How to tackle cultural barriers when expanding internationally

Kelly Barcelos on January 16, 2020 in Applicant Tracking System

With tools like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and video conferencing now becoming commonplace in our workplaces,it feels like the world is getting a little smaller every day. Thanks to these new tools, businesses can now communicate and collaborate with workers in offices on the other side of the planet as if they’re sitting beside them.

This increased connectivity means that many long-standing hurdles to international expansion have been removed, or at the very least, lowered.Gaps are being bridged, and the global marketplace is becoming more accessible—penetrating new markets and taking advantage of non-domestic customer bases is fast becoming mandatory for businesses to grow and stay competitive. In fact, almost three in every five small businesses already have international customers.

These barrier-smashing advancements are essential for helping your employees work together in harmony wherever they are in the world, but before you start connecting your global workforce, you need to hire them. And no matter how many cultural barriers you’ve vaulted to ready your businesses for the international stage, hiring new staff is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Creating a global culture

No matter how well-connected your global employees are, cultural barriers are always to be expected. To a certain extent, these differences in outlook, working styles, and attitudes are to be celebrated. Having global employees is a privilege and a tremendous asset to your business. They provide local expertise and vital insight into the markets you’ve grown into—you just need to make sure that you’re offsetting the kind of distinctions that can become roadblocks.

That’s where having the right leadership is important. During our own expansion, we’ve always tried to mix home-grown employees with local talent. Your long-term employees know how you operate, and you’ll need employees who’re familiar with your new customer base to complement that.

Our strategy has been to export fantastic people who’ve internalized our values and proven themselves to be great leaders, so that they can lead by example in our new international hubs. Lead your global hubs with the same vision and standards you would on your own turf, acknowledge that what’s worked for you before may not yield the same results away from home, and be ready to adapt your management style appropriately.

Hiring in parts unknown

If you’re looking to build a team that you can trust to operate and represent your business halfway across the world, then you really need to take care when you’re hiring.

In an ideal world, you’d spend time in your target location, finding out about local working culture and meeting the best talent. The world isn’t always ideal, though, so you might find yourself needing to fortify your hiring drive with additional resources.

One way to do this is to partner with a local staffing firm, preferably one with experience in your industry. Engaging recruiters who know the area, the market, and the ins-and-outs of regional employment law.

Technology is your friend in these cases too. Smart recruiting software that enables you to get your vacancies in the right places, schedule interviews, and connect with candidates can be massively helpful when you’re hiring in unfamiliar locales. Many even help you to screen candidates remotely by issuing questionnaires or conducting video interviews.

These sort of tools can go a long way toward assessing cultural fit, even when you’re oceans away. Sizing up candidates and people who areamenable, keen to collaborate, and share your company’s vision will make alleviating any potential culture clashes much easier.

Do as the Romans, but don’t lose your identity

Expansion is a really crucial time. It’s almost like starting over again, putting yourself out there in a new market, in a new country. Everything needs to be right for your expansion to succeed, and to thrive you have to strike a balance between preserving your brand and flexing to accommodate cultural differences between your domestic and global teams. The aim should be to duplicate your success in a new landscape, but there’s a certain degree of “when in Rome” flexibility that needs to be allowed.

James Lloyd-Townshend is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of global staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group. A graduate in economics and accounting from the University of Newcastle, James has 20 years of experience in staffing and recruitment, having worked his way up from recruitment consultant to managing director in just eight years.

Kelly Barcelos

Kelly Barcelos is a progressive digital marketing manager specializing in HR and is responsible for leading Jobsoid’s content and social media team. When Kelly is not building campaigns, she is busy creating content and preparing PR topics. She started with Jobsoid as a social media strategist and eventually took over the entire digital marketing team with her innovative approach and technical expertise.