Use of Outsourcing for Small and Medium Teams
For small and medium businesses, strategic planning is often a complex task. It becomes especially tedious when a company has to outsource works to third-party specialists or teams. Today, we will tell about the most common problems you may face while outsourcing, and how to avoid them.
But first, let’s make sure we are on the same page here and define what we mean by outsourcing. Citing the Investopedia: “Outsourcing is a practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally.” Do not confuse outsourcing and partnering though. The difference is that with the former you substitute part of your internal work process to someone, whereas the latter usually includes tasks that are not part of internal work process. For example, a travel agency that relies heavily on software development can outsource a professional programmer to code.
Types of outsourcing
Outsourcing can be handled in different ways depending on the needs of your business. Sometimes you have a continuous job to be done, like writing daily posts for your Facebook page, and sometimes you only need a marketer to construct a marketing plan once and never see him again. This division is sometimes vague, yet it is important for a deeper understanding of the topic. Here are the points you should take into account when considering to outsource:
- Do you need local (within the country) or global (outside of the country) outsourcing?
This is the straightforward one. Usually, you want to outsource locally if you need to maintain more control over your team. Most of the time when outsourcing locally, businesses provide such workers with a workplace. It can be done by either inviting them to business’ own offices or renting a place for outsourced workers specifically. On the other hand, global outsourcing can be useful if you wish to save your money by hiring from states with lower salaries. Also, it’s common to outsource certain jobs to countries that are good at them. India and its call-center agents business is a nice example.
- Will you search for outsourced workers on your own, or will you turn to outsourcing companies?
Searching on your own works best if you either have some experience in building a web of outsourced workers, or you already have some specialist in mind who’d be suitable for outsourcing the job to him. If that is not the case, it’s best to address professional outsourcing companies. A drawback of the latter are, of course, higher costs.
So, what are the main issues one can expect to face when outsourcing? Well, they all appear as a result of workers’ isolation from the main work flow. Among them are:
- Lack of management control. This can grow to anything from slacking workers to workers losing clear vision of what is expected from them.
- Hidden costs. This is usually the case with outsourcing companies and is the result of ill-formed contract.
- Quality problems. This can be especially devastating if you only see the end result of outsourced job, for example a cargo of materials that turn out to not fit you.
- Dependence on the well-being of another company. Quite self-explanatory, the more tasks you outsource, the more you will suffer if your contractor goes out of business.
If you are not sure whether the benefits of outsourcing are worth such risks, we can somewhat reassure you. It turns out that you can sidestep most pitfalls of outsourcing using standard techniques of human resource management.
The most important aspect of successful outsourcing is communication. Make sure you check in with everyone multiple times per day, and also organize one-to-one meetings. This helps you keep everyone on track and boosts the morale of the team. Also, it is important to meet up with your team in person weekly or monthly. This can be difficult if outsourcing globally, so in that case try to arrange such a meeting at least once or twice a year.
Remember to give your team members an option to use professional workspace. Some outsourced workers prefer to work remotely in the comfort of their home. However, it is not uncommon for them to require a special workplace to be able to escape from home distractions and work more efficiently. Besides, working together in the same office builds a team spirit, which is essential to increase productivity.
Boosting morale and team spirit is all fine and dandy, but you also must not forget about strictly organizing your team. This is where modern technology will help you a lot. First and foremost, make sure everybody on your team has a clear vision of your company strategic goals and work processes. There is a great tool called Roadmap Planner that will help you with that. With it you can build a business plan or a single project of any scope and share it with your team. This way they can always have a reference of what should be done or receive updates on the strategy and tasks at hand. It is a neat tool to keep everyone in touch and mitigate the lack of normal communication.
To sum it up, outsourcing has its unique characteristics and requires a specific mindset and skillset from the manager. However, it is a highly efficient tool, and it’s no wonder why so many companies are using it more and more broadly. So ask yourself – perhaps it’s your turn to try?