Interested in managing offshore teams?
Whether you have a startup or an established company, hiring an offshore team can help you achieve your organizational goals and expand your business.
However, managing an offshore team isn’t as easy as managing an in-house team.
You can’t just walk over to them to check up on their progress as you would in an office.
That’s why you’ll need the right strategies and tools to help your offshore teams function efficiently.
In this article, we’ll explain what an offshore team is and some of the challenges you might face while working with them. We’ll also highlight a few strategies and the best tools for managing offshore teams.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What are Offshore Teams?
- 5 Useful Tips for Offshore Team Management
- Challenges of Managing Offshore Teams
- 3 Excellent Tools for Successful Offshore Team Management
- 3 Key Benefits of Offshore Teams
Let’s get started.
What are Offshore Teams?
An offshore team is a workforce that operates from outside the country where your business is based in. Usually, offshore teams receive the same benefits as internal teams —the only difference is their geographic location.
For example, let’s say you manage a tech company in the US.
You could hire an offshore software development team based in the Philippines rather than locally recruiting a software developer. This offshore development team is a part of your organization, working under your payroll system.
Now the term “offshore team” is sometimes confused with “outsourced team.”
Outsourcing involves procuring services temporarily, generally under the payroll of a third-party organization. For example, a company may agree with a service provider for software professionals to form a dedicated development team.
It’s also important to note that an offshore team isn’t the same as a distributed team.
A distributed team consists of employees in numerous locations — locally and internationally. Offshore teams work exclusively in another country.
5 Useful Tips for Offshore Team Management
Offshore team management can present its challenges.
Thankfully, there are a few best-practice methods that may help you out.
Let’s take a look at five such strategies:
1. Hire The Right Team Members
Before you can manage your offshore team, you need to have the right team in place.
You could hire team members from an offshore partner. These companies specialize in building offshore teams.
While offshore partners can be helpful, you could save costs by doing the recruitment yourself.
Here are a few tips to make recruitment easier:
A. Keep the long term goals of the company in mind
You should have a clear offshoring goal.
For example, if you’re planning to open a branch in another country, recruit managers who can handle acquiring offshore resources and setting up offices.
B. Conduct performance-based assessments
Performance-based assessments will give you a better idea of each applicant’s strengths and weaknesses rather than a resume.
Consider preparing a list of test tasks. This will help you define the level of skills required to work on particular projects and deliverables.
C. Be patient
Employing the most competent and suitable offshore personnel may take more time, effort, and money, but it’s crucial to future management success.
2. Prioritize Communication
You should be specific about your goals at the start of the project.
Clearly define the project milestones, priorities, targets, and timelines. Additionally, consider scheduling check-ins or daily Scrum meetings to stay updated on your projects’ progress.
Here are some ways you could communicate with your offshore team:
- Instant messaging and emails.
- Audio or video calls.
- Video conferencing.
3. Establish an Organized Workflow
Managers should establish step-by-step operating procedures for projects. This will help streamline workflow and the development process.
Consider writing down company procedures in the employee handbook, so your team knows the standards they need to maintain.
The project manager and team leaders should give employees clear direction and be available to answer questions if necessary.
4. Avoid Micromanagement
Successful offshore teams are usually good at self-managing. You’ll find that employees are willing to go the extra mile when they feel you trust and value them.
Instead of micromanaging every detail of their work, you could empower each offshore team member to be self-sufficient. This will boost your team’s individual performance and overall company productivity.
You can do this by:
- Ensuring adequate onboarding training.
- Communicating company goals effectively.
- Adopting the right online tools to make remote work and collaboration easier.
You could also consider hiring offshore team leaders to oversee daily operations.
This would involve a location-specific team leader overseeing the daily activities of each offshore employee.
5. Encourage Social Interaction
Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions in many countries, your offshore team may have to work remotely.
You may have in-house employees who have switched to remote work for the first time too.
For remote workers, isolation can affect mental well-being and overall productivity.
Managers should encourage social interaction among remote offshore team members and onshore teams.
You could even create a watercooler channel or chatroom on Slack.
Want more ideas?
Challenges of Managing Offshore Teams
While offshore teams have their benefits, there are obstacles to overcome.
Here’s a list of challenges you may encounter while managing offshore teams:
1. Data Security
When you transfer your company’s data to your offshore staff, its confidentiality may be at risk.
To keep your data safe, you could create a local database and ask your entire team to access it. This way, you have control over your database, including backups, software protection, etc.
You could consider adopting software like Teramind to monitor remote employee compliance with company security protocols.
2. Time Zone Difference
Being in different time zones can cause a communication delay, which could ultimately affect project schedules.
You could hire offshore employees in a similar time zone, like those with a maximum time difference of 4-5 hours with your local team.
This way, you can have a few overlapping working hours — making correspondence a lot easier.
3. Cultural Differences and Communication Gaps
It’s essential to ensure your onshore team is aware that they’ll be working with a multicultural offshore team. People in other countries may have different opinions on what constitutes professional communication and work practices.
You should ensure that everyone in your organization is sensitive to any cultural differences.
Language, dialect, and the varying accents of your offshore team may disrupt smooth, effective communication.
To avoid this communication gap, make sure that your teams have at least one language in common.
4. Performance Management
A major concern associated with offshore team management is performance management.
How will you track their hours and monitor productivity?
Measuring team performance is an essential factor that contributes to business profitability.
Thankfully, there’s a variety of time tracking software available to help you track your offshore team’s billable hours and productivity.
3 Excellent Tools for Successful Offshore Team Management
Choosing the right online solutions is essential to managing offshore teams effectively.
Here are our picks for the best tools for the job:
1. Time Doctor for Time Tracking and Productivity Management
Since you can’t just pop into your offshore team’s office to check up on them, you need another way of gauging productivity.
Time Doctor lets you remotely record billable hours and offers a range of features to assess employee productivity.
Time Doctor is a powerful time and performance management tool used by startups, SMBs like Firehouse Subs, and larger organizations like Ericsson to boost productivity.
A. Key Features
Here are some of Time Doctor’s key features:
1) Time and Activity Tracking
Time Doctor lets you easily track time manually and automatically.
Here’s how you can track time manually:
- Open Time Doctor.
- Enter the task name you will be working on.
- Click the “Start” button to start the timer.
- Click the “Stop” button to stop it.
Time Doctor will track the hours worked by each user. It also tracks the projects and tasks they work on.
2) Comprehensive Reports
Time Doctor generates a range of reports, which you can receive daily and weekly via email.
It also helps with employee time management, letting your offshore team track their own productivity in real-time through the Time Doctor dashboard.
Here are some of the detailed reports available:
- Activity Summary: Reveals the active minutes and seconds, unproductive, manual, and mobile time for each user within a selected period.
- Hours Tracked: View the number of hours tracked per day, week, or for any date range selected.
- Timeline: Shows how much time offshore employees spend on tasks and breaks daily or weekly, including start and end times.
- Web & App Usage: Shows the amount of time spent on different sites and apps.
- Projects & Tasks: Shows the time spent on projects and individual tasks.
3) Productivity Ratings
The Productivity Ratings feature lets you categorize the URLs that your employees visit.
Other time tracking solutions might classify social media sites like YouTube and Facebook as ‘unproductive sites.’
But what if your team needs to visit these sites for work-related purposes?
The Productivity Ratings feature helps you overcome this issue.
Managers and admins can choose which websites and apps are productive and which are unproductive — depending on the offshore team’s tasks.
Managers can choose between four ratings, including:
Time Doctor uses these productivity ratings to generate accurate reports.
4) Idle Time Pop-up
With Time Doctor’s Idle Time Pop-up feature, employees are motivated to remain actively engaged at work.
Here’s how it works:
- Start the interactive timer.
- If Time Doctor detects no keyboard or mouse activity for some time, a pop-up message appears asking employees if they’re still working.
- They can then take a break or continue working and tracking time.
This deters employees from logging their idle time as billable hours.
Note: Time Doctor won’t track the keys pressed by users, as this could invade privacy. Instead, it only monitors whether any keys were pressed or not.
The Screencasts function reveals what your team is actually doing at work.
It takes screenshots or records videos of employees’ computer screens during tracked hours.
With this feature, you can:
- Set intervals for screenshots.
- View screenshots where there was no keyboard/mouse activity or activity is low.
- Download screenshot images and videos.
- Delete or blur screenshots with sensitive data.
You can enable the Payroll feature in Time Doctor to directly make payments to your offshore employees through your preferred payment gateway.
Once this feature is enabled, you can:
- Automate and upload timesheets for quick and easy bulk billing.
- Customize pay periods and currencies for convenience.
- Manually or automatically approve employee timesheets.
- Configure payroll for hourly or salaried employees.
- Make quick payments with integration to PayPal, Gusto, TransferWise, etc.
- Time tracking flexibility — manual or automatic tracking.
- Productivity reports that are accurate to the second.
- Platform compatibility with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android systems.
- Simple and employee-friendly settings.
- Track time directly from other apps through the powerful Chrome extension.
- Integrations with more than 50 third-party apps like Jira, Trello, and Basecamp.
- Strict privacy and data security policies.
Paid plans start at $8/user per month. A 14-day free trial is available that requires no credit card.
D. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.4/5 (170+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (320+ reviews)
2. Microsoft Teams for Communication
Microsoft Teams is one of the best communication tools to keep in touch with your offshore team. It offers instant messaging, meetings, calls, and file-sharing functions.
A. Key Features
- Unlimited chat messages.
- Group chat for teams between 2 to 10,000.
- Built-in audio and video calling for individuals, groups, and teams.
- Real-time file creation and sharing of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote files.
- Integrate with popular project management apps like Monday.com.
Paid plans start at $5/user per month. There’s a free plan available for up to 300 participants.
C. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.2/5 (250+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.4/5 (3600+ reviews)
3. Asana for Project Management
Asana is a project management tool that can help you and your offshore team stay updated with projects and tasks.
However, it doesn’t have an in-built time tracking functionality; you’d need to integrate with a tool like Time Doctor.
A. Key Features
- Simple and user-friendly interface.
- The calendar function shows an overview of projects and tasks for efficient scheduling.
- Portfolios let you see how projects are progressing over time.
- Manage projects from any device — Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, Android, and iOS compatibility.
- Over 100 integrations to help keep your projects on track.
Paid plans start at $13.49/user per month. There’s also a free plan with limited functionality.
C. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.3/5 (7000+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.4/5 (9300+ reviews)
3 Key Benefits of Offshore Teams
Hiring offshore teams has become popular due to the benefits for all parties involved — the business owner, the onshore team, and offshore employees.
Let’s check out some of the benefits of a productive offshore team:
1. Increased Capacity
During peak periods (when you face an influx of business), an increased workforce will allow you to take on more work.
Instead of turning away jobs, you can access the skills needed to keep your business running smoothly without recruiting high-paid, onshore employees.
2. Focus on Your Core Business
By letting your offshore team handle non-core activities, you’ll have more time and resources to focus on your most important business activities.
For example, your offshore team can handle customer queries while your local team handles core-business activities like sales and marketing.
3. Improved Profitability
One of the main reasons companies opt for offshore teams is because you can save money.
When working with a limited budget, you could hire quality employees from overseas at an affordable rate.
If your offshore team works from home, you’ll be able to save on the overhead costs, such as:
- Office rent.
- Equipment like desks, chairs, laptops, printers, etc.
- Consumables like stationery, printer ink, coffee machines, etc.
Hiring offshore teams can help you achieve your most ambitious goals. You can also save on costs and gain quick access to the international talent pool.
However, despite all the benefits, it does have its challenges.
We’ve given you a good idea of what’s involved in managing offshore teams and how you can excel at it.
By following the tips and using the tools mentioned in this guide, you should have no trouble successfully managing your offshore teams!
Liam Martin is the co-founder of Time Doctor—one of the world’s leading time tracking software for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote, the world’s largest remote work conference.