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Maciej Szymczuk
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Speaking about outsourcing IT to Poland, I’m not the first to write about the ground-breaking topic of intercultural relations. But this post will be different, I promise.

Poland couldn’t be closer to the UK culturally, and professionally than it is today. As I write this, I think of some of the apparent things tying us together as countries. But it is the lesser-known aspects that underpin the working relationships between our two nations.

Poland is unique, as is its sense of humour and work culture. An emphasis on education and westward-thinking have led to it becoming a popular IT outsourcing destination for firms across Europe.

What Switzerland is to bankers and chocolatiers, Poland is a paradise for firms looking to streamline their IT operations.

Many countries offer travel advice to their citizens. Some even provide info on the legal environment as well as local customs. The British Council in-particular has released a publication, Cultural top tips UK businesses working with Poland. I will stop short of fully-recommending this publication, but there are some key takeaways that I’ll share with you in this article.

The Skinny: Working with a Polish Team

According to Culture.pl, many incorrectly attribute it as a Russophone nation located deep within the former USSR, and even go so far as to associate the country’s name with the ‘polar’ region. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Poland is located at the heart of central Europe, and its language is Polish. To put it shortly, the country’s human capital has demonstrated tremendous potential, and it now boasts an impressive level of technological expertise.

Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, I’d like to lay down some truths to working with a Polish IT team. The differences aren’t dramatic, but in a long-term partnership, mastering the subtleties is what will maintain the positive atmosphere, well-past the project’s honeymoon.

How does one ‘maximise’ cooperation with a Polish IT company? To unlock your team’s true potential, it helps to aptly navigate its work culture, and knowing what people expect from you too.

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No Oceans to Cross

Poland is a stone’s throw to the UK. It is just over an hour’s flight from most British cities and located firmly within the GMT+1 time zone. This means that if your team in Manchester starts the morning with a call at 9:00 am, it will be 10:00 am in Warsaw. In any case, Poland’s working hours are from 9:00-5:00.

Learn more about the benefits of nearshoring software development.

Poland goes Punctual

Whether it is a working lunch or weekly Skype conference, meetings in Poland begin on-the-dot, or with minimal delay. Continental Europe contrasts somewhat comically regarding the observance of time, but as a rule of thumb: an 11:00 am Skype meeting in Poland starts at 11:00 am. The same level of respect is given to set deadlines.

Direct Criticism is Constructive

In moments of project review, phrases such as ‘it looks interesting’, or ‘we’re not quite there yet’ should be avoided. In a U.S. business culture, praise precedes critique. These instances are lost on Polish people, as Poland employs direct criticism when giving feedback to tasks. Negatives are often mentioned first, with praise used sparingly.

For this reason, I recommend opting for concise language when dishing out viewpoints on a project’s status. Be candid and unambiguous in your phrasing. An off switch is ‘off’.

Polish Developers: A Profile

From the get-go, Poland is tech-savvy.

As a leading nation for software development, education plays a significant role in fostering a culture of information technology from an early age. A curriculum centred on education in four specific areas; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, otherwise known as ‘STEM’, is evidence of this through to tertiary education.

The result is a leading employment sector for Poles. The value of which, according to Statista, is projected to balloon to 2,311.7 million USD by the year 2021.

English proficiency is also near-universal. In particular, Poland ranks among the world’s top nations for English language ability.

How Will Your Work Go?

Expect Feedback

Like in the UK, employees take ownership of the task at hand, albeit respective of the hierarchy.

In Poland, a non-urgent issue tends to travel up the ‘chain of command’, as there is a respect for organisational structure within teams. In cases in need of greater urgency, whether it be a software glitch, or special client request, then information and solutions tend to travel faster within these structures, where necessary.

While this may seem like a common-sense factor among western nations, this is not the case in Far Eastern cultures. In environments centring around the ‘saving of face’ and conformity, team members raise problems hesitatingly, within the strict confines of a hierarchy, no matter the seriousness of a situation. Because of this, errors can happen at later junctures, due to slower feedback loops.

When considering the working culture to your team, you should note that Poland prides itself on a faster, and more responsive feedback loop, particularly in software development. Workers take ownership of errors and mistakes; therefore, you can expect instances of problem recognition at early stages.

Cutting to the Chase

In carrying on with the tradition of directness: words matter in Poland. The idea of small talk is lost on many, where a ‘how are you’ will almost certainly be given a candid answer. Moreover, a ‘conversation for the sake of conversation’ usually is regarded as a waste of time.

Therefore, it is worth noting that when building working relationships with your team, you can expect real answers, provided real questions lead them.

Revel in Realism

Rose-tinted ambitions belong in Disneyland, not software. When setting goals or objectives, the more down-to-earth, the better.

Motivational speeches are commonplace in the US and have made their way to the UK. Dramatic pep-talks that rally and inspire the team are handed out like Smarties in the corporate world. This culture has not caught on in Poland, and as such, people grow weary of such theatrics.

Instead, employ candour as to your goals and objectives, and how they will relate to your teams’ tasks. By speaking the truth in friendly terms, you will attain the enthusiasm and understanding of your team quickly.

Outsourcing IT to Poland: Benefits in-Brief

A 1-hour time difference between Poland and the UK, coupled with an only 2-hour flight time between London and Warsaw mean routes and channels of communication, remain open for business.

Expect an honest working relationship. Be direct and don’t sugar-coat your ideas and objectives. Just as your team will be immediate in communication, you should employ the same tactics. My above advice should help you get well on your way towards maximising cooperation with your IT team.

Outsourcing IT to Poland has numerous advantages, from a high degree of product quality and close cultural and linguistic affinity. Be sure to mind your new partners’ expectations.

Our countries are indeed very familiar, so the foundations are ready. Now we can start to build that house made of Cadbury’s, e-Commerce superstar, CRS module, or anything.

The shipping forecast reports sunny skies over the Baltic.

Streamline your operations with a Polish IT company!

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