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4 things to keep in mind when hiring employees overseas

In my 13-year career running my own business, I had to hire employees overseas dozens of times. In fact, both of my current software businesses, and, have developers and designers overseas.

I’ll be the first one to say that hiring employees in other countries is no simple task. Going international is often complicated, whether you want to broaden your physical horizons or just your talent pool. While the potential challenges shouldn’t stop you, they are worth a look.

One significant consideration is onboarding global staff. Hiring abroad isn’t the same as it is at home. You’ll need to evaluate how to handle several complexities, from compliance with another country’s benefit structures to data security.

In this article I was to dig into my experience and share the top four things to keep in mind when your business goes global and you start to think about hiring overseas.

1. Required benefits can be different

If you’ve only hired staff members in the United States, you’re probably not familiar with stricter laws for employee benefits. These stipulations govern some of the same perks U.S. employees typically get, such as health insurance and paid leave. The difference is many global countries don’t treat benefits as “perks” per se. They’re mandatory for employers to provide, regardless of the size of your business.

Plus, the laws surrounding non-optional employee benefits aren’t the same from country to country. For this reason and more, smaller companies sometimes work with an employer of record when venturing overseas. An employer of record hires international workers on your behalf and ensures your business complies with local labor laws. This includes providing benefits, such as national health insurance, parental leave, and entitled holiday pay.    

2. Cultural variances may impact relationship building

Culture is something you can simultaneously see and feel. The signs might be subtle but tangible, such as how people dress. On the other hand, what makes a culture distinct could be less visible, such as which behaviors leaders reward. Every company, regardless of size and industry, has a unique culture. It impacts everything from how workers do their jobs to a business’ ability to survive.

Like companies, countries have national cultures, which shape employees’ expectations and values. The Hofstede model helps explain six dimensions of national culture, including preferences for power distance and individualism. Where a country’s culture falls within these dimensions may influence a business’ leadership and management approach.

For example, U.S. workers may value individual achievements more highly than employees in a collectivist culture. Similarly, some societies prefer hierarchies over shared power structures. Knowing which dimensions apply to your targeted country will help you build stronger employee relationships by avoiding mismatched expectations.

3. Different time zones make communication trickier

Moving projects along and establishing a sense of belonging is difficult without good communication. Even when potential time zone differences don’t exist, four out of five American workers experience stress from poor communication. Now consider the obstacles to effective communication international time zone variances can create.

Often, your employees will be working with schedules that don’t overlap. However, they may need to coordinate assignments, ask questions, and seek feedback. Ask yourself how your international staff will fit into your operations from a macro and micro perspective. Map it out so you can add necessary tools, such as collaboration software, to your tech stack. Also think about establishing team communication norms, especially if synchronous conversations aren’t feasible.

4. The need for tighter data access policies may increase

Onboarding staff members in remote locations usually creates unique security dilemmas for companies. Employees working from home or non-corporate locations use external internet connections. The data and intellectual property they deal with may also become visible to outsiders. For example, a remote worker may forget to lock their workstation during lunch, giving other residents access.

Virtual private networks can solve some of the data security problems with remote internet connections. Once your international staff connects to your corporate virtual private network, it won’t matter whether they use public or home internet. Their activity is usually hidden from cybercriminals looking to steal public sensitive information and intellectual property.

Yet, employees must have a compelling reason to use a virtual private network connection. Setting data access policies that require these connections guarantees their use. Workers using a standard internet connection will find it useless if they can’t access internal resources. Nonetheless, virtual private networks can’t control all employee behaviors. You may need to implement additional monitoring software and login timeout restrictions to protect your data.

Is it time to go global?

Just because hiring overseas isn’t always straightforward, it doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Onboarding international employees can make your company more competitive and boost your growth potential. Still, there are important considerations for business owners to evaluate before taking the plunge. An employer of record can make the global hiring process smoother than attempts to branch out alone. You’ll face fewer hurdles and risks to get the talent you need.

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