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Overseas staff – communication and what to expect


Communication is one of the most important job skills for workplace success. Getting it wrong, can be detrimental. 86% of executives identify ineffective communication and collaboration as a major cause of failure in business.

So, it’s only natural to wonder what the communication situation will be when talking to overseas staff. With different time zones, cultures and even languages, we understand the thought of communicating halfway across the world can be daunting! But it doesn’t have to be – in many ways it’s no different to communicating with your own onshore team.

Let’s answer some of the most common questions that arise when it comes to offshore communications.

Will my overseas staff have good English-speaking skills?

They could. It all comes down to understanding the opportunities different international markets offer because talent in different locations have different skillsets – including English fluency and literacy. Selecting a market with high English fluency and cultural compatibility is key to ensuring you hire staff with great communication skills.

South Africa and the Philippines are home to large, educated populations with fantastic English-speaking skills. English is an official language of these locations, and they both rank highly on the Global English Proficiency Index. The Philippines is ranked 18 out of 112 countries, with a rating of high proficiency. While South Africa is ranked 12 out of 112 countries, with a rating of very high proficiency. That’s why these are our two talent markets at Staff Domain.

Add to this, the great cultural compatibility of these nations. South Africa offers a unique blend of indigenous and western cultures. Before becoming the Republic of South Africa in 1961, the nation was a sovereign state in the British Empire. As a result, the country has many influences from – and similarities to – Western Culture. English is an official language of South Africa and is primarily used in business. Similarly, The Philippines was governed by the United States between 1899 to 1946, and its cultural influence exists to this day. English is also the primary language for business and education.

We don’t just assume because the country ranks well, that every person there has great English skills. At Staff Domain, we put our candidates through a thorough English testing process, so our clients know in advance what their English proficiency is like and make their own informed decision on whether to progress the candidate to the next stage.

But remember, great communication goes beyond English, it involves attributes like empathy, confidence, and respect. You have a role in maintaining a culture where these traits are valued – encourage open communication with your team, make time to listen to their needs and answer their questions, and most importantly lead by example.

How will I communicate with my overseas staff?

Thanks to the move to working from home, remote communication is the new normal. Tools like Zoom, Slack and Teams have made communicating and collaborating from anywhere, easier than ever. At Staff Domain, we’ll set your team up with the same virtual communication tech you have locally – ensuring a seamless global experience for you and your offshore team.

Will my overseas staff be able to communicate with clients directly?

Client facing roles will of course, require client communication. Your overseas staff are simply an extension of your team. Think of them as an international office. The same way you assess who in your onshore team is suitable to deal with clients, applies to your offshore team.

We recommend that your new offshore team member is given an onboarding period where they’re trained on how you want them to engage with clients – before they have to do so. This involves being clear about your expectations from the very beginning. Brief them on your clients, ensure they understand your processes, and importantly their roles and responsibilities when it comes to client interaction.

If you’re worried about your clients accepting your offshore team – don’t be. Lack of acceptance from clients is a commonly perceived risk associated with offshoring. However, our research with Bond University into businesses successfully offshoring, shows that in reality the risk is minor.

If you manage client acceptance upfront and honestly, you’ll be able to overcome any client concerns from the get-go. Let clients know you have a dedicated team offshore, that will be dealing with them directly. Assure them that your new staff is 100% on your team. And finally, highlight that they’re qualified professionals here to help. Just like your local team.

Great communication – starts with you!

The processes and efforts of your local team are critical to a seamless communication experience with your overseas staff. Here are some tips to help you get started on the right note:

1. Have your communications tools and processes in place.
Whether you use teams, slack or good old email – establishing your communication tools and processes from the start is a must. Virtual communication tools are key to maintaining a streamlined communication channel with your overseas staff.

2. Don’t be a stranger – connection is important.
You’ll know from your own WFH experience that communication and connection can be a challenge. There’s less opportunity for chit-chat or casual catchups to build relationships with your colleagues. Make the time and effort to communicate regularly and socially – for the benefit of your local and offshore team. Encourage non-work communication, whether it be a weekly Monday morning zoom coffee or end of week virtual drinks.

3. Communicate openly and regularly.
Creating a culture of open communication with your overseas staff is key to a successful relationship. In fact, the importance of establishing open communication is heightened with an offshore location as cultural factors may sometimes decrease the likelihood of staff asking for help. Building trust and encouraging your new staff to speak up is critical to effective communication with them. Ask proactively if there are any questions and encourage the team to ask you questions too!

4. Make training a priority.
Take the time to train your new staff and set the communication expectations you have of them. It’s essential that your new staff have a clear idea of your best practices, and understands your systems, processes, and expectations. Be sure to prepare an induction program from the outset to give your staff the best possible start. At Staff Domain, we can help guide you through this process as required.

5. When it comes to clients – ease in, don’t rush.
If your new staff member is in a client facing role, you may be eager to get them started with client communication. However, to ensure your expectations and standards are met, it’s best to ease them into the process. Make sure they’ve completed their onboarding training and give them the opportunity to join you for client meetings so they can see first-hand what’s expected. It’s also a good idea to join them for the first few meetings they take ownership of, so you can provide constructive feedback as required.

In short, with the right research and preparation communication can be seamless with your overseas staff. So, what are you waiting for? If you’re interested in learning more about how offshore outsourcing can help your business, schedule an obligation free 15-minute consultation with us here.

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