Thank you, спасибо, gracias, dziękuję, спасибі, धन्यवाद, آپ کا شکریہ, obrigado, 谢谢… How do you say it? Do you even need to say it? What if you want to say more?
In general, motivation of your offshore team should not be your responsibility. Your vendor should make sure that the team members are jazzed up with working for you. As a matter of fact washing hands off the HR headaches is one of the reasons many company consider outsourcing. Yet when you find yourself working through thick and thin with resources based in some third world country the ability to influence their morale and productivity becomes very import. Of course there are plenty of ways you can influence third party resources that fall in the “stick” category, and what about the “carrot”?
Dealing with both the carrot and the stick I look at relationships with third parties at three levels – corporate, team, and individual. Unsurprisingly, each level requires a different methodology; an approach that you use to award an individual team member varies drastically from recognizing the corporation. Motivation at each can make its contribution to overall impact on your initiative. Sometimes you need all three and sometimes you are most effective when using just one. You could be using a stick at one level and carrot at another. There are a plenty of combinations, 27 to be precise :)
At corporate level the carrots that come to mind are well known and fairly popular – reference, testimonials, and recommendations. I look at the motivation at a corp. level in somewhat different way though: keeping my business with the vendor is a carrot on its own, giving them follow-on business falls in the “peach” category. I find myself more and more reluctant to give reference, testimonials, and recommendations to my partners. The main reason for my reluctance is that these type of carrots while the least expensive on a surface are much more beneficial to vendor and might become much more expensive to you in a long run. About ten years ago I agreed to give a testimonial to a small company that did a great job on a very small project for me. I never did any business with them after this point yet my name got strongly associated with their name – for years if you would Google “Nick Krym” the testimonial would come up as the first result. Not something that I was looking for. References can backfire in case the vendor does a lousy job. I was on a receiving end of such reference more than once. And when highly recommended vendor fails to deliver you find yourself guessing what possessed that person to extend recommendation? Was there an alternative agenda? Recommendations could outlast relationship by a large margin, so I do not hold recommenders at fault. But that’s me, someone else might. So be careful with extending recommendations, giving referrals, etc. Also, be especially careful with the text of your testimonials, and the scope of use / distribution.
There are many positive reinforcement and appreciation tools that can be applied at a personal level. Many of the tools come out of management 101 and only need one minor caveat applied – managing by the proxy. Well, that may be not so minor caveat – you have to coordinate your techniques with the team / corporation that own the resources and sometimes even fully delegate it to them. The proxy can turn out to be a serious obstacle – in some cases you may not even be able to reach the employee. Some vendors do not support individual awards some provide simple direct tools, in many cases the vendor will deliver the reward to the individual and might keep a portion of it for themselves. Do a little bit of a research to understand what portion of a reward would reach the target individual before issuing any monetary awards. When determining the size of the reward you are better off operating in terms of daily rate – $50 is a decent amount for someone who makes $25 a day. In that light I find “day off” as on e of the easiest way to reward those taking an extra mile. I give them a choice to either take a day off or get it as a monetary compensation. Of course, monetary compensation is just one of the way to recognize desired behavior, and it is in a long term probably the least effective method. The value of onetime monetary rewards deteriorates over time and might become an expected “overtime pay”. The good news is that given yoru vendor support you have a large variety of other means at your disposal:
- Work related, e.g. position within the team, work assignments, interesting projects
- Training, e.g. classes, technical books, time allowance.
- Lifestyle, e.g. work from home, work hours, vacations.
- Bringing resources on site even for a short term might be a huge award for them.
- Minor gifts, plaques, verbal recognition, thank you letters (with cc to management), etc.
Some ideas for the tools for team recognition can be easily derived from individual award examples. When it comes to teams I usually go for combination of monetary reward for the team members (“day off”) and some kind of team gift or verbal recognition. Team rewards only make sense with stable teams though; say you have a team finish a project under budget and before the deadline. It doesn’t make sense to reward the team if it will be dismantled and individual guys would join other teams. In general I am not high on farewell rewards.