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Global expansion: Talent strategies for local market success

Nicole Sahin, founder and CEO of Globalization Partners

There are many drivers that lead organisations to make the decision to pursue an international expansion strategy. For some, it’s all about tapping into new revenue, diversification, or market growth opportunities. For others, it’s about finding talent. In today’s globalized world, remote employees and teams from different countries are more the norm than the exception. While there are many strategic reasons companies expand globally, one of the most common reasons is to find new talent or fill talent gaps.

Whatever the reason for making the move to a new territory, global expansion comes with its own set of unique challenges. This is why establishing a local team — one that understands the market and can navigate the language and cultural differences — is key.

Getting the right talent into the right roles will be critical for any enterprise that wants to hit the ground running, and ensure its expansion investment translates into fast-paced success and predictable outcomes.

Here are five steps that will help ensure your local recruitment strategy gets off on the right foot – and how to keep your local workforce highly engaged and effective from day one.

Step 1 - Establish the right talent recruitment strategy from the get-go

The first hires you make will set the tone for how the local team works and will ultimately influence the long-term growth of your organisation in its new location. Thinking strategically about day-to-day roles and the employment lifecycle for your new global staff will be vital – this will form the basis of a model that can be used in future expansion projects.

Alongside complying with local employment law and regulations on employee benefits, everything from defining staff categories to establishing opportunities for career progression will need to be thought through. The aim of the game is to establish an employee value proposition that’s aligned with your corporate culture yet accommodates local differences.

Finally, you need to have a hiring strategy in place that clearly promotes your company’s key values to ensure you find people who are the right fit for your organisation. The initial workforce hires you make will need to reflect your company’s energy, passion, and ethics, as anyone you recruit later will look to these tenured employees for behavioural clues.

Step 2 - Hire people with the right attributes

In the initial start-up stage, your new international operation should look to recruit people willing to wear multiple hats and take on tasks that go above and beyond the responsibilities outlined in their job description. These ‘utility players’ will be problem solvers, capable of navigating challenges in a variety of disciplines. With excellent social and people-management skills, their ‘can do’ attitude will help fuel growth and the fast build out of teams as the business progresses.

When it comes to hiring professionals with leadership qualities, seek out collaborative self-starters who can think and act for the common good, facilitate open dialogue with colleagues, and embrace input from team members whose background or experience differs from their own. They should be capable of leading by example, inspire others through mentorship and skills transfer, and can shift their approach to connect meaningfully with others.

Step 3 - Design teams with diversity in mind

Research shows that diverse teams make better decisions. When people with different tools and perspectives work inclusively to find solutions, the results are powerful. According to a recent study by McKinsey and Company, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural diversity resulted in a 33% increase in performance.

Other studies have found that companies with employees who are diverse in both inherent and acquired traits (gained from life and work experiences) are more likely to achieve market share growth.

With today’s candidates actively seeking out firms that promote workforce diversity, it continues to be a top competitive differentiator.

Step 4 - Put the focus on talent retention

To create a sustainable international recruitment strategy, you’ll need to keep the exceptional local talent you recruit. Creating a powerful employer value proposition with a compelling benefits package should lay the foundation for long lasting employee relationships based on transparency, communication, and authenticity.

Clearly communicating the employer brand will also give employees purpose, whether that’s being exposed to new experiences, new flexible ways of working, personal development opportunities, or simply working with like-minded people.

As ever, a solid onboarding experience will be the starting point for ensuring your organisation is viewed as an employer of choice.

Step 5 - Think globally, act locally

Keeping local employees engaged with the corporate mission should be a top priority. This includes providing regular communications that deliver insights on the wider operational context and clarifies how employees are expected to perform. As part of this process, ensure there are channels in place that allow for feedback so local personnel can help global management teams understand local problems, and why some strategies may or may not work when transplanted into the local market.

Kick-off training delivered either at your global HQ or via videoconferencing will help jump-start and motivate your new out-of-country team, promote connected relationships with your international colleagues, and facilitate achieving your company’s goals.

Keeping teams updated on activities across the company will help ensure local employees fully comprehend operational priorities and are empowered to make informed decisions. Since things can change quickly when you’re growing rapidly, holding quarterly reviews can go a long way in keeping local personnel engaged. Forums like these enable managers to provide updates on the current state of play and serve as a platform where local employees can express their needs so goals can be aligned to support their interests.

International expansion can be a difficult proposition. Defining the right recruitment strategy and employer value proposition will ensure you’re able to build a local workforce that’s primed for success. With good people in place, keeping local employees engaged and motivated will depend on keeping the lines of communication open and putting in place structures that make it easy for them to rally behind the growth vision.

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