Offshore Outsourcing: Working Around Cultural Differences

On June 2, 2012, in Outsourcing, by Business Development Group
With low-cost countries in Southeast Asia— such as the Philippines— becoming popular locations for offshore outsourcing, knowing the local culture is paramount to establishing and sustaining long-term relationships with your outsourcing vendor.

With low-cost countries in Southeast Asia— such as the Philippines— becoming popular locations for offshore outsourcing, knowing the local culture is paramount to establishing and sustaining long-term relationships with your outsourcing vendor.

Cultural differences have long been one of the stumbling blocks for efficiency in offshore outsourcing— and definitely one of the most commonly overlooked and misunderstood barriers to successful offshore outsourcing. East and West have more challenging differences than the obvious language and communication issues, and both parties of the outsourcing relationship need to understand these differences and their impact to the outsourcing engagement in order to work around them.

With low-cost countries in Southeast Asia— such as the Philippines— becoming popular locations for offshore outsourcing, knowing the local culture is paramount to establishing and sustaining long-term relationships with your outsourcing vendor.

The Philippines is the world’s third largest English-speaking country and the country is deeply influenced by western culture. As an offshore outsourcing location, the country represents a convergence of eastern and western practices— one of the reasons why the Philippines is now considered the world’s BPO hub. Despite this, however, Filipinos still possess distinct cultural differences from their western counterparts that manifest in the workplace.

Related article: Philippine Outsourcing: What is a BPO Virtual Captive?

Communication Style

Filipinos are also known for their indirectness— a trait prevalent among Asian cultures. Filipinos find it difficult to say an outright “No”, reverting instead to a “Yes” that could actually mean “Yes, but…” or “I’ll think about it” or even “Maybe”. When asked if there are problems, they tend to take an indirect path in communicating the problem they’re experiencing. To work around this quirk, it’s important to ask directly and clarify responses.

Related Article: “Non-Voice” BPO Training Pushed

Workplace Heirarchies

Filipinos place great emphasis on work hierarchies. The Philippines engage in a process-oriented culture wherein the main challenge is on how well instructions were followed and goals are achieved. Where the western culture promote individual empowerment and flexibility, the Philippine culture—as with most of Asian cultures— is exactly the opposite. Filipinos flourish in a well-structured working environment, where the decision-making hierarchy is established and goals are well-defined.

Engaging in an outsourcing venture that fails is an expensive mistake; one that organizations cannot afford to make especially in today’s economic climate. Working effectively for a successful offshore outsourcing initiative requires a broad understanding of and sensitivity to cultural differences. With a culturally-aware approach to outsourcing, organizations and their outsourcing service providers can better understand each other and build relationships that drive long-term success.

Related Article: How to Work with Filipinos’ Cultural Traits to Achieve Outsourcing Success

 

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