Transcript of the radio interview (28/10/17):
Saturday afternoons on ABC Radio with Ashwin Segkar.
Our work places are changing. A lot of Australian businesses now outsource basic office tasks to the Philippines and Australian and Filipino staff are now working together in far higher numbers than they did before.
Nadine Davis-Atma started her own outsourcing business, Affordable Staff, and she gave us an insight into this world that more of us will encounter in the years ahead.
Ashwin: How did you get involved in the Philippines?
Nadine: I was already outsourcing work to overseas contractors in both the Philippines and India and I found that our team in the Philippines was definitely the best fit for us.
The timeline is really great for working with Australians because it’s only two hours difference in time from Brisbane and exactly the same timeline as Perth. And the people are just awesome so we chose to set up an office from there.
Ashwin: For your clients, I know because I’m of an Indian background as well, friends I’ve talked to said that the Filipino accent is easier to understand, a little bit less grating for clients. Did you find there was anything, a more of a cultural fit for Filipinos than Indians?
Nadine: Yes and no. The biggest concern for us was actually the timeline in India. So having clients work with our Indian team was a little bit difficult because they don’t really come online until about 2 PM Australian time and that’s quite early for them.
But the accent that our Filipino staff have is quite a soft American accent. It’s a lovely accent to hear.
Ashwin: Where does this American accent come from in the Philippines?
Nadine: I think America had Airforce space in the Philippines for quite a while. And the Filipino people actually learn how to speak English throughout all of their school years. It’s an American teaching system, I guess. That has enabled that.
Ashwin: Okay. Tell us about your first visit over there. What were your first impressions of the country?
Nadine: My first impression was, “Wow there is a lot of people here.”
Ashwin: Is this Manila?
Nadine: From Australia, one of my first overseas trips was the Philippines and America. And the Philippines had a lot of people. The people are actually really polite and super friendly especially in the city that I work from, Bacolod.
I find Manila to be quite crowded and not as friendly. But I think that’s probably because of the sheer number of people that were there.
Ashwin: And what would you say are some of the main differences between Australia and the Philippines?
Nadine: Okay. From a business perspective, the Philippines has much better internet than us.
Nadine: Yeah they are really going through a transition. They are setting up their infrastructure to enable more people to be in business and outsource and work online over there. It’s a growing economy. From a business perspective I would say their infrastructure is amazing.
Previously in my city, they were working on sugarcane growing and production and that hasn’t changed but it hasn’t been growing either. From everything I’ve discovered in the Philippines, there’s a lot of infrastructure going in to help people move into the new cloud situation that is business.
Culturally though, I’d say the Philippines have very strong family base. It’s pretty common for multiple generations to live together from mum and dad, kids, and grandparents, to all live in the same situation and eventually the kids take over the house from the next generation.
Ashwin: Yeah I was talking to an academic and she was saying divorce is illegal in the Philippines.
Nadine: It’s definitely frowned upon. And the academic probably knows more than me. I generally don’t see any divorce. Our staff don’t like looking at it as a good thing either. It’s definitely different here.
Ashwin: And so what kind of staff, what work gets outsourced to the Philippines these days?
Nadine: A lot of call centre work which is something that we don’t do is outsourced to the Philippines. The reason for that is because the people are amazing. They have really good English. One of the things that I’ve found is a lot of Australians don’t understand that Filipino people, mostly all, speak English because they don’t know that they learn English at school. It’s a compulsory thing.
Ashwin: So the call centre staff, you said it was a hard job for people. Was that because of the reaction they get when they’re calling locally?
Nadine: Yeah, there’s a high turnover in call centres for multiple reasons. One of those reasons is that it’s a hard job to do to constantly be calling out and getting a negative response or doing support work. But also, in call centres you usually have to work for an American market as well which means night work and weekends. So yeah.
Definitely better to go with just general administration work or website development, assistance, things like that. That really helps people to get the job done here at an affordable rate and help the Filipino people grow their own businesses.
Ashwin: What do you think are some of the main misunderstandings Australians have about the Philippines and vice versa?
Nadine: Definitely the English speaking. We just don’t know that Filipino people learn to speak English all throughout school.
Also a big misconception I found is, Australians think it’s going to be a big time difference when dealing with somebody overseas. For the Indian market, yes that’s the case. But it’s really close to the Australian timeline.
From the Filipino point of view, Australians are not Americans but they actually, when we go over there, often ask us what part of America we’re from. Because culturally they think we’re the same as Americans.
Ashwin: I think there is a Melbourne in America, if that helps.
Ashwin: Yeah, it’s very confusing.
Nadine: I guess a quirky story I can give you, it’s another misconception. A number of our team were surprised that we do our washing here in Australia.
Nadine: Because in talking to some of the staff, we must have mentioned putting on a load of washing. And the staff were surprised because it’s actually less expensive and much easier to outsource your washing in the Philippines.
Ashwin: Is it quite common to have a servant or a maid in the Philippines?
Nadine: Yes and no. More of a nanny. They don’t have very good, from my experience, there’s not a lot of childcare, there’s no structured childcare at all that we’re aware of. So they do have a lot of nannies taking care of the children because now, often those parents work full-time and sometimes the grandparents aren’t equipped to take care of the children. So yes. Nannies are a big one. But I’m not sure about cleaning.
Ashwin: Do you go over there a lot to look after the staff?
Nadine: Just in general we go over there a couple of times a year to check up, or we might take a client on a view of the city. Mainly we’re self-managed over there.
Ashwin: That was Nadine Davis-Atma who outsources to the Philippines.