Written by SALLY-ANN HALL-JONES
Running an international business has become progressively more common over the last 30 or so years, and with technology connecting people globally in way we once never dreamed of, working internationally is fast becoming part of everyday working life for many of us. HR can be quite complex even when your team is in just one country, so when your business grows across borders it can easily become a daunting task.
There are a number of considerations a business needs to make when dealing with employees in different countries, and although understanding the legalities in each territory is essential, the challenges are not just limited to compliance with the law.
Cultural differences, values and behaviours
Cultural norms, values and behaviours will differ greatly from country to country and can create challenges when trying to encourage everyone to adopt the same behaviours under one brand. In one country, you may find that workers are used to minimal supervision and respond well to it, while in another you may find that the greatest motivation comes from being given clear and comprehensive instructions for every task. These cultural nuances will need to guide the way your teams are structured, and how employees are supported. Even basic things like what to pay employees, how to pay them, recruitment and onboarding processes and hours of work are things that need to be considered when employing candidates from different cultures.
The digital revolution has changed the way we keep and share information on just about everything from employees’ personal information to performance records. In a global business, each country will have different rules on keeping and sharing data. Compliance is perhaps the biggest headache for the international HR professional as there are so many different considerations. The physical location of data is important – for example, all European personal information must be located in the EU, The sharing of data between different functions in the business can be incredibly complex if, for example, your IT function is in a different country to your payroll.
HR team structure
Depending on the size and geographical scope of your organisation, the structure of your HR function will vary. You’ll need to consider whether it is worth having a centralised HR function in the UK or a split of local and centralised HR professionals. Research by European Talent Assessment product TalentSorter found that 45% of international companies had a 50/50 split of centralised and local HR. Specialist HR consultancy can help you to identify the ideal balance for your business.