Expanding your business in a new territory can unlock a whole host of potential, not least by allowing you to increase your market share, find new customers and diversify your business. But one of the biggest challenges many small and medium-sized enterprises face when they expand is to recruit new staff who share the same visions and attitudes as their CEOs.
Recruitment can be made even more difficult if you’re recruiting in a foreign language and don’t understand the language or the country’s culture. Fear not: after spending years finding new employees for my business around the world, I have rounded up five things I wish I knew when I started recruiting staff in foreign countries, to give you some food for thought…
Having a local business partner is essential
If you’re not au fait with the lingo and you’re worried that you’re not going to be able to find the right talent for your organization, then you should take a step back and consider finding a local business partner first. Not only will they be able to help you get to grips with the culture and differences between your native country and a foreign country, but they’ll be able to guide you on the right places to visit to find talent, how to interview effectively, and more.
Not only that, but a local business partner, whether they’re working in business development or they take a share of your profits, will be able to unlock new opportunities in areas you did not know existed. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to enter a new market without help, as there are so many nuances from country to country that you’d never be able to seek out new areas of growth without working with someone who has real local knowledge, so don’t be afraid of working with new people and seeing where it takes you, both when recruiting and expanding.
You can get help with recruitment
When hiring foreign employees, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start, or even be misguided and hire somebody that isn’t right for your organization. The good news is that there are people who can help, and there is a range of international firms that specialize in recruitment and human resources to take away the pressure.
Of course, these companies charge for their time and expertise, but it makes sense to spend a little more when you’re looking to build the ultimate team to take your business to the next level, rather than to make a wrong decision and suffer through years of poor performance.
If you don’t think you’re ready to start hiring new talent, then you could also consider hiring through a PEO, also known as a Professional Employer Organisation. Such companies will employ talent on your behalf, so you can effectively outsource the recruitment process and get access to talent without having to incorporate your business within a new country. This technique is recommended only to be used in the short-term, but it’s something to consider.
Some LATAM cities offer better talent
If you’re expanding your business in Latin America and want to recruit top foreign talent, then don’t assume that all countries come equally. Some LATAM cities are better for startups than others, thanks to culture, levels of higher education and attitude to business and growth.
For example, in Santiago, Chile, more than a fifth of all new businesses are founded by foreign investors, which means locals are not only multilingual but are accustomed to working to different briefs and company structures. Brazil, on the other hand, is home to an accelerator called Startup Brazil, which has created a fantastic pool of entrepreneurial talent in cities such as Sao Paulo. Monterrey, Mexico is another prime example, as it’s not only the country’s richest city but also one of the best places to do business within Latin America, with its technology industry alone growing three times as fast as the world’s average.
Human resources cannot be overlooked
It can be very easy to expand into a new country and get to work on your growth and expansion without thinking about your everyday workers, so investing in an effective human resources department is critical. Don’t wait around for staff to leave for another job - make them feel valued from the very beginning and ensure they’re getting the right training and support they need to thrive. After all, happy and engaged staff are much more likely to make you money than those who are just coasting along and don’t really want to be there.
Some businesses that expand overseas tend to keep their human resources department in their home country, but this can lead to poor communication and a lack of management. If possible, hire an HR specialist in every country you choose to operate in and align your HR and business objectives to ensure that everyone is on the same page. You should also monitor performance, absenteeism and staff turnover, and make changes accordingly when figures suggest you need to do so. Simply, care about your staff, and they’ll care about you.
Understanding local laws and regulations takes time
Having expanded my business across Latin America, I know first-hand that there are often legal loopholes that you have to jump through in order to incorporate your business within a new territory - and the same can be said when hiring new staff. Whether you hire a lawyer or you go about it on your own, it’s essential that you understand local employment laws and regulations before you start advertising for staff, or you could suffer from the consequences.
In some countries, you may be required to give employees particular national holidays, or a minimum amount of annual leave based on their age or length of employment, whereas, in some LATAM territories, there has been a growing rise in minimum wages and working conditions, so it’s sensible to follow regulations and offer your employees a generous pay package and comfortable and ethical working conditions, regardless of your industry.
Recruiting staff in foreign countries certainly comes with some challenges, but with the right strategy, these can be overcome in no time at all. I wish you the very best of luck with your expansion and urge you to check back soon for more content on international business.
Seasoned Business and Investment Professional in Latin America. Craig Dempsey is the CEO and Co-Founder of a leading multi-national group, that specializes in the provision market entry and back office services in the Latin America. Craig holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Project Management. Craig is also a veteran, having served as an Australian military officer on numerous overseas missions and also a former mining executive with experience in various overseas countries.