Should businesses going global transfer staff overseas or hire local talent?

In the midst of the Brexit uncertainty, more business bosses are looking to expand across the pond. But what’s the best way to ensure you get the best team in place to represent your company?

Should businesses going global transfer staff overseas or hire local talent?

Whether it’s the looming shadow of Brexit or fears over the ever-simmering US-China trade war, many businesses are wary of overseas expansion. But companies looking to expand internationally shouldn’t let this overshadow the benefits of a global reach. 

There’s still a lot to be gained from expanding overseas, provided you make the right decisions. In particular, any businesses looking to go global will come up against a clear choice – should you hire fresh, local talent from your target market or transfer your existing workforce overseas? 

There are a number of reasons you may wish to hire new, local employees. First among these is simple – local talent brings with it local knowledge. Establishing yourself in an unfamiliar business landscape can be tough and staff from the area can help you to overcome cultural differences, navigate potential language barriers and offer insights into the nuances of doing business in your new market. 

Hiring locally does have its downsides, however. Local staff may help you to bridge cultural and language divides between yourself and your customer base but you need to ensure that you also bridge that gap with your new employees. Miscommunication and misunderstandings can lead to errors being made and cause tensions between staff and management – and this kind of disharmony should be at the top of any business’ list of problems to avoid. 

But what if you want to take your talent with you and transfer existing staff? The benefits of bringing your existing talent with you should be evident – your workforce will already understand the way that your business operates, avoiding the need to spend time and money on training from scratch. Transferring your company culture is significantly easier than rebuilding it from scratch and a consistent ethos and culture plays a big part in your branding and messaging.

Naturally, there are drawbacks to this approach as well. Your staff may well be experts in their field at home but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be as knowledgeable about your new market level as a local hire. On top of this is the cost of transferring a member of staff, which can make them two to three times more expensive than they would be in your original market. 

Plus, your staff will need an incentive to move – there is a reason that businesses find it easier to transfer people to a country like Sweden, where the quality of life and workforce satisfaction are both high. You’ll have a harder time convincing staff to move to an emerging market, for instance.

If businesses are looking for a silver bullet solution to this decision, then they’re going to be disappointed. There really is no correct approach and the best solution will vary on a case by case basis. Transferring English-speaking staff to a predominantly English-speaking market will require fewer readjustments than expanding into China, for example. If you’re intending to hit the ground running in your new market, then your existing talent will already understand your systems and processes. 

Don’t make any major decisions without understanding the implications – preparation and research might not seem like the most exciting parts of the expansion process but they’re indispensable. Your workforce plays a crucial role in your success and you can’t afford to make a rash decision. It’s only by understanding where your business is and where you intend to take it, that you can make that leap successfully. 

John Galvin
John Galvin

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