This is episode 2 of CPA vs Ron Smith, Season 2. Here, they have a conversation regarding the onboarding process for an offshore staff among other topics.
CPA: Hey Ron. How’s your day going? Thanks for meeting me at such short notice.
Ron Smith: Hey. It’s going well. How can I help you?
CPA: Well, I had a few more queries about offshoring since we last chatted. As we know, there is a big difference in the work culture of an American and an Indian organization.
Ron Smith: That’s right.
CPA: So how do I overcome it when interacting with my offshore staff in India?
Ron Smith: The solution to your query can be defined in two simple words – Successful Onboarding. First, you need to understand that it can take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to successfully integrate your new offshore staff with your onshore team. Second, you need to actively make an effort to establish a rapport between your onshore staff and your new offshore staff.
CPA: Yes. Got any tips on how to actively build that rapport? I have sensed that offshore staff often feel a sense of awkwardness and discomfort when interacting with the onshore team.
Ron Smith: We’ve heard that before. What we always suggest to our clients is to pair them with one of their onshore staff. This has proven to synergize both parties for the greater good. Give them a clear idea of what their job entails and what is expected out of them as per productivity.
CPA: So basically, it all comes down to open communication and ease of connection.
Ron Smith: Correct! Make sure you give consistent feedback, and in addition to that, keep open lines of communication and give them a chance to learn and grow from their mistakes. This will enable them to feel at ease while working with you and will subsequently increase productivity and efficiency. Investing the first few weeks to successfully onboard your new staff is assured to give you phenomenal returns in the longer run.
CPA: You just said to pair up an offshore staff with an onshore employee. Is that what is called the buddy system?
Ron Smith: That is what it’s called. The buddy system is one of the most important ways you can achieve great success in you offshore venture. Didn’t you just say you find that your offshore staff are sometimes a bit hesitant and nervous about clarifying any doubts or queries?
CPA: Yes. They are.
Ron Smith: Having a buddy in the onshore team will sort that out for you in no time. It enables them to gain clarity, understand and learn much more effectively and quickly. Working as one team, also sets up a process of accountability which in turn pushes the offshore staff to work harder and faster. The onshore buddy can train them accordingly and give them more and more opportunities to learn, grow and share the workload.
CPA: That sounds wonderful. I’ll be looking to incorporate it in my firm at the earliest. So, what would an onshore anchor do? Are they the same?
Ron Smith: Actually, they are totally different from each other. An onshore anchor is the point of contact between your firm and the offshore company.
CPA: You mean like an account manager?
Ron Smith: Exactly! An onshore anchor is the onshore counterpart of your account manager. He or she will be the connection between your firm and Entigrity regarding all miscellaneous offshoring matters. Thus, rather than burdening your already stressed HR, you now have a person who will exclusively establish, maintain and manage the connection between your onshore and offshore teams.
CPA: Oh wow. And to think I kept thinking they were the same as an onshore buddy.
Ron Smith: Haha. No worries. I understand it gets a bit confusing.
CPA: Haha. Yes. So how important would you say an onshore anchor is in the grander scheme of things?
Ron Smith: You see, an onshore anchor can help ease the process of onboarding and resolve any conflict in an objective and unbiased manner. A good onshore anchor will ensure that the offshore partnership undertaken by the firm is a success. We always urge clients to select the onshore anchor with great care as they are the bridge that connects both organizations.
CPA: Is there a way to ease up the entire process?
Ron Smith: Actually, your question contains its answer within itself.
CPA: Really? How so?
Ron Smith: Process! Particularly, documented processes. Setting up a smooth and efficient process can greatly help in easing up the entire offshoring procedure. A good process is one of the keys to successfully scale offshoring and easily resolve any sort of communication handicap. Documented processes are in the best interest of your firm. For example, you can set up a dedicated process for staff training wherein you systematically train them about your firm’s visions and goals, nature of work, expectations from your offshore staff and their deliverables. Processes such as these can also help them have a thorough understanding of your clients and any particulars regarding them. As with all processes, it can also help you automate workflow and reduce dependency on your onshore employees. It’ll enable you to be more independent and have greater control over your entire organization, onshore and offshore.
CPA: Whoa! I never thought to document the processes in my firm. That sounds like a great idea. Thanks Ron!
Ron Smith: It’s my pleasure. Predominantly, all this helps in easily establishing a great communication network between both parties. And as you know, communication is the key to offshoring!
CPA: – Ha-ha. Yes. I recall having a conversation about it with you. Say, do you have any recommendations on how to improve communications with the offshore staff? I believe we can better ourselves in that aspect.
Ron Smith: You guys are doing great! However, since you asked, I have noticed that your firm uses email as the primary mode of communication with your offshore staff.
CPA: Yes. We love our emails. That’s how it’s always been done in our firm.
Ron Smith: Why don’t you switch to instant messaging or phone calls? Though email communication is essential for any organization, it shouldn’t be the only form of communication. Using any of the vast number of instant messaging apps can provide a level of flexibility and accessibility that an email just cannot provide. Offshoring is after all, a collaborative relationship.
CPA: I agree. To tell you the truth Ron, I’ve been looking into changing things up myself.
Ron Smith: That’s a good idea. I will always recommend using technology as much as possible to bring the world a little closer.
CPA: I’ll be sure to do so at the earliest. Ron, what kind of common challenges should I expect from offshoring my work to India?
Ron Smith: Well, there are the main challenges that I have seen clients face over the last decade. Productivity - As a firm, effectiveness and efficiency of an employee is measured solely by their productivity. The dearth of challenging opportunities often makes the work monotonous for an offshore staff.
CPA: We did face that in our firm as well. I felt it important for the staff and ultimately, beneficial form the firm if they are given engaging and challenging work to do and learn from. We have seen a vast change once we incorporated that.
Ron Smith: You did the right thing. Productivity directly affects the quality of output. Low work quality is one of the bigger challenges we have seen firms face.
CPA: I have noticed many of our industry counterparts facing them.
Ron Smith: Yes. It’s quite common. There are two reasons for the quality of work to be below expectations. One, the training provided to the staff during the onboarding process was inadequate and two, there is a lack of feedback from the firm’s end. It is important that any issue a firm might have with the offshore staff’s work, be conveyed to them immediately. This brings us to our next point…
CPA: Let me guess…communication?
Ron Smith: Bingo! 23% of rims face communication issues. We have had many discussions on the importance of communication. But beyond that, we have sometimes observed a switcheroo as in the onshore staff are hesitant to communicate freely with their offshore team members.
CPA: You don’t say!
Ron Smith: I’ve seen it happen many times. This is due to a lack of understanding of each other’s speech styles or awkwardness in communicating with an individual who is working remotely and who you have not real physical interaction with. Here, it is imperative that firms try to overcome such challenges and establish positive communications between everyone involved.
CPA: I’m sure the difference in time zones isn’t helping make things easy.
Ron Smith: It really doesn’t. Though the figure was higher before, lack of overlap in work timings is an issue faced by 6% of accounting firms. Companies such as Entigrity have established processes that overcome this challenge. The difference in time zones is not an issue any longer with offshore staff maintaining an overlap of at 4-6 hours with their onshore team.
CPA: I agree.
Ron Smith: And that brings us to our last point. Proactiveness. Proactivity is a quality that Is cherished in all aspects of life and business. Lack of integration between both teams, which has its own chunk in the pie, is one of the major causes of this issue.
CPA: In my opinion, effective communication and successful integration can help resolve this issue to a great extent.
Ron Smith: And you would be absolutely right.
CPA: I am interested to know further about the IT set up process Entigrity has in place. Could you throw some light on it?
Ron Smith: As you may know, with regards to setting up your IT system, your account manager along with our IT expert will be handling everything. Nothing has changed on that front.
At Entigrity, we make sure to equip our staff with the best technology. This includes dual desktop monitors for each staff with Microsoft Office, Skype, Adobe PDF, etc already set up. If there is any specific software you wish your offshore staff to process or any particular process you wish to establish with your offshore staff such as local data sharing, cloud set up or email with your firm domain, feel free to talk about it with your account manager. The staff are also provided a comfortable and up-to-date workstation and noise-cancellation headphones that cuts out background noise completely.
CPA: That quite an efficient system you have there.
Ron Smith: What can I say, you live and you learn. Haha
CPA: Since our last conversation on the interview and hiring process, I was wondering, what is the process regarding staff replacement at Entigrity?
Ron Smith: Despite the fact that we have one of the best records in the industry with a staff attrition rate of less than 10%, we have a very efficient and seamless process in place for offshore staff replacement. Once you convey your intent to replace an offshore staff to your account manager, it takes only 1-2 weeks to find a better staff for you. Until the time when the new staff is selected and he or she joins your firm, the existing staff will be continuing working for you.
CPA: Ok. And why is that?
Ron Smith: This is so that the transition process is as painless and smooth for you as possible. Naturally, this entire process is available to you absolutely free of cost. We value the trust you have put in us and we endeavor to always exceed your expectations.
CPA: That does ease my mind a lot. I have heard a lot about the staff learning ecosystem you have cultivated. It sounds really interesting.
Ron Smith: Oh yes. We have a vibrant learning culture at Entigrity. 12 hours of learning each month is mandatory for each staff member. In addition to that, we have more than 1000 hours of information available at the Entigrity Learning Academy. Our partnership with myCPE, will give you access to more than 6000 hours of valuable content regarding accounting, financial and taxation reports and other information.
CPA: That is such a great opportunity for everyone.
Ron Smith: I agree. On top of that, every employee of ours is eligible for an EA sponsorship once they have been employed with Entigrity for a minimum of two years. We hope to inculcate a culture of constant learning, growth and upskilling among our staff and in addition to learning based incentives, will soon be providing CPA sponsorships as well
CPA: Wow. That is awesome!
Ron Smith: Thanks. I’m glad you think so.
CPA: Lastly, do you have something similar for us poor clients as well?
Ron Smith: How can we forget you? We most definitely have something for our clients. Taking from our decade-long experience in offshoring, we have set up a client learning portal. There you can learn A-Z about the entire offshoring life cycle. It is a treasure trove of information that we have built from our various experiences and learning. We hope they benefit you in some way or the other in your journey ahead.
CPA: Hey. That’s amazing! I’m going to go and check it out right now. Thanks Ron, it was great chatting with you.
Ron Smith: You’re welcome. Feel free to hit me up any time you have some other query. I’m always happy to help. Good bye.
CPA: Sure. Bye!