5 Things to Remember When Hiring International Employees

Keep these details in mind before you start expanding across borders.

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There are a number of reasons you might want to hire employees from outside your country – or even from outside the European Union in general. Maybe you want your company to be a 24/7 operation, but that would be easier if some of your workforce was spread throughout timezones. Maybe you want to broaden the market for your product to other countries and need some insiders to help you launch. Maybe you value the perspectives and ideas of other cultures.

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Whatever your reasoning, there are things you need to keep in mind before undertaken a global talent search.

1. Recruiting, hiring, and work cultures vary country to country.

Not every country's culture is like yours, which is part of the reason you want to diversify your employees. Still, you have to keep in mind that the recruitment, hiring, and workflow processes can be very different elsewhere.

Consider that a number of companies – including some in the United Kingdom – have been testing out four-day work weeks in pilot studies since last year. Programs are starting up in the United States and Ireland, too, with more set for Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. That might be surprising to you if you've been working nonstop for as long as you can remember, but not only is an interest in reduced work hours related to the various cultures and approaches to labor in some areas, but the pandemic – with its shift to indefinite work-from-home days for many office-based employees and its role in forcing people to reprioritize their lives – has been impacting attitudes toward work, too.

In this ever-changing environment, you may find that you're recruiting and hiring international employees who have completely different values than you and your existing team do. Communicate clearly in your job posting about what you expect from potential employees and keep the conversation honest during the interview process. An American may be more open to the idea of answering work-related emails during off hours whereas an Icelandic person (whose country has had success with the four-day work week) may not. Americans are also accustomed to significantly fewer paid days off and are used to working much more than their European counterparts, so be advised that any vacation time you offer may come as a shock – or even be ignored.

2. Labor laws are different everywhere.

Employees have markedly greater protections in Europe than they do in the United States, where much employment is considered "at-will." That means an employee or worker can terminate their relationship at any time for any reason, as long as it doesn't have anything to do with discrimination.

Look into the labor laws in the country or region you're considering hiring from. Consult with legal experts about what the laws or expectations might mean for you.

Bear in mind, too, that though European workers have greater protections that require you to give notices and documentation before terminating them, they also are often required to give significant advanced notice before leaving a role. American workers, for instance, are used to being able to quit a job whenever they like, which could cause some strife for you if you hire one.

American workers are also accustomed to a quicker recruiting and hiring process. Things move faster there, which makes sense when you consider that everyone is free to fire employees or quit jobs at any time, so turnover happens often. Learn the hiring culture of your target countries and be clear about timelines with prospects, lest you lose them to a faster-moving process or disinterest.

3. Beef up your accounting department.

You'll need to be sure your human resources and financial teams are aware and on top of region-specific money matters. They should be up to date on – or at least able to research – taxes in the region from which you're hiring, for instance.

Be aware of the risk of permanent establishment (PE), too. PE causes you to be liable to pay the corporate taxes in a certain jurisdiction. Check this guide from Omnipresent for tips on avoiding that.

Do research on the wages paid to employees in similar roles in the location where your new hire lives and be sure to give them a fair, livable wage that makes sense with their local cost of living. Bear in mind that cost of living could differ from the one in your region, but your employees deserve to be able to afford the cost where they reside.

4. Prepare for minor frustrations.

A day that is like any other day in your country could be a major holiday somewhere else and your employees in that location are entitled to have that day off. Whenever you hire a foreign employee, ask them to tell you which of their unique holidays are important to them. Check global calendars for significant days. Don't be blindsided by another country's independence day leaving you short a valuable worker.

There will also be little barriers to communication and workflow, though those should be easy to overcome in the digital age. Getting the hang of working across timezones takes time, as does understanding another country's tones or colloquialisms. Don't be afraid to ask an employee what they mean by something they say and empower them to do the same with you and your domestic team; your sense of humor might read a little dry to a Canadian, for instance.

5. Offer support directly to employees.

Schedule one-on-one meetings with foreign employees using video-based software. Do it often, especially in the early months of their employment. It's best to identify any issues early on and demonstrate your willingness to work through them and make global communication and co-working as seamless as possible for them.

If you can afford it, find a way for them to visit your headquarters, too. Remote workers can feel isolated, especially when they are different from their colleagues culturally. Bringing them into the office can help them feel like part of the team and give them a sense of how their counterparts are working. Plus, they might enjoy a little trip!