In the current challenging economic environment, companies are exploring various avenues to drive growth and create new business engines. One approach is to expand geographically, targeting new markets and customers outside of their traditional operating regions.
However, expanding globally is not without its challenges. Businesses must navigate complex regulatory environments, cultural differences, language barriers, and logistical issues, such as supply chain management and distribution. Additionally, companies must invest significant time and resources into market research and localization efforts to ensure that their products or services are a good fit for the new market. Despite these challenges, expanding internationally can offer significant rewards, such as access to new talent, customers, revenue streams, increased brand recognition, and the ability to diversify risk across multiple markets.
Given the potential benefits of expanding internationally, how can businesses best prepare for and navigate the inherent challenges of global growth?
Create cultural connections with centralised collaboration:
In a global business environment, it’s crucial to focus on the people first. Effective communication and collaboration between operations and people located in different geographies are essential for success.
A lot of time and effort is invested into carefully building a company culture that aligns with a company’s needs, goals and values. So, it is important to take the time to make sure that this culture is replicated across every site in every country. With a worldwide workforce speaking different languages and accustomed to different work practices, building a cohesive company culture can be hard, but is crucial to ensure everyone feels engaged and connected. There is a misconception that remote and dispersed teams prevent companies from building cultures built on connections between people, but this is not true. Instead, leaders simply need to shift their mindset and create an environment where people can build strong relationships using digital communication tools.
Beyond core HR technology that helps companies to manage the basics such as payroll and holidays, building a culture that stays close to company values while finding a common denominator to unite employees from diverse backgrounds is equally important. One way to achieve this is through a shared vision that all employees can connect with, regardless of their location or cultural background.
Regular virtual team-building activities and cross-functional projects can also help foster a sense of community and belonging among employees, even when they are working in different time zones. Ultimately, creating an inclusive and collaborative global culture is critical for driving success and maximising the benefits of a geographically diverse workforce in a hybrid world of work.
And finally, we all know that sharing is caring when it comes to the distribution of knowledge in the workplace. It is the responsibility of companies to ensure that they are facilitating knowledge sharing worldwide, and choosing the right tech is key. Implementing streamlined communication channels ensures that information is shared in the same place and is accessible for all employees. There is no shortage of digital tools to help.
Embracing the Future of Workforce Freedom
The future of work is increasingly focused on flexibility, as companies embrace new ways of working and prioritise employee satisfaction and work-life balance. One significant trend is the shift towards remote work, with many organisations now offering work from anywhere (WFA) policies. As a result, we can expect to see more teams composed of individuals from diverse countries, geographies, and cultures.
To effectively manage and support these remote teams, it is critical to provide a digital platform that enables collaboration, communication, and information sharing. Such a platform can help bridge the gap between team members in different locations, time zones, and languages, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards shared goals. Overall, the digital platform is becoming an essential tool for businesses looking to embrace flexible work arrangements and effectively manage remote teams in the future.
Holding on to the Enhanced Talent Pool:
It’s well established that businesses benefit from a global hiring strategy as it diversifies the workforce and creates a wider talent pool to choose from. However, many companies don’t or won’t have HR professionals working at each location, so the team must recruit new hires remotely. This poses a number of challenges and it’s why it is important to have an intentional hiring strategy in place. This could include investing in a robust ATS system and being prepared to do your research on where to advertise (if you wish to keep global recruitment in-house) or working with specialist recruitment partners.
Once the perfect candidate has been found, the pressure is on to keep them engaged and ready to start the next stage of their career. The trick is to pre-broad. It will set you apart from the crowd, allow you to set cultural expectations and get to know potential hires better especially if you’re hiring remotely.
With 3 in 10 new hires leaving a business within the first 90 days as a result of poor onboarding, a proper overall onboarding process is essential. A successful program will provide a consistent experience for new hires, regardless of their location. It should familiarise them with the company’s expectations and include meetings with relevant peers to help them acclimate to the team, no matter where they are in the world.
Onboarding is the one chance businesses have to make a good first impression and a successful onboarding process correlates with higher retention and employee productivity.
Organisations with standardised onboarding see 54% greater new hire productivity and improve retention by 82%. For the best onboarding program possible, make sure it lasts months, not just weeks. Make sure the process onboards beyond the 90-day mark, this is vital for remote and global employees to ensure they feel supported and valued. Regular check-ins with new hires are also the best way to ensure new employees are settling in. Finally, while the onboarding process should leave each new employee with the same feeling, HR must leave space to allow for the process to be tailored and localised.
Automation alleviates pressure:
With a global workforce, it’s nearly impossible to manually keep track of the moving parts of an organisation with spreadsheets; it simply isn’t sustainable. There are tech solutions that can be implemented into the processes of an organisation to help manage the workload.
Today’s people-centric HR tech has the automation you need, from onboarding workflows to handling multi-national workforce management and payroll. There are automated processes integrated into modern HR tools which have built-in pulse surveys, one-on-one meeting tools and centralised dashboards to track productivity and progress. These processes can help streamline compensation and benefits programs, identify existing pay gaps and make it easier to collect feedback. Tools can be a real time-saver for HR teams while boosting dispersed remote workforce activity and engagement.
Regulatory Environment and Compliance:
Different countries have differing laws and regulations that need to be complied with when it comes to offices, operations, employee rights and so on. Businesses that make compliance mistakes will find that it leads to a lot of legal headaches and workflow disruption.
While it is largely up to HR to ensure every site remains compliant, it’s good business practice to also have an in-house lawyer or two who specialise in international labour laws to avoid an accidental breach of local regulation, which can cost a business a lot of time and money. In most instances, the first step in going global is hiring. Therefore, when first thinking about regulations, businesses should start by considering employment laws which vary country by country (or state by state in some places, the United States for example). These laws address employee rights, including employment agreements, notice and termination, immigration and work permits for relocating people, and tax and social security laws.
Going Global is Within Reach
Going global is possible for companies of all sizes, and while it can seem complicated at first, it doesn’t have to be. For companies that have been thinking about expanding worldwide, now is the time to do so. But you must prepare a global strategy and take the time to consider all aspects of going global to ensure success. One key thing to remember, so the core principles of your business remain, is to think global but act local.
For businesses taking the opportunity to expand geographically they must prioritise global strategies, and what we’re seeing is entire industries reinventing themselves with many companies investing heavily in digital re-engineering to successfully address the challenges. These reinventions mean HR leaders need to think about everything from hiring processes to creating distributed cultures. A global planning strategy is critical to keeping up with the changing global business environment and can give businesses the agility needed to thrive in a worldwide economy.
Ze'ev has been leading innovative businesses in digital media and tech space for the past 25 years. He has worked as COO at two existing companies as well as finding two of his own. He has experience working in international businesses throughout his career.