Matt Cooper, vice president of international and enterprise at oDesk, told StartupSmart back in August that the new frontier of outsourced work required managers to develop their communications and leadership skills in new ways.
“If you’re a mediocre manager when you’re sitting next to the worker, you’ll be a really bad one when they’re on the other side of the world,” Cooper said. “You need to communicate more and be more specific, and be more engaged as they work. It does pay off, but it is a new skill for a lot of people.”
Cooper is in Sydney this week for a series of events in the lead up to the Startup Spring Festival, including one entitled: Everything you thought you knew about hiring but don’t.
“The global skills shortage is predicted to turn into a war for talent. In 20 years, there will be 5600 new tech start-ups in Australia alone, according to Google and PwC. All those companies are going to be competing with yours for the very best people,” Cooper says.
He shared his top four tips for managing outsourced workers with StartupSmart.
1. Find the right people: Wide sights, narrow target
Cooper says people need to realise even though they turn to outsourcing to meet a skill gap or demand, smart outsourcers know they’re hiring people rather than positions.
“If you can’t find someone with those skills and experience for your budget, then it’s going to stay empty. Instead, find someone who has half the core skills you need, but could be trained in others. Remember that everyone brings something new to the table: they may turn out to have talents you didn’t ask for, and didn’t even know you needed,” Cooper says.
2. Consider multiple outsourcers and be flexible
Depending on your management style, you can customise your outsourcing workload to suit your company’s needs. Cooper says using multiple outsourcers can have unexpected benefits.
“Having two people also gives you double the chance of bonus skills, and it gives you much easier absentee cover options. Plus if the workload suddenly spikes, one or both of your part-timers may be able to add more days,” Cooper says.
He adds this is especially important for people working with outsourcers such as new parents and young people, who require greater flexibility than more traditional employees.
3. Keep your core staff in the loop about your outsourced work
While the work may happen offshore, overnight and by someone you’ve never met before, smart managers keep their core staff informed of how the outsourced work is being handled so they can tap into their full professional network.
“Your employees may have some great ideas about who might be a good fit for their team. The chances are they know of suitable people looking for work, or can ask through their own networks. They may even want to train for the vacancy themselves, but you won’t know what hidden potential you already have on hand until you ask,” Cooper says.
4. Recognise the global outsourcing trend requires new approaches
Managing teams where the geography is irrelevant beyond when you schedule meetings, Cooper says managers also need to shift how they think about recruitment and managing talent.
“Workers chop and change a lot these days, particularly younger employees, and particularly those with highly in-demand skills. Even if you find the perfect hire, they may not stay around forever. So prepare for churn. Consider recruitment an ongoing process, and look for talent in advance of when you need it. Keep resumes on file. Store the contacts of talented people you’ve met at business events. Even if they’re not looking for work in six months’ time, they may have a colleague who is,” Cooper says.