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Bridging the Gap: 11 Communication Strategies for Onshore-Offshore Team Collaboration

April 10, 2024

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Bridging the Gap: 11 Communication Strategies for Onshore-Offshore Team Collaboration

Ever noticed how working with an offshore team has shifted from being a once-in-a-while thing to pretty much the norm these days, especially after COVID hit? Many organizations now operate both onshore and offshore teams. While this arrangement offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges, particularly when ineffective communication leads to avoidable issues.  

The Challenges of Onshore–Offshore Collaboration 

Offshore teams, in very simple terms, are teams that work from a different geographical location than the main business hub. Typically, “offshore” refers to situations where a business with a physical in-house workforce either outsources projects or departments to external teams or hires remote workers full-time.  

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically transformed the work landscape by accelerating the shift towards remote work. Initially a measure to contain the pandemic, remote work soon became a strategic advantage for companies seeking to tap into the global talent pool and secure more skilled candidates than available locally. This shift significantly propelled the adoption of outsourcing, with the global outsourcing market now valued at approximately 92.5 billion USD.¹ 

While outsourcing and the integration of offshore teams have enabled companies to fill open positions with the right talent, they also introduce challenges, particularly in terms of collaboration and familiarity with the onshore teams. 

Studies have shown that remote work diminishes the level of interconnectedness among workers and can lead to misinformation.² This is partly because non-face-to-face communication channels might not convey or capture information as effectively. Furthermore, knowledge transfer tends to be uneven in organizations adopting a hybrid work model. Workers often share information with colleagues they have already established strong connections with rather than forming new ties with remote counterparts. 

Despite these challenges, effective communication and collaboration between onshore teams and offshore teams are achievable. Adopting the right strategies can mitigate these issues significantly. 

Bridging Collaboration Gaps: Why Effective Communication Between Onshore and Offshore Teams Is Important 

Beyond its inherent benefits, effective communication and efficient collaboration among workers are crucial for avoiding the detrimental effects of miscommunication. Miscommunication can significantly drain time, energy, and productivity. Research indicates that 86 percent of workers attribute workplace inefficiencies to inadequate communication and collaboration.³ Supporting data reveals that communication and collaboration issues can cost a business with 100 employees over $500,000 annually.⁴ 

Conversely, communication between teams enhances productivity and boosts worker engagement. This is particularly vital for offshore team members who, despite potentially higher productivity, miss out on in-person meetings, social interactions, and team-building activities, making them more susceptible to feeling isolated or disconnected. Effective onshore-offshore collaboration can not only build trust and foster innovation but also generally uplift the morale of the global teams. 

Related Article: Communications Redudancy in the Context of Onshore and Offshore Operations 

11 Key Communication Strategies for Thriving in Onshore-Offshore Team Collaborations 

Bridging the gap between onshore and offshore teams doesn’t have to be a challenge. With these five strategies, you can create a seamless onshore-offshore communication flow. 

1. Embrace Technology to Connect 

Gone are the days of waiting on postal services for international communication. Modern technology offers robust solutions for connecting across the globe. Utilize video conferencing tools like Zoom to mimic face-to-face interactions, enhancing team understanding and cohesion. Platforms such as Asana or Trello clarify project milestones and individual responsibilities, promoting alignment and accountability.  

Additionally, shared storage solutions like Google Drive facilitate instant information sharing. For example, setting up regular Zoom check-ins and using Trello for real-time project updates can transform the way your teams interact, making distance virtually irrelevant. 

2. Establish Clear Protocols and Processes 

Creating a unified workflow is essential. Define which communication channels (e.g. Slack for immediate queries and email for formal communications) are preferred and establish expected response times. This clarity eliminates unnecessary back-and-forth, streamlines interactions, and reduces ambiguity. A specific protocol could include a bi-weekly comprehensive update via email, ensuring all members, regardless of location, understand their roles and deadlines without constant oversight. 

3. Nurture a Culture of Inclusivity 

Differences in geography bring diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives. Cultivating an inclusive work culture is paramount. This means going beyond acknowledging diversity to actively engaging in practices that foster an environment where every team member feels valued and understood. For instance, celebrating international holidays or creating spaces for colleagues to share and understand each other’s cultural differences can further enhance mutual respect and trust. 

4. Ensure Effective Intercultural Communication 

Effective communication transcends language and cultural barriers. Embrace cultural sensitivity by understanding and respecting the diverse backgrounds of your colleagues. Recognize that nuances in communication styles, such as interpreting silence, can vary significantly across cultures. Encourage open discussions about these differences and provide resources for cultural competency training. This open-minded approach will mitigate misunderstandings and foster a collaborative atmosphere. 

5. Beat the Time Zone Challenges 

While technology connects us, time zone differences remain a hurdle. Aligning work hours where possible and rotating meeting times can ensure everyone can contribute synchronously at times. For critical meetings outside someone’s working hours, recording sessions for later review ensures no one misses out on vital information. This flexible scheduling respects personal time and promotes work-life balance. 

6. Use Regular Feedback Loops 

Implement a structured feedback system that allows team members to share their insights, concerns, and suggestions regularly. This could be in the form of weekly or monthly feedback sessions, anonymous surveys, or open forums. Regular feedback helps identify areas for improvement, adjust processes in real-time, and foster a culture of continuous improvement and openness. 

7. Use Personalized Communication 

Recognize and adapt to the individual communication preferences of colleagues. Some may prefer detailed emails, others instant messaging for quick reminders, or video calls for complex discussions. Personalizing communication can improve understanding and efficiency, making team members feel valued and respected for their preferences. 

8. Be Language Sensitive 

In teams with diverse linguistic backgrounds, providing language support can be crucial. This could include offering language training, using translation tools, or encouraging the use of a common business language while being mindful of non-native speakers’ challenges. Simplifying language and avoiding jargon can also help ensure clear communication. 

9. Build Relationships Through Team Bonding 

Organize virtual coffee breaks, team-building activities, or informal get-togethers that allow everyone on the team to connect on a personal level. Stronger personal bonds can lead to better teamwork, empathy, and understanding across cultural and geographical divides. 

10. Use of Visual Aids and Documentation 

Visual communication tools such as diagrams, charts, and shared documents can help overcome language barriers and ensure clarity. Documenting discussions, decisions, and action items also helps keep everyone informed, especially when dealing with complex projects or when some team members cannot attend meetings due to differences in time zones. 

11. Celebrate Successes Together 

Acknowledge and celebrate milestones and successes of the team. Recognizing individual and team achievements can boost morale, increase motivation, and strengthen the team’s sense of unity and purpose, regardless of physical distance. 

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With our support, you won’t have to navigate the complexities of international work environments alone. Feel free to contact us today to start a conversation about how we can help you achieve your career aspirations. 

References 

1 Elsie Boskamp, “40+ Outsourcing Statistics [2023]: How Many Jobs Lost to Outsourcing?” Zippia, 15 Feb 2023, www.zippia.com/advice/outsourcing-statistics/

2 Longqi Yang, David Holtz, and others, “The Effects of Remote Work on Collaboration Among Information Workers.” Natur, 9 September 2021, www.nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01196-4

3 “86% of Employees Cite Lack of Collaboration for Workplace Failures.” Fierce Inc., 23 May 2011, fierceinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/PR___2011_Workplace_Collaboration_Survey___Fierce_Inc__.pdf

4 “Uncovering the Hidden Cost of Communications Barriers and Latency” SIS International Research, 26 Feb 2024, www.sisinternational.com/smb-communications-pain-study-white-paper-uncovering-the-hidden-cost-of-communications-barriers-and-latency/

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