Adam DeSanges Oct 19, 2023 3:32:48 PM 13 min read

The Challenges of Hiring International Employees

Hiring workers from other countries is becoming more appealing as the world becomes more globalised. The promise of diverse skill sets, fresh perspectives, and access to global markets is enticing. However, the path to successful international hiring is fraught with challenges that can catch even the most seasoned employers off guard. 

Here's a deep dive into the top 10 challenges you might face when hiring internationally, complete with examples and solutions.

1. It Can Be Expensive

When it comes to hiring internationally, the financial aspect is often a double-edged sword. On the surface, it might appear that hiring from countries with lower living costs, such as India or Ukraine, would be a cost-saving strategy. However, the reality is far more nuanced and can catch employers off guard with unexpected expenses. For U.S.-based companies, the costs of setting up a local entity in another country can be substantial. This includes the legal fees and charges associated with adhering to local employment laws, which can vary significantly from U.S. laws.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Once you've navigated the legal landscape, there are still the costs of obtaining work visas for your new hires. These processes are expensive and time-consuming, requiring a significant investment in both manpower and resources. And let's not forget the administrative fees, which can include everything from background checks to credential verification.

Now, consider a specific example: hiring a software developer from Ukraine. While the salary expectations might be lower compared to a U.S.-based developer, the overall cost picture changes when you add in visa processing fees, potential relocation expenses for the employee, and currency exchange rates that can fluctuate and impact the actual cost.

So, while the allure of cost-saving is tempting, the hidden costs can quickly add up, making international hiring more expensive than initially anticipated.

2. Outsourcing Isn't Always the Answer

Outsourcing might initially seem like a magic wand for all your international hiring challenges. These companies often market themselves as a comprehensive solution, promising to handle everything from recruitment to payroll. However, the reality can be far less rosy. Hidden fees are a common pitfall, and they can manifest in various ways — from "setup fees" to charges for "premium services" like specialised training and quality assurance.

For example, let's say you decide to outsource your customer service to a company in the Philippines. While the initial quote might seem budget-friendly, you could soon face additional costs for services you assumed were included. And it's not just about the money. 

When you outsource, you relinquish a degree of control over your employees. If the outsourced team isn't adequately trained or doesn't adhere to your company's quality standards, the end result could be dissatisfied customers, tarnishing your brand's reputation. So, while outsourcing may offer a quick entry into international markets, the hidden costs and potential risks make it a complex option that requires careful consideration.

Navigating the legal intricacies of international hiring is akin to walking through a labyrinth. Every country has unique employment laws, tax codes, and even industry-specific regulations. Employers must be proficient in the legal landscape of both their home country and the country they're hiring from, which often necessitates expert legal advice.

For instance, if you're a UK-based company looking to hire talent from Brazil, you'll need to understand UK employment laws and Brazilian labour laws. Brazil has specific regulations around employee benefits, severance packages, and even working hours. Overlooking any of these could lead to legal complications, hefty fines, or even lawsuits. The time and effort required to navigate these legal complexities can be substantial, making it a significant challenge for employers.

4. Communication Can Be Tough

Managing a geographically dispersed team is not for the faint of heart. The logistical challenges go beyond merely juggling different time zones; they extend into the realms of language and culture. Each country has its own set of business etiquette, communication styles, and even holidays, all of which can impact work.

Take, for example, a situation where your marketing team is in New York, and your developers are in India. The time difference alone can make scheduling a simple meeting a Herculean task. When one team sips their morning coffee, the other might think about heading to bed. Add to this the potential language barriers and cultural misunderstandings — what's considered a straightforward request in one culture might be seen as rude or demanding in another. 

These nuances can lead to delays, misinterpretations, and a less cohesive team. Therefore, effective communication in an international team is a multifaceted challenge that extends far beyond language barriers.

5. Employee Engagement: Building a Global Team Spirit

Fostering a sense of belonging and engagement among employees is a cornerstone of any successful business. However, this task becomes a Herculean effort when your team is scattered across the globe. The challenge lies not just in overcoming geographical distances but also in bridging cultural gaps and varying work habits. Traditional team-building activities, like company retreats, may work wonders for your local team but leave your international employees feeling left out.

For example, suppose you organise an annual team-building retreat for your U.S.-based employees. How do you make your remote team in Japan feel included? One solution could be virtual team-building activities that everyone can participate in, regardless of location. Another option could be periodic on-site visits to bring remote employees into the company's physical culture. The key is to be creative and flexible in your approach to building a unified, global team spirit.

6. Setting Up a Local Office

The idea of setting up a local office in a foreign country might sound straightforward, but the execution is anything but simple. The process is riddled with complexities, from understanding local business laws to navigating financial regulations. Each country has its own set of rules, and failing to comply can result in severe penalties.

Consider an Australian company aiming to establish an office in Germany. The company must navigate a maze of German commercial laws, including zoning laws, employment regulations, and tax compliance. The process is complex and time-consuming, often requiring the expertise of local consultants and legal advisors. The financial and time investment needed to set up a local entity makes this challenging for any company.

7. Visa Hurdles: Not Just a Formality

The process of obtaining work visas for international employees is often underestimated. It's not merely a matter of filling out some paperwork; it's a complex, multi-step process that requires a deep understanding of immigration laws. A single mistake in the application process can lead to delays or legal complications that can jeopardise your new hire's employment.

Take, for instance, a tech company in Canada looking to hire a specialist from South Africa. The entire process can be delayed if the company overlooks a single document or misunderstands a visa requirement. This affects the project timelines and adds stress and uncertainty for both the employer and the prospective employee. Therefore, understanding the intricacies of visa applications and immigration laws is crucial for a smooth international hiring process.

8. Cybersecurity Risks

Cybersecurity is a major issue for any company operating in today's digital age. However, the stakes are even higher when your team is globally dispersed. The challenge lies in ensuring that your digital assets are secure, regardless of your team's location. This often means implementing robust security measures like firewalls, secure VPNs, and multi-factor authentication to protect against cyber-attacks and unauthorised access.

For instance, if your sales team in France needs to access a company database hosted in the U.S., merely having a password-protected system won't cut it. You'll need to employ secure VPNs and advanced encryption methods to ensure that the data being accessed is fully secure. The complexity of maintaining a high level of cybersecurity increases with each new international hire, making this a critical area that requires ongoing attention and investment.

9. Fair Pay and Benefits

Determining what constitutes a fair and competitive compensation package is complex when hiring internationally. Salaries and benefits that are considered standard in one country can be viewed as either extravagant or insufficient in another. Employers must balance offering a package that attracts top talent and adhering to local standards and expectations.

For example, healthcare benefits are often a given in the U.S., but in countries with universal healthcare systems like Sweden, they may not be as crucial. Understanding these nuances is essential for crafting a compensation package that is both attractive to potential employees and compliant with local norms.

10. Talent Acquisition

Hiring is not just about the skills listed on a resume but also about finding someone who will fit into your company culture. This becomes even more complex when you're hiring from a different cultural background. Employers must be sensitive to local customs, business etiquette, and professional expectations, which can vary widely from one country to another.

For instance, if you're a U.S.-based company looking to hire in Japan, you'll need to understand the cultural importance of hierarchy and respect in the Japanese business setting. Failing to do so could not only jeopardise your working relationship but also impact your team's overall productivity and harmony. Therefore, understanding your international hires' cultural and professional backgrounds is crucial for long-term success.

Introducing Emerald: Your One-Stop Solution

Navigating the complexities of international hiring can feel like a high-stakes maze, but you don't have to go it alone. Meet Emerald, your strategic partner in global talent acquisition. We're here to simplify the process, offering a range of services designed to make international hiring as smooth as possible. From legal advice to talent acquisition, we've got you covered.

What sets Emerald apart is our commitment to transparency and customisation. Unlike other service providers, we don't have hidden fees. Our pricing models are straightforward, allowing you to budget effectively. We also offer tailored solutions to meet your specific needs. Whether you're grappling with legal complexities or struggling with time zones and language barriers, Emerald has a solution for you.

Here's a quick rundown of what we offer:

  • Transparent pricing with no hidden fees
  • Expert legal advice for international compliance
  • Global payroll and benefits
  • Virtual team-building solutions for employee engagement
  • Localised market research for fair compensation
  • Tailored talent acquisition and executive search services

So, if you're looking to expand your team across borders, why make life more complicated than it needs to be? With Emerald, you can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and success. Get in touch with us today.

Adam DeSanges

Part of Emerald since 2006, Adam has personally developed an Executive Search process that has been incorporated throughout the entire Emerald Technology business and has enabled our team to offer an unrivalled, collaborative service to our clients. As one of our Company Directors, he is responsible for leading, training and mentoring this methodology.

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We offer a limitless solution. We source, onboard and payroll employees in every region worldwide (except sanctioned countries.)


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