

Culture expectations. Cultural expectations are complex and it’s important that your interactions with employees align with the norms. For example, a local government might require a company to offer four weeks of paid time off each year. But when you dig a little deeper, you might uncover that most companies offer at least five weeks. How can you ensure that your company is competitive in the marketplace without this local knowledge? The easiest way is to work with an experienced local partner that already has a grasp on these nuances and can get you up to speed quickly. 

Tips for how to manage an outsourced team 

Once you understand the challenges of managing global outsourced workers you can prepare for how to get ahead of them. Here are a few tips to help you get started as you plan your company’s global expansion strategy.  

Get your outsourced team aligned with your goals. Do you want to make sure that your global team “gets” what your company wants to accomplish? If so, you need to communicate your goals clearly from the start. Doing this will help employees be clear about what they’re working toward and what success looks like.  

Be united, regardless of where people work. One of the biggest challenges when people work across different time zones and countries is helping them feel like a team. One way to do this is to get everyone on the same page about expectations, deadlines and how everyone’s work is connected. This will create a sense of connection and keep outsourced team members aligned with overall goals.  

Remain flexible. You may already know that employees are your greatest asset. The outsourced team has ideas that will make your company better—all you have to do is harness them. Managers of global outsourced teams will need to be flexible to accommodate differences in work style and various communication styles. 

Reward excellent work. All employees, including outsourced employees, need to feel valued and satisfied in their work. Extending gratitude for a job well done is critical when working with an outsourcing team or employee that is abroad to ensure they feel connected to the team

Seek a qualified local partner. Managing the details associated with an outsourced team is complex and has many potential challenges. An experienced local HR partner, like an employer of record (EOR), can help you navigate the nuances of global employment, from cultural expectations to payroll compliance. With an EOR, you can rest easy regarding global HR compliance and focus on keeping your outsourced team happy and engaged on the job.    

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