How to Build Strong Team Culture for Offshore Developers?
In this article Iva Kozlovska, Managing Partner at Qubit Labs, shares her experience in building corporate culture in remote development teams.
You will get an idea of what corporate culture in terms of a distributed team, how to create friendly atmosphere among remote developers and which team building activities help to achieve this.
Corporate culture is a topical issue nowadays.
In the past when all company’s employees shared an office and worked in the same time zone according to the same schedule, fixed norms defined how to build a team culture.
But the forms of cooperation are not stable, and they develop together with technology.
IT industry is the first to adopt new methodologies, and the employees are often allowed to work remotely.
Building a team culture in distributed teams is harder because the team members are not office workers and they don’t have daily face-to-face meetings with their office colleagues.
Alternatively, they work in an offshore vendor’s office in a different country as it often happens in case of outsourcing and especially outstaffing.
Modern companies are result-oriented in most of the cases while corporate culture takes second or even lower places in value hierarchy.
But we need to understand the importance of team culture as it helps to achieve employee loyalty and engagement.
Team culture unites all employees into a team of like-minded people who work on achieving the same goal.
Qubit Labs has been providing its services to for more than two years.
We work with various companies from different fields, from startups to enterprises and we’ve noticed their typical mistake.
Often the companies neglect a remote team culture.
To start with, every company has its unique understanding of team culture and how to build it.
As a result, each of them treats and appreciates it differently.
Common understanding of corporate culture will help us realize its importance.
What Is Corporate Culture?
Cambridge University defines corporate culture as “the beliefs and ideas that a company has and the way in which they affect how it does business and how its employees behave”.
A merger of two companies might appear disastrous because of discrepancies in building a single team culture.
According to Business Encyclopedia by Shopify “When someone asks an employee what a particular company is like to work for, the answer they get is usually a good summary of that company’s corporate culture.
What the work environment is like, how employees relate to each other, how strict – or lax – the rules are, how communication occurs, what the organization’s priorities are, and how stressful the atmosphere is like are all aspects of a company’s culture.”
If you’ve created a friendly and welcoming team culture, you get more loyal workers and clients.
But in case you neglect it, you might destroy your employer brand and business reputation.
Margaret Rouse from WhatIs says that “corporate culture is the pervasive values, beliefs, and attitudes that characterize a company and guide its practices.
To some extent, a company’s internal culture may be articulated in its mission statement or vision statement.”
Thus, corporate culture is something bigger than just internal processes.
If you don’t know how to build a team culture, you get bad relations both with employees and clients.
If you mistreat your employees, they lash out at your customers.
Customers will never pay for poor service again, so your company won’t get income.
No income, no team spirit and team culture.
It’s a catch 22.
Corporate culture is a combination of ideas and behavior patterns that define how top managers and employees cooperate, communicate and complete tasks together.
Corporate culture is hard to define, and it arises and develops from the traits and features of all employees.
You have to be sure that all decision makers in your company have a common understanding on whom to hire and why or else recruitment won’t be efficient.
To sum up, team culture is a set of all the company’s processes.
- Corporate values, mission and brand positioning.
- Employee’s personality type for each position.
- Team spirit.
No need to stick to one kind of people but make sure that the people you hire are united by the same or similar goals, motivation, and loyalty.
Correct estimation of an employee’s values, workstyle, attitude to work in general during the interview.
Recruiting is always risky in terms of time, money and reputation.
Use psychological tests in interviews.
Such examination takes more time, but it is more efficient.
Sometimes hiring the wrong employee can cause more damage.
The company should appoint a person responsible for onboarding.
Choose the person with a positive attitude to his/her work.
If you select somebody who is not satisfied with his/her salary or job, a new employee can catch this negative mood.
The responsible person should check if all the necessary information is provided.
One day onboarding often takes place in offshore teams, especially if it’s client’s first experience with remote developers.
Mentorship lasts only for a few days, and then mentors forget about their duty.
Maybe it won’t influence productivity of one developer during the trial period, but the corporate culture of the offshore development team will suffer in the long run.
- Supporting team culture.
A client should make no difference between the in-house and offshore team. Live communication is the best tool to achieve equality.
From our practical experience, client and offshore team establish trust-based relations faster if a company’s representative visits the team every six months or at least annually to work together and hold team building activities.
Transparent terms of cooperation, correct selection of team members, considering team’s opinion are the main three factors that boost team productivity and team culture.
One of our clients hired an offshore team to support in-house devs.
In fact, the remote team had to do all the boring work while the in-house team was working on the interesting part of the project.
As it was expected, the offshore development team left very soon, and their opinion about the employer was negative.
Also, mind that in-house and offshore office team might have differences in cultural background and mindset.
You can’t use the same strategies and approaches to communication and business processes for establishing a corporate culture in both teams.
Take into account the origin of your developers, cultural features of the region and local values; include them into the onboarding process.
It’s critical if you are going to hire developers from a different country. Usually vendors help with understanding of local culturе.
CEO should plan the company’s budget, business strategies, and cooperation tools taking into account the things that the offshore team is deprived of.
What Things Are the Offshore Developers Deprived Of?
- Daily face-to-face communication with fellow developers from the in-house team;
- The atmosphere of the client’s company;
- Single corporate culture. Offshore developers work in two corporate cultures – client’s and vendor’s ones. The vendor also has its unique team culture.
When choosing an IT staffing vendor, make sure that it shares your corporate values and culture.
It won’t be a 100% match but the smaller is the gap between you, the easier adaptation and onboarding will be for offshore developers.
If the client company doesn’t pay much attention to corporate culture in a remote office, offshore developers consider themselves vendor employees.
Picture 1 shows how employees perceive corporate culture when in-house and offshore teams are treated the same and the company gives attention to its values.
You can see the opposite situation in picture 2.
If client neglects remote corporate culture, the offshore developers consider themselves vendor employees.
Lack of corporate culture results in loss of personnel, consequently company spends more efforts on finding new developers.
Negative sides of strong vendor team culture:
- the vendor becomes more influential and trustworthy for offshore developers than their direct employer.
- communication between in-house and offshore team will shift from colleague-to-colleague style to client-to-service provider.
How to Avoid Negative Effects and Build Effective Team Culture?
1) Examine your current corporate culture and make sure that you have the common understanding of your values and positioning.
Your business processes must be transparent and clear.
You have fixed norms of communication, efficient estimation on the recruitment stage.
2) Define your outsourcing destination.
Take into account time difference, the number of developers in the chosen country, their English proficiency, cultural mindset, and business approaches.
3) Choose a vendor according to its rating or via search engines; the method doesn’t matter.
Hold negotiations with a few vendors, but talk not only about prices and business processes but also about corporate values and building a team culture.
Make sure that the vendor will help you to pre-screen candidates and take care of your offshore developers.
4) Prepare the onboarding program for your remote development team.
Make a list of the tools and allow access to them, appoint a mentor or team leader who will be responsible for productivity of the offshore team.
5) When you interview your candidate, pay attention to soft skills.
Will it be comfortable for you to work with this person?
Will this offshore developer blend into the team?
When employers underestimate personal qualities, they get high personnel loss rate.
6) When the first working day is approved, make sure that your company is ready to welcome the offshore team.
Hold a preparatory call with the team to put them in the picture of your team culture, agree on schedule and working standards, introduce them to fellow developers from the in-house team.
7) If you have an opportunity to visit your offshore development team, do so.
Both parties will benefit from face-to-face communication and team building activities.
You will see if your offshore developers fit into your team culture just in a month.
And the outsourcing vendor examines the mood and create a corporate atmosphere in the distance using team buildings or branded stuff.
Team Building Activities as a Corporate Culture Element
Team building is one of the best tools to create and support corporate culture in the company.
Team building activities have lots of advantages:
- supporting team spirit and leadership skills;
- discovering misunderstandings and conflicts;
- defining goals and tasks;
- improving business processes;
- defining strengths and weaknesses of the team;
- boosting problem-solving skills.
If you want to make a team building more efficient, come and visit your offshore development team.
You will get a better understanding of what is going on in the team and how to improve that.
Don’t have an opportunity to meet with them in person?
The vendor can help you with the team building activities in your corporate manner.
Be it a party or sports competition; you set the criteria for a team building activity and vendor organizes it in your offshore office.
How often should you hold team building activities?
From our practice, if an offshore team grows rapidly (3-4 developers/month), a monthly or quarterly event would be enough.
Team buildings improve your communication between in-house and remote office teams.
Building team culture resembles a global marketing strategy.
What are your advantages for customers?
What is your brand positioning in the market?
What would be perfect feedback about your company?
What impression do you want to create?
These are common questions for marketing.
However, also we use them to build a team culture, but goals and target audience are different in this case.
Think if you and your in-house employees are ready to build an offshore development team.
You need to realize that their productivity depends on you – you should have enough time to work and develop such cooperation.
If so, follow this guide and may the force be with you 🙂