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When work crosses borders: the pitfalls and perils

Posted by: ADP on 16 March 2017 in Human Capital Management, Human Resources, Multinational & Globalization

The workplace is expanding, across physical borders and time zones. Whilst working across multiple jurisdictions brings with it phenomenal bonuses, it can also be a huge challenge for employers. How exactly do you get it right?

Having an international workforce offers strength after strength. Firstly, an organisation which can offer global expertise is far more valuable than one with a specific and siloed focus. In any kind of service industry, offering an intricate understanding of procedures and customs in a number of countries is priceless. More significantly, in today’s business climate, flexibility should be your greatest ally, and having a distributed workforce can give you the agility needed to thrive. Your working hours can follow the sun, and you have the ability to tap into hotspots of talent as and when you need them.

Beyond all these significant pros, your workers want to have experience across borders. European employees have a ravenous appetite for international work, as our latest research shows that almost three quarters (74%) would consider other countries for career opportunities. This rises to a staggering 87% of 16-24 year olds. When thinking about the needs and desires of your employees – a fluid, international workforce is key.

Here are three things you should look out for, to ensure working across borders really works for you:

  1. Keep abreast of culture

The most obvious stumbling block with an international workforce is the difficulties that emerge trying to expand company culture. This challenge must be taken very seriously, as culture is ultimately what retains and attracts the best talent, who share your values and purpose. Different languages, regional values, customs and practices can make connecting the factions of your business a complex web.

Desires and needs shift drastically from country to country, even within the same continent. For example, almost two thirds of workers in Poland (65%) are most motivated by pay and remuneration, while in contrast, only 40% of Spanish workers say money is their most important factor.

Similarly, working norms can shift massively from country to country. The Netherlands is the most flexible place to work in Europe, with the highest proportion of home workers (20%) and those working flexible hours (33%). At the other end of the scale, Polish workers have the least location flexibility, with over two thirds (69%) working in a fixed location. Ensure you’re up to scratch on what the general working style is in each country whilst acknowledging the desires of each worker.

  1. Don’t force it while facilitating it

Despite the overwhelming interest across Europe in international work, over a quarter of employees (26%) would still never actually consider working abroad. Demanding an international mindset from a number of workers can be isolating and disheartening.

From a quick chat at the water cooler, to a coffee, a team building day or just a bit of office banter, positive office relationships are still critical to motivating employees. Almost a third of employees feel that relationships with colleagues are the key motivational factor – the second highest motivator for European employees. Ensure each office, region and country holds on to an independent sense of culture, meaning it can build real and lasting relationships, allowing some face-to-face meetings, something much harder when done via teleconference.

  1. Technology is your best friend

Speaking of teleconferencing, good cross-border communication is one way to prevent some of these problems. Organisations should ensure that mobile technology is adequately in place for colleagues to really talk. This is vital when your people can’t just walk along the corridor to resolve an issue.

Possibly as a direct result of the need to communicate better, mobile devices top the wish list from employees when it comes to improving workplace technology. One in three feel their employer should invest in laptops (32%), while one in five (21%) want their employer to invest in smartphones and tablets (21%).

Despite the cries that we are now welcoming the age of the fourth industrial revolution, employees are still irritated by slow (30%) and outdated technology (23%), and slow internet connection (22%). Its high-time organisations ensure they can truly define themselves as ‘modern.’

Working in an international environment can be immensely rewarding – both for employees and the company itself. But in order to reap the rewards, it’s important to an environment that can facilitate multicultural and multi-location employees. Regular feedback and actively listening to your employees’ needs goes a long way, ensuring a seamlessly operating workforce.

Local MD

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TAGS: Work crosses borders

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