How Important Is Your First Hire in a New Country?

The short answer to that question is probably obvious. It’s pretty important.

In helping companies expand internationally all over the world, I have seen firsthand what causes some teams to flourish and others to struggle. Hiring the right employee for your first hire in a country is extremely important and it may end up requiring more time and energy than you originally thought, but, it’s time well spent.

Investing the effort to find a quality professional in a new country who aligns with your organization’s core values will set the stage for your local company culture. This first hire will inevitably impact the way that team or office is run, and will increase the rate at which it will grow in the future. I have built my company one person at a time, with the belief that good people become the lifeblood of a fast-growing enterprise wherever you are in the world.

I’m happy to share some of the insights I have gleaned over time while building my business in multiple countries, in the hopes that it helps you pick the right person when you are expanding your business in new and exciting places.

Your new in-country team will set the tone

Building out teams internationally provides new revenue and business opportunities and gives you a unique opportunity to enhance your company’s culture. To this point, forward-thinking and quality talent is key. It is essential to evaluate a new hire’s potential to grow within the company and to envision what their employment lifecycle will look like. These first hires will set the tone of your local company culture and will influence the long-term growth of your organization in that country and in general. The success of your global expansion strategy will depend on them. It is critical to have a strong hiring strategy in place, one that clearly promotes your company’s core values to assure you find the right fit. In short – make sure these hires reflect your company’s energy, passion, and ethics. Any hires that come later will look to these tenured employees for behavioral cues.

What to look for when hiring in a new country

When you start to look for the first members of your new team, there are several attributes and qualities to pay close attention to.

1. Utility players

Aside from the experience and skillset required to do a job, your first hires in a new country will likely need to wear multiple hats. They need to be willing to take on tasks that go above and beyond the responsibilities found in their job description. We call these unique professionals “utility players,” and it is crucial to have people on your staff who can evolve in ways you could never have predicted when you hired them. These team members will provide your company with the valuable flexibility needed as you are growing, and in turn allow your team to advance their own professional careers.

Look for candidates who are problem solvers, have a history of jumping in to get the job done, and know how to navigate through problems in a variety of disciplines. Also, assessing their social skills and how well they work with others will be an important indicator for their overall growth potential within the company, and for their capacity to help you build out your teams down the road.

2. Leaders

Regardless of how senior the role is, look for leadership qualities in professionals that will advance both the company’s goals and their own position. They should demonstrate that they don’t need to be micro-managed with constant guidance and handholding. A true leader maximizes the efforts of others for the greater good, with strong leadership stemming from social influence, not authority or power. I tell every new hire in a country that I expect all leaders in my company to “lead” by inspiring and mentoring—I do not believe in the “control and command” authoritarian style of management.

3. Diversity

In recent years, studies have shown that non-homogeneous teams are simply smarter. It completely makes sense—working with people who are different from you challenges your brain to overcome its ingrained ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.

From a pure business perspective, diverse teams are proven to be more productive and more profitable—exactly what you need in a company experiencing rapid growth and expanding into new countries. And if that’s not convincing enough, there are a multitude of studies showing that candidates today are looking for diversity when searching for a job. The diversity of your team has now become just as important to employees as it is to the company itself.

Manage the hiring process

The hiring process is key to your company’s success in a new location. The questions you ask when interviewing potential new hires allow you to see if they have the attributes you want and if they’ll be a good fit with the rest of your team. Along with asking the right interview questions, it’s also critical that you understand the employment laws in the country or that you work with an Employer of Record (EOR) who knows the rules. Globalization Partners can help you hire quickly and compliantly in 187 countries. Our solution takes over the onboarding, management, payroll, benefits, and compliance part of hiring internationally.

1. Know where to look for candidates

Before hiring people in a new country, you need to know where to look for candidates. You might consider bringing on a local expert or recruiter to help you find the best people possible. Otherwise, it can be challenging to seek out suitable candidates. Posting on local job boards or contacting universities in the area might also help you find quality candidates.

2. Learn about employment laws and business culture

Even if you work with an Employer of Record, it’s still worthwhile to have a general idea of the employment laws in the country you are expanding into. Knowing the rules regarding time off, benefits, work hours, and employment contracts will help you better understand the workplace culture in the new country.

You’ll also want to know about the business culture in your chosen country. For example, suppose your company is headquartered in a part of the world where after-work happy hours are common. If you open a subsidiary in an area where company-wide social events aren’t the norm, it might be a bit of a shock to your new employees to be expected to attend such gatherings. Have as thorough an understanding as possible of the norms, culture, and rules of your new location

3. Ask the right interview questions

Whether you interview candidates in-person or over video conferencing, interviews let you get to know potential hires better. For that reason, you must ask the right questions during the interview. Ask questions that give you background information about the candidates’ work experience, talents, and any projects they had success with.

While you want to get to know the candidate, you want to steer clear of any interview questions that violate the country’s employment or equal opportunity laws. The specific rules differ from place to place, but it’s generally best to avoid questions about a person’s personal life, family, religion, or political beliefs.

4. Complete the onboarding process

After you’ve found candidates to bring onto your team, it’s time to onboard them and get things up and running. After candidates have signed an offer letter, your Employer of Record can step in to handle the onboarding process, ensuring that your newest hires are ready to start working and that all the appropriate HR paperwork gets filed.

Prioritize engagement with your new team

Once you source your exceptional local talent, you want to keep them with you. Here are a few strategies that we have utilized at Globalization Partners as we’ve grown:

1. Offer excellent employment benefits

Get creative with your benefits. It’s often difficult for growing businesses to offer massive benefit packages that will draw in new candidates — so think outside of the box. However, you need to be sure the benefits you offer are appropriate for your chosen country. Your Employer of Record can ensure that the benefit packages you offer international hires align with the country’s laws and norms. For example, employees in Country A might need to receive 10 days of paid vacation annually, plus a pension plan from their employer. Employees in Country B might need 15 days of paid time off, but employers aren’t expected to provide a pension plan.

2. Provide training and growth opportunities

You can help get your company’s newest hires off on the right foot by giving them the training they need to understand the expectations of the job. The initial training you offer can also introduce the new team members to your company’s culture.

As your company continues to grow, it’s a smart idea to allow your first hires to grow, as well. Continue to offer training to help your first employees grow in their careers. Providing continuing education opportunities to your team members means that they are prepared to step in and fill leadership positions as the need arises.

3. Keep everyone on the same page

Hold weekly department meetings and monthly all-staff meetings. Regular team meetings help keep everyone on the same page about what’s going on with the company and help to increase employee engagement. You can use these meetings as a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of certain team members and to check in with how people are doing with their projects.

4. Check-in with employees often

In addition to training programs and regular team meetings, set aside time to check in with team members individually. Quarterly review sessions allow you to assess your employees’ performance and hear about any concerns they have.

During these review meetings, you can give your team members feedback and discuss ways to grow with them. They can also share any issues they have or any areas they are working on. At the end of the meeting, take a few minutes to set goals with the employee. At the next review, you can circle back to those goals to see how they are doing.

Every hire is critical in your organization, especially with your first hire in a country. Most managers and business leaders don’t have the luxury of making a lot of mistakes. Investing the time and energy it takes to create exceptional teams will set the tone of your local company culture for years to come and greatly impact your chances for success. Good products and services make things possible, but good people make things happen!

You find the candidate. We find the way.

Globalization Partners’ Global Expansion Platform™  enables you to hire in more than 187 countries within days, and without the need to set up costly International subsidiaries. You identify great talent anywhere in the world, and we put them on our fully compliant global payroll — lifting the burden of global corporate tax, legal, and HR matters from your shoulders to ours.

Globalization Partners: we make global expansion fast and easy—get in touch with us today.

For more information regarding hiring and managing global talent, download our Global Hiring Handbook here:

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