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Hiring back office staff in the Philippines…what no one tells you

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By Derek Stewart

There are a range of consideration when hiring back office staff in the Philippines as an Australian business. It’s hard to know where to begin. You can drown under a wave of confusing jargon, “outsourcing”, “insourcing”, “offshoring”, “offshore outsourcing”, “offshore insourcing”, “nearshoring”, “BPO”, “KPO”, “LPO”, “RPO”, “seat lease”, “virtual assistants”, “online freelancers” and that’s just the words… let alone their meaning.

With dozens of big chunks of information to digest, sometimes it’s the small, subtle and less important factors that get overlooked. However, missing enough of these small tidbits can add up to big mistakes and problems.

Speaking English vs. Understanding English

If you’ve ever tried to learn a second language you would of had the experience of learning a few phrases, practicing them until you can say them confidently, and then quickly getting in over your head. You drop the well rehearsed phrases into a conversation, then you have no idea of the response you receive, because you can speak more than you can understand.

English is to an extremely high standard in the Philippines, but many English tests given to applicants and the traditional interview process test English knowledge and speaking, rather than understanding. It’s because English is to such a high standard that it’s easy to not notice a gap in understanding initially. It won’t be the second or third sentence where the gap is exposed, like someone early in foreign language acquisition, but in more complex, pressured and fast paced discussions. If you know this in advance and actively test and look for it, you’ll avoid problems further down the road, by hiring people who understand English to a high level.

Compared to Australia, the Philippines is an employers market, with a huge talent pool of educated and qualified professionals looking for work. As an Australian company with back office staff in the Philippines, offering day shift jobs (unlike American and European companies that make up 95% of the offshoring industry), above market salaries (compared to locally owned companies, the only other source of day shift jobs) and good benefits, you will be spoiled for choice.

So how do you pick between candidates when all else is equal?

 

Depending on the role and nature of the work, you’ll be looking for specific qualifications, work experience, attitudes and career goals of the staff. If you have a lot of candidates that tick all the boxes on paper, pass role specific tests, and show the right attitude, how do you find the best?

Specific to understanding, beyond understanding English, do they understand Australian culture and values? Do they understand Australian accents? Do they understand idioms, sarcasm and Aussie slang? No one will understand all of the above, not even Australians, and the goal is not to find staff that do. These simply illustrate some of the things to be aware of when selecting staff, and when interacting and managing them on an ongoing basis. It also adds an extra level of rigour to your testing and selection methods. As the employer you still have the responsibility to understand Filipino culture and values yourself, to be able to meet them halfway.

Depending on the role, responsibilities, how much they’ll be communicating with the Australian team / management and how experienced a hire you want will determine how strictly you filter. Looking for staff that have travelled overseas, worked for foreign employers, worked remotely, visited Australia, worked in Australia, studied in Australia are all ways to differentiate between a large amount of candidates, all else being equal.

Derek Stewart – Executive for MultiRational Corporation

 

Aussie expat helping Australian and New Zealand SMEs set up their back offices in Philippines + expat visa processing.


August 26, 2014
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