Filipino Rockstars versus Australian (& NZ) Superstars

Filipino Rockstars versus Australian (& NZ) Superstars

In Kim Scott’s brilliant book Radical Candour, she talks about the important difference between two kinds of high-performance staff –  Superstars and Rockstars – and how you can lose great staff by confusing the two.

Superstars are employees who are highly driven to do more, learn more, and build their career. They get bored easily and want variety and progress. They thrive on needing to grow their skills.

Rockstars are the opposite: they do great work at a consistent level but don’t want to grow a lot. The ‘bedrock’ of an organisation, they love the rhythm of predictability and do not get bored easily.  Rockstars grind through big volumes of tasks day after day, and enjoy doing it.

In most tech organisations there’s usually more focus on Superstars because of their high potential, and because of concern about losing these highly-driven high achievers if they don’t provide enough fresh stimulation.

A lot of bosses even penalise their staff or become disappointed in them if they don’t seem to have enough ambition to develop their skills further. Doing more, having more and achieving more are all baked into the Australian culture. The Philippines isn’t like that – people are happier with today.

Personally I’ve found that IT teams work best when they have both Rockstars and Superstars, and just as you can lose Superstars because they get bored, you can lose great Rockstars because you pushed them too hard or didn’t show appreciation for their daily grind.

It’s really hard to consistently deliver great front line (level 1) customer support or repetitive project or software tasks if all your lower skill staff are hell-bent on growing their skills and doing more complex work. Often you need staff to just stay in the present, and crank through the work that we have today, instead of training and learning something new.

And this is a refreshing point with Filipino tech teams:

Most Filipino IT staff are FANTASTIC Rockstars, and thus they can quickly become the backbone of a modern multi-shored tech firm – consistently doing the important but non-glamorous work with a smile.

So it’s important to realise that (like all Rockstars) if you over-stimulate them and push them to do harder work constantly, that they can become stressed and feel like they are failing in their role.

The Filipino culture values job security much more highly than Australia does, and so most Filipinos are driven to do their job well and make the boss happy. By default this makes them much more likely to be a Rockstar than a Superstar: it’s a cultural thing.

So if you constantly make them feel out of their depth by giving them work they don’t know how to do, most Filipinos will become stressed and their work quality will suffer.  Unfortunately, it really does not help their stress levels to encourage them to come forward with questions as they learn. Learning on the fly is an Australian mindset. Simply by pushing them out of their comfort zone, you’ve already triggering their fear of losing their job because you have made them incompetent by giving them things they don’t know how to do.

Don’t get me wrong, Filipinos love to learn and really want to be valuable (whatever that means to you as the boss).  But the pace of learning and the pace of change in PH is different to Australia.

Filipino Rockstars versus Australian (& NZ) Superstars

Your offshoring strategy should not rely on hiring a small number of people who can all be Superstars with very broad knowledge who adapt quickly and automatically to change.  That strategy is hard to recruit, and operationally hard to deliver.

A much better strategy is to group similar tasks and tickets together and get value by having each person power through a lot of volume of that narrower scope. You’re paying between one third and one fifth of the salary compared to onshore, so if they are running at 70% capacity instead of 90% you’re still way ahead.

From time to time we find a client does not recognise that someone is a Rockstar, and they become increasingly unhappy with an individual’s performance as the job scope increases. They went from being brilliant at a small range of tasks, to being lousy at a bigger range of tasks.

So with your current team, who would you say is a Rockstar, who is a Superstar? (You can actually ask them!)

Are you pushing a RockStar too hard to learn more?  Could you instead load them up with valuable work that they already know how to do and leave them to enjoy delivering it? (Don’t forget a regular pat on the back.)

At Technology Elite we help clients to understand these little cultural differences, because they can make a big difference to staff retention, staff satisfaction, team productivity, and your sense of the value that your offshore team is delivering.

If you’re just signing up as a new client, you’ll get plenty of cultural insight from our 2 x 2 hour startup consulting sessions that I’ll run with you personally, to make sure your management team is ready to hit the ground running.