Four Rules for Hiring Your First Employees Abroad

New markets represent new opportunities, so international expansion is a natural step for many businesses. Taking advantage of them, however, can often be quite challenging: a company can’t expect to seamlessly transfer its business and operational model to an entirely different region, with an entirely different working culture, legal system, and economy overnight.

This is especially true when it comes to hiring and onboarding the first employees abroad. To meet the goals you have set for international expansion, you will need a qualified, experienced, and reliable team – something that requires extensive planning and preparation.

Hiring employees abroad is seldom simple, but it can be made easier. Follow these four rules and you’ll bring in the right people – with less hassle and frustration along the way.

1. Comply with local rules regulations. Once you have decided where you want to take your company next, the first thing to do is become familiar with the specific employment, payroll, and tax regulations in that country – along with any other relevant laws. Don’t underestimate the extent of these differences: even when countries seem superficially similar, even when workers can move between them freely, and even when they share supranational legal systems, the devil is in the detail.

If you’re hiring in Germany, for example, you are obliged to contribute towards your employees’ health insurance policies. In the UK, where health is free at the point of use, this is not mandatory. China, meanwhile, has employers pay towards housing and social care programmes. It’s important to note that you can’t easily avoid these regulations just by paying your international employees or contractors from the UK: that risks breaking local employment and tax law.

It’s worth finding local on the ground experts to help you develop a regional compliance policy. The worst way to ingratiate yourself in a new market is to run afoul of the law.

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2. Protect employee data. Various information security and privacy rules that must also be adhered to – most importantly, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You’ll likely know about this already, but it’s important to ensure that your strategy extends to your new market. In short, GDPR provides some new rights to employees and strengthens others: they have the right to access their data on request, the right to be informed as to how it will be used, the right to correct incorrect information, and the right to use it for their own purposes.

Accordingly, your strategy should entail, among other things, measures such as staff training, internal audits of data processing activity, the appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO) in some cases, and regular impact assessments. Again, on the ground experts will be invaluable when it comes to ensuring that this occurs seamlessly.

3. Develop specific benefits to suit specific cultural requirements. When developing employee benefits on a global scale, it’s important to take a bespoke approach: a one-size-fits-all package may please some, but it will inevitably frustrate others.

In Europe and North America, there is a clear trend for teams to be structured in a way that’s highly collaborative. This extends to the ways in which companies in these regions reward performance and allocate benefits to staff. South East Asia’s teams, by contrast, are often focused on individual achievement. There are exceptions to these trends, but nonetheless – if you’re operating in very culturally different regions, you can’t use the same rewards system.

So how do you make them comfortable?

Tailored benefits help, but it’s about more than dangling perks in front of them. If you’re providing English-language materials about your benefits in a country where English isn’t the dominant language, you’re immediately putting your international team at a disadvantage.  Translating these materials into their native tongue will go a long way towards making them feel part of your company’s culture – rather than a mere extension of it.

When you move into a new market, you need to think of your benefits strategy in a regional and global sense: meeting the multifarious requirements of multinational employees is rarely straightforward or simple. It’s vital to consult with staff across different locations and understand what they want – and it also means looking at what your competitors are doing and using them as a point of reference. If you do, you’ll have a better idea of how to strengthen talent retention and avoid losing your most talented employees to competitors.

4. Create a smooth and simple onboarding system. Finally, don’t drop your team right in the thick of it. A smooth onboarding system is vital for new hires. Mentoring schemes between international employees and those working in the ‘main’ office, regular training sessions, comprehensive guides to processes and procedures – these are all essential.

Essentially, don’t leave your new employees flailing if you don’t have to. Hiring is complex enough under regular circumstances – and hiring abroad more so. It costs money and time and it comes with attendant risks. You can minimize all three with the right strategy – and if you’re willing to allocate the right resources to it. If you don’t have the right strategy or the internal resources, it’s worth outsourcing the process of international hiring and onboarding to a third-party provider.

However you choose to do it, it’s worth doing well. If you’re going to build an international company, make sure you hire like one.

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Dany Rastelli

Dany Rastelli
Dany Rastelli is head of communications, Elements Global Services

Dany Rastelli

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