How to Find Great Talent When Outsourcing

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October 13, 2016
How to Minimise the Risks of Offshoring
October 18, 2016

 "How do I find a great talent to outsource my work or add to my team?"

Someone asked this question on Quora and it got me thinking. I'm sharing a version of my answer here.

Finding a person with the skill, talent, experience, and personality that fit your team is difficult when done face-to-face. This becomes a bigger challenge when outsourcing, one that scares clients away forever once it's done wrong.

Unfortunately, all too often, it is done wrong.

 To find a great talent when outsourcing or finding a virtual assistant, you must first identify your needs. Define:

  • how much work you need help with
  • level of expertise required
  • extent of collaboration with your onshore team
  • your willingness to give someone in another country access to parts of your business

Your needs will inform your next step: choosing an outsourcing/offshoring model. There are generally 4:

  1. Hire a freelancer (in your own country or elsewhere)
  2. Set up an offshore company
  3. Hire an agency/BPO
  4. Hire a virtual team member through managed operations

Of all four methods, option 3 — hiring an agency or BPO — gives you least control over finding and choosing a candidate. Because of its cost and scale, it's not feasible for small businesses.

Option 2, setting up your own offshore company, gives you most control over your overseas team and processes, from hiring to task execution to payroll. However, it usually requires a large company with enough cash to spend, and willpower to navigate the legal and bureaucratic labyrinths typically found in countries that offer cheaper labour.

This leaves small businesses and entrepreneurs with two paths: working with a freelancer or adding a virtual team member through managed operations.

Finding a freelancer requires a search on sites like LinkedIn, Fiverr, and Upwork. You can gauge the quality of the person's work by asking for a portfolio, and glimpse his/her personality via a web chat.

To be sure that the person's skills are as good as they appear on the portfolio, ask him to do a small task related to your project as a test. You need to be fair, though — if you end up using the product of that test, pay for it.

Another way to find great talent to outsource your work or add to your team is to use managed operations. Now this isn't technically outsourcing, because the person will become your team member once hired through managed operations. (For more explanation on the differences between these outsourcing and offshoring models, see this e-book on rules for effective offshoring).

A company offering managed operations acts as a local employer for you — basically your eyes, ears and home on the ground. Let's say you're based in Australia and need to hire a talented graphic designer in the Philippines. Instead of searching for a freelancer, you ask a managed operations company to find a virtual team member for you. The managed operations provider then scouts for candidates, screens and tests them, and does initial interviews. If the person seems to fit your requirements, you interview him/her via web chat.

"Whichever method you choose in outsourcing and offshoring, you will always face risks. The key is to minimise these risks." [Tweet this]

Once you choose a person, the managed operations company helps you start the project by helping your team member understand your processes. (NOTE: Anyone who wants to outsource or send tasks offshore, through whatever method, will benefit by clearly documenting processes for the tasks to be offshored.) The virtual team member reports to an office owned by the managed operations provider, which also manages salaries.

Whichever method you choose in outsourcing and offshoring, you will always face risks. But that goes for most aspects of business. The key is to know how to minimise the risks of offshoring. For instance, at our managed operations company, we've found that one way to minimise the risks of offshoring was a consistent performance coaching process that boosts results. It keeps team members accountable, just as freelancing sites like Upwork keep freelancers accountable using screen-tracking software.

 In summary, finding a virtual assistant or freelancer with great talent and fit requires:

  • knowing your needs
  • thorough searching and screening, whether you do it yourself or someone else does it for you
  • testing the person by giving a task related to your project
  • talking with the person via web chat to assess his/her personality fit and communication skills.

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