Dealing with Filipinos in your offshore workforce

12 Nov 2015

In order to get the best results from an offshore workforce, it is important to first understand the things that make them unique, their personal beliefs and most importantly, the cultural differences. Before I dive into discussing the most important things that you need to consider when you are engaging with your offshore workforce, it is important to understand that they are different! Different in how they behave, how they communicate and how they disseminate and understand the information they receive from you. If you enter the offshoring game with an open, understanding and flexible mindset, you will find dealing with your offshore workforce extremely rewarding.

Family matters

Regardless of where you are based, family is always important. In the Philippines, the concept of family surpasses what many western countries may consider normal. Filipinos are a very family orientated people with large and very closely-knit extended families. The role of parents extends a lot further than in most western countries, with children continuing to strictly follow their parents’ advice and directions well into adulthood. As a rather funny example, one of Diversify’s offshore staff members, who is in her early 30s and has her own children, still has her mother buy all her clothes for her and lets her decide which clothes she will wear to work each day!

A side effect of this can be a reluctance to think independently or question instruction. This is very useful if you are looking for offshore staff that will strictly follow a predetermined process, however, it can actually be a hindrance if you are looking for staff who will be independent thinkers and who will question the status quo when required.

Saving face – knowing when ‘yes’ means ‘no’

We all try our best to ensure the delivery of the best outcome when undertaking a project or task for our employers. The key thing to understand is whereas a locally based resource may question and provide objective feedback if they do not understand the instructions or if they believe it can be done in a more efficient manner, an offshore Filipino resource may not actually understand the instruction but still dive into the task! This is attributed to an overwhelming desire not to disappoint and then subsequently lose face.

The saving of face is a big issue with the Filipinos, as it is with most Asian countries. It is important to understand the potential impact that this unique cultural element can have on the success of an offshoring project. The most obvious issue being their propensity to receive instructions for a task and then confirm their ability to complete the task, even if they do not actually understand or even worse, if they can’t even complete it! The actual reality may be that the staff member has neither the time nor experience to do what you ask but does not want to lose face by admitting as much.

Provide feedback in a reasonable way – the cotton wool approach always helps!

As you can tell by now, Filipinos are different. They have a different value and belief system in regards to family and friends, are always looking to complete the task or project at hand (even if they do not have the capability to do so), are quite sensitive and do not take criticism as a locally based worker may. It becomes quite important to understand that you can rapidly destroy relationships with your offshore staff if you do opt to reprimand them or vocalise your dissatisfaction in front of their peers. The loss of face that is associated with that can sometimes be irretrievable and result in them moving to another job at the first opportunity.

Work is family

At the start of this article, I discussed the important of family for Filipino employees. This belief in family transcends their flesh and blood and can actually include where they work. Relationships are a critical component of Filipino life and they will strive to form close, collaborative and energetic bonds with their fellow employees. This is an area that I have focused on building and one that Diversify does differently than most offshoring providers. Our goal in regards to work/life balance and office environment reflects that. Staff engagement is all geared to creating one big family and as a result of this, our clients enjoy happy, productive, engaged and loyal employees who will stay!

Every workplace has challenges – it is how you deal with them that matters

I have run through a few cultural peculiarities that I believe must be acknowledged and understood when dealing with an offshore workforce. In the implementation of an offshore workforce that successfully works, knowledge is power. If you understand and accept what makes an offshore workforce different then you are more likely to achieve success. It will help you deal with the inevitable roadblocks and struggles that you will face (no different to any other major business transformation strategy).

In my experience in this industry, I have found that if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. There is no substitute for practical experience and intimate industry knowledge, especially as you are considering a major transformational project that will have a notable impact on your organisation. The impact could be positive or negative depending on the provider you partner with.

An experienced offshore provider will work with you collaboratively and step you through the process. A few of the critical components that an experienced provider would advise you on includes a change in management, achieving organisational buy-in, strategy development, and overall execution.

They say that using experts is expensive but just wait until you use an amateur…

If you are ready to talk about how offshoring can work for your organisation contact us.

Key takeaways

  • Invest time in developing an understanding of the key differences between your offshore workforce in comparison to your local workforce.
  • Your offshore workforce is different – accept it, buy into it and celebrate it.
  • Education is important. Investing time in developing knowledge about the cultural, psychological and personal traits that make your offshore workforce different may be the difference between success and failure.
  • Undertake a reasonable and soft approach when dealing with the provision of feedback or criticism if you are unhappy with an outcome.
  • NEVER publicly reprimand or shame an employee – it could have a drastic effect on culture as well as possibly driving that employee somewhere else.
  • Work is considered family – your offshore provider should make this a big focus of their strategy. A happy, engaged employee is a productive and loyal one.
  • Be prepared to deal with issues, roadblocks and challenges.
  • Always use an expert!