Outsourcing gurus and mentors all emphasize that one of the first things you should look for in an outsourced employee is his/her ability to speak, write and read in English. If your worker can comprehend English, it generally follows that that person would be able to follow the instructions you give them.
This is still solid advice that all outsourcers should follow. However, more and more people who outsource jobs offshore now realize that the ability to speak, read and write English isn’t enough. Employers are now realizing that although they may be using the same language doesn’t mean they’re saying the same thing.[Tweet “Employers are now realizing that although they may be using the same language doesn’t mean they’re saying the same thing.”]
Just because a person speaks English doesn’t mean he or she can understand the subtle nuances of the language. We see these nuances vary from country to country, culture to culture. For example, we can see that in the distinct differences with
- the British English –Traditional English, closest to its Germanic roots with some spelling, grammar and idiomatic differences
- American English – Derived from British English but with a more relaxed sentence and grammar structure and spelling differences
- Australian English –Based from British English with drastic variations that were derived from working class Irish, Scottish, and Cockney English
Most outsourcers get their employees from countries who don’t speak English as a first language. But English learned from grammar books isn’t the same as English being used in everyday conversation. This creates a huge comprehension gap, not only in the way your employee understands English, but also how he or she uses English in relation to the culture and personal experiences. This is the reason why despite the fact you and your employee both can read, write, and speak in English, there will be instances that you won’t be able to understand each other.[Tweet ” The benefits of outsourcing still outweigh any of the costs and potential problems.”]
So, is this a point against outsourcing? Not really. The benefits of outsourcing still outweigh any of the costs and potential problems. And there are ways that outsourcers can get around this problem and it all starts with the hiring process.
- First, hire from a country where you can easily understand the culture. The Philippines, for example, is a great country to outsource in because of it’s exposure to American and British culture. In fact, it was the British, not the Americans, that introduced English to Filipinos back in the British occupation of Manila in 1762. The Filipinos mastery of English even before the Americans became an advantage when they had to work together as allies during World War 2. Not only that, Filipinos are big fans of American and European culture. Almost everywhere in the country, you find hardcore fans of popular and obscure American and European shows like Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones. Their command of the English isn’t just better than their Asian counterparts, they understand American and European culture and uses the language pretty much the same way as a native speaker does.[Tweet ” In fact, it was the British, not the Americans, that introduced English to Filipinos back in the British occupation of Manila in 1762.”]
- Next, make English comprehension tests a part of the hiring process. An English comprehension test is a way of determining how much they really understand English and how comfortable they are with the language. You can easily find samples of these tests online which can easily be modified to fit your needs.
- Take the time to interview your outsourced worker before hiring them. See if you use and understand English the same way. If you can’t understand what they say, it’s entirely possible that they also can’t understand what you’re saying. And watch out for conversational red flags like when the person you’re interviewing seems to agree with everything you say even when they’re wrong or they have a hard time talking about simple topics like their hobbies or their favorite food. Most people, even those with limited grasp of English, should be able to talk about themselves in English without any problems. If they can’t answer the simplest questions, this means they won’t be able to understand the simplest instructions.
- Once you hire an outsourced worker, you need to communicate with them regularly. Communication is a skill that has to be practiced in order to be perfected. When you’re working with someone who is halfway across the world, overcommunication should be the norm between both parties. Utilize all the tools in your disposal; chat, email; voice and video calls, to share your message. The more you talk to your employees, the more you understand them and the better they understand you.
- Lastly, exercise patience. Breakdown in communication will occur and this will happen especially in the first few months working together. Just remember that even people who talk to one another face to face can sometimes be misunderstood. The more so when you’re trying to hold a meeting through Skype. Communications problems will lessen the longer your work and the more you communicate with your outsourced team.
This doesn’t mean the people with limited English skills can’t be great outsourced workers. There are certain tasks that really don’t require excellent English comprehension like programming or bookkeeping. But it can’t be denied that effective communication is the key to team success. Making English comprehension a primary requirement and choosing your team carefully by looking into their culture is the first step in creating an effective team. [Tweet “Making English comprehension a primary requirement and choosing your team carefully by looking into their culture is the first step in creating an effective team.”]