The Farmer and the Single Seed: A Lesson in Strategic Commitment for Offshoring 

A farmer in a field planting a seed

Imagine a farmer who owns a vast, fertile field, capable of yielding an abundant crop. Instead of planning, preparing, and sowing the field with the necessary amount of seeds to ensure a bountiful harvest, the farmer decides to plant just one seed. The farmer then waits expectantly for this single seed to transform into a lush, sprawling farm, replete with crops, as if by magic. And when the magic doesn’t materialise, what does the farmer conclude? What does the farmer learn? Do they assume no seeds will ever grow?

This metaphor routinely plays out at PeoplePartners with clients opting to onboard just one offshore team member. For solopreneurs or micro-businesses, this may be practical, but larger organisations often fall into the same trap as the farmer, waiting for magic and misinterpreting their experiences when the expected results don’t materialise.

A Real-World Example

Recently, we had a client ‘plant one seed’, and when it didn’t work out, they concluded that offshoring doesn’t work. However, a more accurate diagnosis could have been that their single staff member wasn’t a fit for their organisation, or because they made an immaterial commitment, it was more of a dabbling tactic than a workforce strategy. As a result, systems, communication, training, etc., weren’t aligned to ensure their offshore team member thrived.

The farmer metaphor highlights the absurdity and impracticality of expecting significant results from minimal, half-hearted efforts.

Just as it’s nonsensical for the farmer to anticipate a single seed to populate an entire field with crops, it’s equally unreasonable for an organisation to dabble with a solitary offshore staff member and expect it to be a game-changer for their workforce composition and overall strategic goals.

The Need for a Well-Defined Strategy

Commitment to a well-defined strategy, involving substantial and thoughtfully allocated resources, is essential to realising ambitious objectives, whether in agriculture or in building a successful workforce. When clients seek my advice on their offshore workforce strategy, my primary counsel is to ensure it constitutes a material percentage of their overall workforce. For example, if your workforce has a total headcount of 50 people, the effort given to support 20 offshore staff will typically be significantly more impactful than the effort expended to support just 2 offshore staff.

Planning for Success

This doesn’t mean the 20 have to start today. It means that a strategy defining what percentage of your workforce needs to be offshore to realise your overarching organisational objectives is committed to today. From there, you can develop a plan for the milestones of staff numbers you want to achieve monthly or quarterly over the next 12 months.

If you’re considering or reviewing your offshore staffing strategy, be wary of the farmer who only plants one seed. A well-thought-out, committed approach will yield far better results and ensure that your organisation thrives in the long run.

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