As more people are able to do their jobs remotely, smart business owners know they may be missing out if they don't consider finding quality talent outside of their local labor pool.
But it can be a big decision to open up your hiring to people farther away than the morning commute. The benefits of hiring outside your comparatively small local geographic pool can be tremendous, but there may also be risks. There are two big questions to ask yourself as you consider filling positions with remote talent.
Should I Hire Internationally?
Thanks to the Internet, global talent can be a click away. But logistical ease doesn't mean it's any easier to successfully integrate international talent into your business. When working with someone online, it can be easy to forget that you may be coming from drastically different backgrounds, both culturally and professionally.
Global companies usually know how to effectively help people work across cultures and realize the advantages of a multicultural and cross-geographical workforce. Hiring and managing talent overseas can work if both sides are willing to work together to make it a success. Too often, communication-style differences can be perceived as performance issues, when the root issue is that both sides aren't on the same page yet. When hiring a remote employee internationally, try to figure out upfront what those key cultural differences might be, write them down and then bring them out in the open.
You won't really help your business by attributing performance failures to cultural differences. The cultural differences "issue" can be approached like any other business challenge—with discipline, analysis and adaptation. If you're not ready to put in the time and effort to get the benefits, you may want to reconsider if this is the right time for you to integrate international talent into your company's workforce.
How Should I Access and Engage Remote Talent?
How you engage and integrate non-local talent into your organization can be highly dependent on your reasons for going outside of your local talent pool and the countries in which you engage that talent.
Due to labor arbitrage and cost-of-living differentials, you'll probably find significant cost differences if you hire in developing markets vs. developed markets, and you may want to take full advantage of these cost savings if it makes sense. These markets may operate very differently from what you're used to, so take into account that you may not have a complete understanding of the dynamics of the local talent market or culture. When bringing on talent in developing markets, consider the following:
- Home-based vs. office-based employees: Many people in Western cultures assume people would love to work from home. However, having employees work from home in developing countries not only may pose several logistical risks, but could also affect performance. From an infrastructure standpoint, you should understand how power and Internet works in the country you're hiring in, because it may not meet the minimum standard your business requires. Cultural norms may also make working from home infeasible. For example, in many Asian countries, the home environment doesn't always present a great place to work (think: multiple generations under one small roof). Interestingly, in "interdependent cultures"—those that emphasize harmony—face time and being able to build relationships with colleagues can have a significant impact on people's job satisfaction and success. ("Independent cultures," such as that found in the United States, stress autonomy and self-expression.) Take Japan, for instance: The office culture there can serve a very clear and specific purpose, while after-hours or informal conversations are often where critical conversations happen and important decisions are made.
- The job: Hiring for a job can be very different from buying an outsourced task. Someone in a full-time job may be focused on contributing to your company and building a relationship with you, your product and your customers. You should consider the type of work this person will be doing and how much a part of your home team you'd like them to be.
- Recruitment: There are different types of screening for any new employee. Some involve essentials like background and reference checks, while others may involve looking for role and company culture fit. But when it comes to hiring people in other countries, the additional factors to consider when assessing a candidate's suitability may surprise you. It could be as simple as changing the way you interview: In the Philippines and much of Asia, people usually want to avoid anything that seems like excessive bragging, so you may have to make an extra effort to extract information about someone's accomplishments. Additional considerations may include a complex, country-specific assessment. In cities like Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, traffic can make commutes extremely challenging. You may think it strange to ask a question like, "How far is your morning commute?" and "What mode of transportation will you be taking?" but these things can have a direct impact on someone's performance and tenure.
- Tools: Hiring internationally can present new challenges, and these should be met with an unrelenting focus on communication. An increasing number of powerful tools can help you manage remote workers better. For example, "always on" video chat tool Sqwiggle helps replicate a tap-on-the-shoulder type of conversation, while productivity tool iDoneThis is a simple and effective way to gain insight into the work your remote employees are doing on a daily basis.
- Driving performance: Don't assume people are motivated in the same way that you and your existing home country employees are—take the time to understand what motivates people to perform, and build systems, incentives and processes around that. Remember that when it comes to business, culture is a lot more than just food, language or history—what really matters in business may be the difference in how people think and make decisions.
It's a big world out there, with many smart, talented people who may be able to help you as you grow your business. Don't write off hiring non-local talent. And most importantly, don't be pulled in by the promise of "cheap labor"—as with anything, you get what you pay for, and doing things right the first time around can save you quite a bit of pain (and cash!) in the long run.
Patrick Linton is the co-founder of Bolton Remote, where he helps fast growing businesses reliably tap into large, dynamic and cost-competitive international talent markets. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
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