Fast-growth companies face a range of obstacles with the potential to slow or even halt their expansion strategies. Among the most difficult is the ability to hire talent where and when it’s needed; without this, businesses can never hope to reach their full potential, particularly on the international stage.
The availability of experienced people in new and remote locations is not always the issue—in many sectors, talent is available, particularly for those who look beyond traditional approaches to recruitment. However, business leaders often hesitate to hire employees who aren’t on-site or even local out of fear of getting it wrong or because they lack the experience and infrastructure to succeed.
In order to avoid the stress and perceived risk that come with hiring internationally, companies will find workarounds that fall back on existing people and processes, such as asking domestic employees to focus on business interests overseas. While these tactics may suffice on a temporary basis, they create significant disadvantages over the long term.
For some, the idea of hiring people based thousands of miles away to represent their interests, sight unseen, is too daunting. What’s more, a lack of experience in the processes required to find a skilled employee in a foreign country adds to the sense of difficulty.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
In many cases, an international hiring strategy can act as a huge catalyst to wider business growth and success. Indeed, there are companies in every sector whose fortunes change for the better after taking the plunge and making prudent investments in overseas people and teams.
The first step is understanding that the employee recruitment process is much the same throughout the world. Posting a clear job description on LinkedIn, for example, is often an ideal starting point for finding candidates, and having tried, many organizations are surprised by the reach this can give them outside their domestic hiring territory. In addition, specialist local sites or recruiters can help cast the net even wider.
Clearly, there are pitfalls associated with hiring workers remotely, and these hold true whether the next hire is located on the other side of the state, the country, or the world. But, no matter where this person resides, the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process remains the same.
This means carefully reviewing all the résumés candidates submit, checking their references, and interviewing them by video—often conducting multiple interviews, depending on the role and level of responsibility—to get to a point where those responsible for recruitment feel confident in candidates’ abilities.
Focusing on the onboarding process is also crucial. The vast majority of those who are let go by a remote employer or leave after only a few months do so because of a problem with onboarding. If a company doesn’t have an effective onboarding process, new hires will not understand or feel part of the organization’s culture. Feeling left out or abandoned is not conducive to retaining employees, remote or not.
The key to successful onboarding is to invest the same amount of time training a new employee regardless of location. That is, employees who are working locally should receive the same quality of training and amount of attention as someone who is being trained remotely in Dublin, Des Moines, or Denmark.
At Globalization Partners, we have seen 90% of those who hired international staff retain them for at least a year using these approaches. That figure holds steady whether the hiring is being done in the United States or anywhere else in the world.
The Advantages of Feet on the Ground
Ultimately, although many companies fear the inability to monitor workers in person, there is a significant advantage to having customer-facing employees in another country. That close customer proximity, regardless of the distance to the home office, reduces the likelihood of miscommunication and misunderstanding that can occur through other means of communication, such as e-mail, text, or even phone.
For example, in some Asian countries, there is a strong preference for use of a phone or video call to communicate, especially if there’s anything nuanced to discuss; when someone has a question or concern, he or she generally prefers a phone call.
There are innumerable, nuanced situations like this across different countries and cultures. In many cases, they can be resolved much more quickly if there is someone who can show up in person to get something done. It both eases and solidifies customer relationships to have someone close by.
To an extent, growth in the use of video teleconferencing technology has bridged the gap. It’s so much easier to read body language—and, indeed, understand a foreign language—when people can see each other. When working as a global remote team, these services should be used as much as possible, though face-to-face communication is the most impactful.
Balancing these priorities is key to eliminating international growth inertia. In an era when a global outlook is driving the ethos of more businesses than ever, leaders are accelerating their growth strategies by working with trusted partners who have the operational infrastructure in place to help build local teams quickly and with minimal risk. In doing so, they can match ambition with execution and focus on turning domestic success into long-term, international momentum.
Nicole Sahin is the CEO at Globalization Partners.