HR Tips for UK Companies Expanding Abroad
Once you have a grasp of your market and your business is ticking along at a steady pace, the next logical step is to expand and offer your products and services in other territories.
If you run a UK business and you're thinking about growing abroad, then check out these top human resources tips we’ve put together to give you a helping hand.
Understand local laws and regulations
Whether you’re looking to expand your UK business across Europe or into the other side of the world, it’s important that you have an awareness of the local laws, regulations and customs. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to apply the same UK regulations to your operations overseas, so be prepared to take the time to get to know these regulations, and consider hiring a local expert.
Laws and customs vary from country to country, whether it’s how a country collects tax to how long an employee can work before they’re legally entitled to a break. And it’s not only the big differences that you need to take into account - smaller details can easily be overlooked by a business owner or human resources department, which could have dire consequences.
Many governments have legal requirements, such as in Germany, where businesses are expected to contribute towards health insurance for employees. Going into a new country blind and without understanding these intricacies and laws could not only leave you out of pocket, but it could also cause you to rack up an expensive tax bill at the end of the year, harming profits.
Based on my experience with founding and managing the Biz Latin Hub Group (to learn more about my business journey, click here) I would strongly recommend that businesses spend at least a couple of weeks getting to grips with local regulations before deciding whether or not to invest. You cannot simply apply UK laws to your business operations in other territories, as you’ll be breaking the law and could be prosecuted or fined. Seek local experts who can help you enter a new market, and give you the right guidance to reduce taxes and ensure you’re fully compliant.
Think about your onboarding
When hiring new employees, one of the most important things that you can do is make them feel welcome and provide them with the information and tools required to do their job. But simply porting your existing onboarding system into a new market isn’t going to work, as cultures and languages can lead to confusion, and different markets will require different levels of service.
As well as updating your guides and knowledge base to ensure it meets the standards of the country you’re going to be operating in, you should find ways to strengthen the relationship between your head office in the United Kingdom and the regional team - and that starts with onboarding. Ask UK employees to visit the new country and give feedback, or consider asking a trusted employee to become a mentor and help new recruits settle into the way you do things.
Localise your human resources
Whilst we’re on the subject of onboarding, it’s important that you consider localising your human resources department, including all of your literature, to ensure you’re giving the right information to the people that matter. Think about your company handbooks, tutorials, videos and promotional literature, and consider setting up a separate HR department for every country.
Localising by language should also be considered. Sure, the chances are that you'll be working in countries where English is spoken, but being able to offer new employees information in their native tongue, and access to support and management in their home language, should also be something to think about. It might be more expensive to hire translators and local employees to do the same jobs as employees at home in the UK, but it's a necessary expense to succeed.
Offer a benefits package
Most businesses offer their employees select benefits, whether that's free health care, access to a gym, a free pass to have time off as and when required, and access to free childcare. If you want to keep the peace between employees in the UK and elsewhere, you should offer a similar benefits package or a localised version based on government regulations and laws.
In the UK, Europe and in the United States, for example, benefits and bonuses are often based on the performance of the team and the company overall. This is to encourage collaboration and hard work and gives employees more of an incentive to go the extra mile.
In countries in South East Asia, on the other hand, achievements are taken for granted, and as such, benefits and extras are expected as part of the job. Understanding cultures will allow you to determine the most appropriate benefits packages for each country. Where a pool table and a free beer on a Friday afternoon might work in England, an early finish or the promise of free gym membership might be more appreciated in countries such as China or the United Arab Emirates.
Create a global HR database
With employees in countries around the world, it might be tough to know exactly where your top talent is - and whether or not they're being utilised to the best of their ability. A singular human resources department could help to combat this, as you'll be able to monitor the development of your employees in all four corners of the world and make strategic hires accordingly.
Not only does a global HR database streamline your operations, but it allows you to monitor and nurture your top talent and track them with annual reviews and catch-ups. What’s more, if you’re in need of a particular skill set, then you can trawl your database and find somebody who is already a member of staff, rather than making a new hire or outsourcing key responsibilities.
Whilst marketing and product development are key to your company’s success overseas, it’s your human resources that will determine just how long you’ll stick around for. Overlooking the importance of hiring the right staff and having support in place for their everyday needs and ongoing growth would be a catastrophic move, so make sure you put an emphasis on your HR department when you’re next looking to expand. We wish you the best of luck with your launch!
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,...