Digest: Recruiting Internationally — What does it take to go global?
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Digest: Recruiting Internationally — What does it take to go global?

Meeting Date
November 24, 2022
Event Type
Workshop
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This panel discussion was held with with Delphine Chantôme: Former International Head of People at Believe, Lisa Sarny: Founder of The Hiring Collective and former Head of Talent Acquisition at Spendesk and Voodoo.io and Pieter Manden: Head of Trust and Employer Compliance at Workmotion (XAnge family) on the topic of recruiting internationally.

Watch the full replay on YouTube…

How to get started going international?

1- Have the right mentality!

Depending on whether you want the employees you will hire to work remotely or to relocate, you, as senior management, you have to adopt the right mentality.

For the former, you need to embrace the new reality of people not working in an office and not having to relocate, which eventually help you to source candidates from a much bigger talent pool. That makes thing easier; at least on paper.

Relocating people implies mobilizing a lot of resources and working with the right partners including headhunting firms, lawyers, tax advisors, and relocation companies to offer the best candidate experience and to smooth the process out. The management team has to be ready to play an active role in every aspect.

2- Gather internal stakeholders

Hiring internationally does not only involve human resources, it also takes a lot of effort. You have to make sure you have the right foundation: finance, legal, and IT teams all have a role to play. Depending on your recruitment targets, they might have a lot of challenges to come with respect to your on-boarding processes. They too have to be prepared.

It’s very important to get through the compliance issues first and lay the groundwork for growth as this can be tricky. Topics such as non-competition clauses, non solicitation clauses are important to address early on and make sure everyone is aware and on the same page going forward.

3- Get better idea of where to look for the talent you need

Where should I look for talent?

This question is very common for companies starting to hire internationally. Being able to hire people for remote positions helps because you are not pulling entire families out of their comfort zone, but on the contrary; the skills you are looking for are likely all around the world. This can create confusion and make it difficult to know where to start looking.

LinkedIn is a useful tool to refine your target location. You can use the website to run queries, allowing you to:

  • Estimate a given talent pool in a certain geography (ex. How many business developers, front end developers, etc. are in Munich vs. Berlin?)
  • Understand the role of migration of recent graduates (ex. Where do Indian engineers travel the most for work?)

Partnering with an agency that understands the local dynamics in terms of the competitiveness of the market and your positioning can be valuable. In certain geographies such as Germany or Japan, it is very common to outsource recruitment to improve success rates, especially for higher level positions.

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Outsourcing recruitment is useful, but it is also possible to outsource the bulk of your international HR admin, legal obligations, or even payroll by working with companies like Workmotion who act as the Employer of Record wherever your employees are.

Onboarding: Legal and Admin

Depending on the number of people you want to hire in a specific location, it might not make sense to use your internal resources. In fact, hiring only one developer in the US will be both financially costly and risks eating up a lot of your team’s time while they get to grips with the legal and administrative requirements for the specific locality (taking into consideration State to State differences…etc.). In these situations, going through an intermediary like WorkMotion who act as a local HR specialist, legal team or payroll provider can make sense.

On the contrary, opening a new country will require setting up the right teams internally, and as you grow you should think about allocating roughly 1 HR professional for every 20-30 tech or every 40-50 business hires. You should also think about opening a physical office in the target country. This obviously implies dedicating an additional budget (and employees) for managing the operation (IT, an office manager, etc)

Since full remote has started becoming an option, administrative burdens due to relocating people and families (work visas, etc) have been reduced.

“With this new type of modern mobility where we move work to people, we are in a better place because we're at least not pulling entire families out of their comfort zone and out of their homes.” - Pieter Manden

The cultural gap and language issues

Cultural gap can be related to either the company or the country.

Building a company’s culture remotely can be tricky. Where some experts suggest it’s easier than building one in person, others take a different approach.

Consistency in the culture is key to spreading it among employees, and over-communicating is one tool you can use to help to get part of the way. Since in-office coffees and small talk are not an option, creating multiple communication channels, including those not dedicated to work can be very helpful. Having people talking about sports, their pets, memes or simply sharing funny stuff in a chat can be helpful in creating connections among employees. You have to define your culture and live it.

Employees should also be treated equally. For example in terms of meeting effectiveness, it is better to have people dialing in individually in a call instead of having some of them in the same room in an office and others online. This puts everyone on the same level and optimizes participation.

However, some employees such as developers can be very hard to engage, and even companies such as Facebook, Apple or Google struggle to retain them. They are more likely to move from one company to another for a raise in salary because they often have weaker links to the brand they’re working for.

By definition, having employees from different countries means different languages, customs and culture. While hiring, you want to make sure employees will fit in. This means favoring those which are open to change and collaboration.

You should try to avoid hiring either too many people coming from the same company or from the same location. With groups like this, there is a risk that they stick to their “old beliefs” or spend all their time together without opening up the circle to other employees.

“We did that with Russian speakers at Criteo, and I've seen it also in a remote context where we had a ton of people from one specific country and they didn't integrate particularly well.” - Lisa Sarny

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Even considering all the challenges that come from having diverse teams in your company, research shows that if you get them working together, they're not just a little bit more productive, profitable or more innovative. The numbers are staggering; upwards of 20% better efficiency, justifying the investment on making cross-cultural teams work.

Language barriers

As with the cultural gap, as a European (and in particular, French) company you will be face with different challenges relating to your local language. These take different forms:

  1. Your french employees having to make the switch to English
  2. Going global implies for European startup adopting English as not only the working language but also as the conversational language among teams. Doing that requires having a critical mass of non local speakers in each team - at least 2 in smaller teams. This will allow you keep everyone engaged and flip local speakers to English.

    This is a great approach, but not all local employees speak English. You should also provide English training for them at the HQ and for everyone else in the company.

    “When we reached our target of 25% of overall hires outside of France, we eventually managed to have everyone switching to English.” - Lisa Sarny

  3. Foreign employees who might have to learn your local language or English.
  4. When you bring international candidates to your HQ, you also have to provide the local language training and the local cultural integration training for them to feel comfortable. And because moving from one country to another is a family decision, inviting the spouses of the candidates to the last round of interviews can be very helpful.

Useful Resources