David Prichard – Empowering Employees to Achieve Milestones

Ep 012 - David Prichard

Today, Derek will be joined by David Prichard. David will discuss the challenges he experienced in terms of bringing the operations of their company ‘The Nile’ from Australia to the Philippines.

 

Summary

  • David summarized The Nile’s journey into three steps or three major milestones. The first one being the need to outsource. Step two is when you realize you need a set of process documents, KPIs, and metrics. Third is the tendency of some people to get fixated on following the process without actually delivering
  • Some Filipino employees do not ask questions because it is frowned upon. It is how they were taught, even in schools and when they go to work they do not realize that companies would appreciate it if employees ask questions.
  • The Nile and David had the realization that they had to shift the mindset of their employees to think about the end goal which ultimately in their case is serving the customer and creating a better customer experience.
  • David wants to expand their company’s problem-solving capacity not just their labor capacity. And that’s about empowering employees and directing them to think the right way.
  • Some big companies have an entire floor dedicated to one department, for example, HR and another for PR with completely different functions. There might be a chance that they won’t see each other. That creates, according to Derek, an adversarial mood between departments.
  • It is vital to always address communication gaps, most especially if the employees who are working together are from different countries.
  • The entire process of outsourcing or BPO experience forces people to face the things that David mentioned maybe sooner than you would otherwise and the company comes out better off in the end regardless of what happens to the outsourcing operation.

Key Points

  • It is quite easy for a message to be lost in translation, most especially for people who get too fixated on following the process without understanding it.
  • It is vital to learn about the culture of the country before you decide to outsource.
  • Make sure to address communication gaps before it becomes an even bigger problem.

Resources

  • outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode12
  • https://www.thenile.com.au/

Transcript

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Derek: Hi, and welcome back to the Outsource Accelerator Podcast, my name is Derek Gallimore and today we have David Prichard with us. David is an Austral-Asian he has worked at the Nile for many, many years and heads the operations here now in the Philippines. The Nile is an online retailer very similar to Amazon and go and check them out. But David talks very openly and has a vast level of experience in terms of bringing in operations from Austral-Asia, by Austral-Asia I mean New Zealand and Australia and integrating them in to the Philippines. And he has a great critical mind and great sort of management approach, so, there’s a lot to be learnt here. The format is a little bit longer than we do for most of our podcast but there’s a lot of great information. if you do want any information on David or the Nile then please go to our show notes and that is at outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/Episode12

Enjoy!

Derek: David, we’re back again and we’re gonna summarize the key points for integrating your operations over the Philippines, so, what were you thinking? It’s kind of a three-step process

David: Yeah, I think you can kind of summarize. At least you can summarize our journey in to three key steps or milestones. I guess the first of course is realizing that you need to outsource, so that outsources is gonna be a big value you add that you’re gonna be able to scale better in a different environment for various reasons because obviously, there’s a skillset in place and then labor is more affordable

Step two, is what I guess describing when you kind of first landed. Spend your first few weeks in the country working with people that you realize that you feel like need a comprehensive set of process documents, KPIs, now, the metrics in place actually get the outcome that you want and the quality that you want. And that’s a really big undertaking. It requires a considerable investment. At least time, depending on how you do it and you’re gonna end up with some very good results there. It’s very important. And that’s something that we spend a lot of time doing.

Step three though, for us and this is where we starting to touch the difference between small or organization. You know a scale of 50 or a hundred or 150 people versus many hundreds of thousands. It’s the realization that documentation and metrics dictated from above only goes so far because it’s very easy for people to follow process but like I said not think about, not think about the end goal or the ultimate purpose of what they’re doing and suddenly to get fixated on simply following instructions without actually delivering. And that’s where we had the realization that we had to shift the mindset of our employees to thinking about the end goal which ultimately in our case is serving the customer and creating a better customer experience. It’s like saying right, here are the instructions, here’s what you need to do but before you start on that, before you sit down and do that over and over again. I need you to explain something, why you’re doing it. What is the goal here? What does this lead to? Whether it’s something that is obviously immediately customer facing or support or whether it’s something that maybe two or three steps removed from that, a backend process. To do with all the processing or data management. It needs to be an explanation and a narrative and their head that explains how it feeds in ultimately in our case to customer experience. And if they don’t get that almost certainly, there’s gonna be a problem. Almost certainly there’s gonna be a huge amount of inefficiency, a huge amount of waste and probably, in many cases, contributing to a more negative customer experience because they’ve forgotten that. And that’s when we sit, okay we need a major investment in time and money and the cultural piece. Getting our, sorry getting our employees to really understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and no amount of detailed documentation and no amount of individual metrics is going to achieve that. And that was really step three for us, that realization.

Derek: It’s interesting is it. It’s almost like a full circle but the two very much complement each other. You can’t have one without the other. Can you?

David: No

Derek: And it’s, one is a very detailed map and one is a zoomed-out map but it basically gets you to the same position of ensuring that your customers happy, effectively isn’t it? and it’s

David: It does and once you get to that point it also allows you to really get more value out of your employees. it’s something that you may not do consciously but it’s very possible to start thinking about employees in an outsourcing context. It’s just kind of like human computers. You know. you lay out these steps for you to follow and you expect them to follow it. You put the things in place to make sure they’re productive and you just sort of leave it and run. That can only go so far. Once you have employees that are tenured, once you’ve created their culture where they think more, where they’re more proactive and proactive is a very important term that we use constantly within our Manila office. You start to actually realize that employees in the Philippines, even within the BPO industry are actually capable of a lot more. And I like to say that we want to expand our problem-solving capacity not just our labor capacity and that’s about empowering employees directing them to thinking the right way. So, when they understand that, when they understand that that’s what you’re looking for they actually really respond to that. You get a heck of a lot more out of them.

Derek: That is a big, you know not to overstate it but it’s a big cultural component, isn’t it? Because they’re actually in many cases just taught to not think and follow a process and especially respect seniors within a hierarchy. You don’t ask questions whereas I think more we are trying to teach them to be nimble and proactive and using initiative and thinking through problems. There’s sort of a bit of a cultural.

David: Absolutely, it’s something, we’ve encountered with that question. Exactly what you described. It doesn’t actually occur to a lot of our employees when we first get them, that we, would regard initiative, as a good thing. Now I don’t know to what extent of this is true but various Filipinos have told me slightly different stories and they disagree to an extent but it has been told to me by numerous people that in a school environment for example, some of the educational environment that a lot of our employees have come through asking question is something that is frowned upon. If for example you ask your teacher a question. It’s though you’re just saying the teacher hasn’t done a good enough job of explaining to you what you need to know so you’re therefore insulting them. And so, they don’t ask questions, they simply do as they’re told and when you welcome them at your work environment it doesn’t occur to them that we would actually want that. That for us the more questions people ask the better because it shows that they’re thinking. It allows us to identify where the gaps in their knowledge are so we can fill them in. And it just generally leads to a more productive workforce. It didn’t occur to us that we needed to make that clear. That that’s something we needed to lay out to them so they understand that. I mean right

Derek: A lot these conversations I’m having on the podcast I ask myself is this a standard question within building a successful business and how does it differ to a question when it’s applied to BPO and they’re all very similar things aren’t they and coming back to the culture question. The culture point that you brought up. In every management book and I think more so now with the Simon Sinek’s of the world and needing your why. Having a very clear company culture has always been really important but you know it’s not every company that necessarily embraces that but would you say that having offices in two or three countries as you do. Would you say that the cultural aspect is more important, less important than in Australia, in your Australian office environment for example?

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David: Interesting question. I mean even outside of the Philippines context it’s a lesson that we learned we didn’t realize at the beginning which is the importance of culture. Again

Derek: Because as you knew the culture. That you have been there for a long time but maybe the newer people, they don’t just naturally absorb that, to them it has to go through a process of.

David: Yeah, I mean our company was literally three guys in a room originally about thirteen years ago now and that necessitates that part of our personality is going to form the backbone of the company but also, we came to assume that everyone else thinks the way we do or sort of naturally looks at problems the way we do and sort of sees that when in fact that’s not the case at all. We had an interesting experiment, experience where we decided we wanted to launch a new website which we’ve launched now. We have a great new looking field matched with The Nile but we decided, previous one we had has been around too long, it was looking a bit tired. So, we went to a web design company and said ‘hey make us a website’ and they said, okay tell us about your culture tell us about. Obviously, your target market but also tell us a bit about your company and we sat back and said no just design us a website, we sell stuff on the internet what are you talking about and then they said no it doesn’t work that way. If you want a real website you need a real identity and brand and culture inside and outside not just what you’ve got to market. Look at what you internally as well. Go away and think about that and then come back to us and you can tell us something coherent and we can make you, we can make the website. So, we had that experience and that was probably two or three years ago now and we’ve gone a heck of really developed. We started to think about alright was a second what is our culture what make us unique, who are we, and we came up with a lot of things and we realized a lot of things that we’re very good. Now getting to the point on the context of multinationals and being at different countries. It simply heightens it because you need to replicate that culture, whatever it is across different offices and you need to get everyone aligned and it’s much harder when not everyone is in the same room. So, we have made a lot of effort to do that, the process of developing our new brand and our new culture has encapsulated the people in our Manila office. Although to some extent it is a BPO kind of environment, we make very clear that we don’t regard our employees as typical several BPO employees they are actually part of our company everybody’s much a part of our company as our people in Sydney. So, we ruled them into that process we got them to give us feedback about what The Nile is and that informed the brand that we’ve created and it lead to ultimately something which is to them process but I rolled out of a catchphrase that I don’t think I can reel on this interview that we have a, we have a catchphrase which encapsulates what we think The Nile is and what it delivers to our customers and it’s something that we’re rolling out like I said internally as well as externally. So, there’s basically a promise that’s based around delivering and doing it in such a way that you can rely on us to actually deliver the product and do it such a way you don’t have to worry about it, you don’t have to stress we’ll simply deliver on the promise we meant and that’s something we’re gonna be delivering to customers but it’s also something that we do as an internal branding, so that every individual within the organization takes that same kind of attitude basically comes forward and delivers and gets the job done in such a way that their colleagues don’t have to constantly worry about following up on them or being concerned that they won’t come to the, that they won’t actually come to the party.

Derek: True, it’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? Because with my prior company we had numerous departments and then we were also crossed two countries and there is communication gaps. There’s obviously the cultural differences between the countries there’s time zone differences but also and again coming back I ponder this, I look at big conglomerates and there’s an entire maybe floor of the building that does maybe payroll, an entire floor of the building that does PR and they have very different functions within the company they might never see each other in the company and if the two departments don’t get on there can be quite an adversarial mood between the two departments and I think it’s the tourney of distance the tourney of scale in it. It doesn’t need to be an outsourcing issue but if you’ve got two offices of people doing different things then it can become a little bit adversarial and then they don’t have the combined mission to do.

David: Exactly, mission is the keyword there, you need a sense of core mission that everyone’s on a sense of chairmanship. And so, we missed a heck of a lot in that. We have monthly, something that you’ll learn that you need to do. You know with any company that’s starting out in the Philippines we’ll discover the need for town hall meetings, which are monthly meetings that occur and basically where you deliver, it’s like an all-hands meeting where you deliver an overall message about what the company is doing, what’s happening, what kind of success has been happening, the general direction. And so those meetings are absolutely critical for us to tell all our employees about what’s happening in the Sydney office, we actually.

Derek: These are good lessons for companies, generally aren’t they? And it’s sort of an important way of maturing as a business.

David: Absolutely, in fact, the outsourcing or BPO experience probably forces you to face these things maybe sooner than you would otherwise and the company comes out at the end of it better off regardless of what happens with the outsourcing operation. These things are just healthy for a company as a whole and it just becomes a little bit more pressing when you have an office that’s offshore.

Derek: Absolutely, That’s fantastic. More great insights from you David. Thank you very much for your time.

David: Thanks, Derek

Derek: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that chat with David, he is a wealth of information. If you wanna get in touch with David or The Nile or want to know more or want transcripts for this show then go to our show notes. You can find that at outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode12.

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