Software companies based in the United States often have engineering offices in offshore locations, especially India, where there is a vast supply of top-tier engineering talent.
4 Things That Can Go Wrong With Offshore Teams
- Communications gaps when there’s not enough or the right kind with headquarters.
- A general feeling of isolation, disconnect or not being recognized as part of the broader team.
- Pay and benefits not on par for the local economy.
- Assigning offshore teams projects and tasks that are not mission-critical, like bug fixes, which makes team members feel left out of the work that is integral to customers and the market.
This organizational structure can deliver several benefits, including around-the-clock support for customers, supplemental tech talent in an industry where demand always seems to outweigh supply and an Asia-Pacific presence for sales and partnering.
Our company, Komprise, hired engineering staff in Bangalore soon after its founding in 2014. Having two geographically separate but tightly aligned engineering organizations helps us innovate faster in a competitive and demanding marketplace.
Yet there are hurdles to overcome if you want a cohesive R&D organization across oceans and time zones. Great communication, cultural awareness and training are important ingredients to help an offshore team stay engaged and productive.
Create a Feeling of Inclusion
If your team is located seas away from the United States or your headquarters, visibility and frequent communication are critical. There’s nothing worse than team members feeling that they have no connection with nor understanding of what’s happening at headquarters.
Senior leaders at the offshore office are responsible for making these connections happen and helping local staff feel included and in the know. Here’s how we approach inclusiveness at Komprise:
- Short meetings every week for all employees in the offshore office to discuss what’s going on at headquarters. We share recent achievements, business updates and priorities, customer wins and hot escalations.
- Engage with the marketing team at headquarters to stay in the loop regarding company announcements, events, new programs or press coverage and make sure that details are shared regularly with the local office.
- Encourage employees to follow the company’s social media accounts and share posts with their networks. Remote employees should also share and express ideas or pose questions on internal communication channels. This increases the visibility of offshore employees and creates stronger relationships between U.S. and India employees. Having common tools is a plus.
- All-hands meetings from our CEO take place quarterly, and in the early mornings U.S. time, mostly Pacific Standard Time, so that people in India can attend at a decent hour. A senior leader from the India office presents updates during those sessions.
Support With Training and Education
Your local engineering team should have access to the same caliber of education and upskilling opportunities as at headquarters, but you may need different types of programs due to cultural differences. Here are some ideas.
- Hire for cultural and company fit. Understand the personality traits that will work best with your U.S. team when hiring new employees in the offshore office. At Komprise, we consciously choose members who have excellent communications and collaboration skills, who understand the importance of flexibility and adaptability, and who possess high emotional intelligence, ethics and integrity. These skills are tough to teach compared to technical skills.
- Offer onboarding boot camps. For new hires, we offer programs that introduce our organization, culture and values, product, processes and professional etiquette. Toward the conclusion of the boot camp, we conduct interactive and fun events, which help new Bangalore employees get settled and comfortable with the team, alleviating the stress that can negatively impact the first few days or weeks on the job.
- Provide an array of opportunities. Tech workers love to be challenged and learn new things. Encourage your employees in the offshore location to rotate through different teams if possible and assign a mentor to help them through their first year.
- Exchange learnings and best practices with the United States. Ideally, the offshore and U.S. teams will share ideas and work collaboratively to solve problems. In my company, we are very synchronous, collaborative and share constructive challenges that help everyone learn and grow to the next level. Consider holding monthly brown bag sessions at a time convenient for offshore employees to share wins and lessons learned.
Foster a Healthy Work Culture
Aligning with and working in sync requires some give-and-take on both sides. We try to balance late-evening meetings for both geographies so that all our employees can have a balance. Yet it’s also important to maintain local norms and cultural preferences. These are some key areas of difference in Bangalore that help us maintain our sense of local community/culture while still contributing to and meeting key objectives for the company.
- Fun at work. Indian engineering teams have a lot of young people who enjoy spending time outside of work hanging out with their coworkers, whether that’s lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant, playing sports or going on weekend trips.
- Flexible, hybrid work. Like many companies, we have adapted to hybrid working with flexibility to make exceptions when needed. I prefer calling it designed hybrid working, as we have identified two days a week for all employees to be in the office to maximize collaboration, productivity, engagement and bonding. Our team loves this design.
Working in India or another country for a U.S.-based startup is indeed a dynamic, exciting and fulfilling experience for employees. Employees in both geographies benefit from exposure to new and diverse perspectives and cultures, which can result in an engaging, collaborative and vibrant workplace.