outsourcing-itWhen you’re running a small business, it’s always great news to discover that you’ve got more work than you can keep up with. And when an increasing workload doesn’t quite warrant taking on an additional full-employee, outsourcing can be an effective and financially viable solution.

Outsourcing work has its benefits; namely, it can take some of the pressure off your in-house team, but there are obvious concerns about letting an external person, regardless of how qualified or experienced they are, contribute to the running and output of your business.

Assigning tasks to outsourcing providers

Even though you’ve taken the decision to outsource tasks as a result of a mounting workload, it goes without saying that the most important and vital work should definitely remain in house. You’ll have more control and input over what is being produced, and this work will be carried out by individuals who have a more detailed knowledge of your business and how it works.

When an individual is operating outside of a working environment, you naturally have less control and input over the work they are producing and the method by which they are doing it.

If you employ someone on a temporary basis, it’s often the tendency to relax the process by which the person and their skills are evaluated. However, regardless of how short a time period a person is going to be working with a business, their skills and experience should be examined with the same attention to detail as if they were a potential full-time employee.

Use the same procedure and mentality you would if you were hiring a permanent member of full-time staff. Even if an individual is going to be contributing to your business for a relatively short time, request references, samples of their work and a detailed record of their experience and work history to date. You’re paying for their services after all, so you should ensure that they’re capable of providing high-quality work that is going to contribute to your business.

Steve Mezak is CEO of Accelerance, a California based company specialising in helping small companies and businesses to outsource work. Speaking to www.businessweek.com, Mr Mezak said: ”Hiring an outsourcing vendor is like hiring employees […] Think of the offshore team as your own, one that you carefully hire and manage over time to get excellent results.“ Being stringent about who you hire will ensure that money used to outsource work won’t be wasted and that work won’t be improved or redone by permanent employees who are occupied with completing their own responsibilities. In such an instance, outsourcing can essentially increase workload further.

To avoid the necessity of work being modified and improved upon, be specific with regards to the tasks you’re assigning an external employee. The simple fact that they’re not in the working environment removes the opportunity to discuss ideas, requirements and the work that is being produced. Creating a detailed brief of what is expected will save time and money, and it will ensure that the best results are achieved in an efficient time frame.

Taking measures to ensure effective outsourcing

Allocating an external employee a company email address is essential for maintaining contact, outlining expectations and duties, as well as being an accurate way of recording exactly who is responsible for tasks – this will be especially helpful if there is ever a dispute or confusion as to what was expected of an external employee.

When someone is working for your business, they’ll need access to the relevant materials and information to get the job done. That includes access to and use of your businesses’ IT system. If you’ve carried out the necessary background checks and obtained references, you should be in a position to trust an individual to provide them with access to this information.

However, as your workforce grows, including external employees, trust is no longer an adequate line of defence with regards to things like IT security. Though it’s necessary, and indeed vital, that employees have access to relevant material, ensuring that you have adequate restrictions in place will remove any threat that confidential material, including information regarding your client base, could be used inappropriately. Implementing effective IT security, available from companies such as UK-based firm TSG, is an effective way of applying security policies. It allows you to restrict access to specific material, without hindering the output of an employee, permanent or temporary.

While it’s of the utmost importance to outline what is expected of an individual when you’re outsourcing, it’s also equally important to make issues of payment clear to an external employee. As your business grows and outsourcing becomes a recurring necessity to cope with demand, having a standard contract which determines payment and conditions of work is an effective method of controlling this aspect of outsourcing.

However, when you’re outsourcing on a small scale, formally setting out expectations and details of payment on which both parties agree, is more than sufficient. Like all communication between a business and external employees, this should be recorded in the form of emails, so that any disputes can be quickly resolved.

Outsourcing is intended to save you time and effort, contributing to the success and growth of your business. However, taking time and care when selecting employees who will be responsible for your delegated tasks and implementing the necessary measures to remove potential problems, will ensure that outsourcing is a help, rather than a hindrance, to the achievement of your business.