Are You Globally Mobile? The Realities of Bringing Talent from Abroad

By Amelia Chan, CHRP

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with international talent is thinking there is one silver bullet or golden solution for all parties involved. The simple truth is that the due diligence of employers, and the scope of that diligence, is the real caveat for successfully tapping the global potential.

This puts the onus of foresight on HR. How the human resources processes (starting with recruitment) are managed sets the tone for the overall individual experience, cultural integration and future success.

Bring HR in From Outset
As we are experiencing with immigration programs and company policies, problems emerge when little due diligence is conducted before “zero hour.”  This happens most often when HR is not brought into the loop until too many crucial decisions have been made. Most of these endeavours pass or fail at the moment of truth, and narrowly proceed with little bit of luck rather than careful preparation.

While the global mobility function exists in larger, international and established organizations, it is still a relatively new concept for some.  Even when the opportunity becomes apparent, the mindset can lag. While organizations think of the external customer, they often forget about the “employee” as a customer.  As a result, the people component is still an after-thought when it comes to resourcing, planning and strategy.

Moreover, while the opportunities opened up through the Internet and the technologies at play in the modern work world, the prospect and reality of working with foreign talent is still new.  Diversity, innovation and forward-thinking so often applied in the technology realm is too rarely extended to more human considerations—without HR’s involvement from the outset.

Expectations at Work
While trust and rapport are universally regarded as key, the intensity, and often speed, required to mobilize a foreign worker, often puts those crucial elements into the background.
This makes it vital to constantly source and gauge the feedback to ensure all parties and processes are on the same page.  If this doesn’t happen, unrealistic expectations take over and things can turn sour.

Without understanding the parties involved—especially when distance is a factor—it is impossible for the transition experience to go smoothly.  This disconnect causes frustration, but more importantly, the original objective of supporting people talent—either through project assignment, permanent transfer or new hire—gets forgotten.

Hitting the Ground Running
Everyone involved in the global mobility equation—from the recruiting team to the department of the new hire—expect the “experienced” talent to hit the ground running with little or no support.  While is difficult enough for a local hire from the same city to start a new job, it is extremely challenging for a foreign hire to do so without extra support.

Onboarding and orientation need to be even better planned for those coming from abroad. This must start with the hiring team because the first touch point sets the tone for success. Prior to making a decision to source candidates from outside the country, and job requirements aside, the relocation needs must be well understood in order to chart the course.

How it All “Fits”
New hires from abroad require particular consideration if they are to be successfully integrated. This is a partnership that works only with the active involvement of the employer and the employee. Cultural issues aside, even the seasoned professional traveler faces a host of considerations when preparing for a more permanent departure.

To support a smooth transition into the workplace, a whole spectrum of “daily realities” need to be considered and prepared for—from practical grocery shopping to driving etiquette to organizational expectations and business norms. Getting acquainted and enmeshed into the cultural and professional landscape takes work.

The new hire also has to consider the impact of his/her new work on their family.  Experienced and established professionals are a package deal, they come with partners, children and extended family. Home life influences, and often supersedes, career choices.  If the opportunity isn’t ideal for everyone, another job opportunity may be selected.

In this day and age, work and life have to coincide.  If not, there are other choices out there, especially for those who are in demand. As per the Millennial generation, which is is very aware that there is more to life than work, companies need to realize that their employees are no longer willing to sacrifice their personal goals for the sake of the organization as in the past.

Needs to be Part of a Bigger Strategy
Businesses need flexibility to be competitive in the global market place because experienced talent has more options to choose from than most.  Rigid notions about employment and the speed of work don’t appeal to the very people who organizations are trying to attract.

As a result, organizations and governments need to rethink how they design their teams, structure their work arrangements and market to candidates.  In a candidate market (where there are more jobs than qualified applicants), it is vital that employers start with realistic expectations.

Lesson From the Global Mobility Trenches

It’s like every other recruitment, but bigger, bolder and with more at stake. Undertaking global mobility projects involves more than just work permits and plane tickets. Corporate responsibility and global reputation is increasingly in the forefront.

Take back control and put human needs above all else. While foreign hires may be more risk-taking by nature, they also have more pressure to succeed.

Push back with hiring managers and recruitment teams. Global mobility requires the HR professional to advocate more than usual to keep thing in perspective.  Functional responsibility requires the other roles to take an operations approach.  The HR professional has the global view within the organization here.

Know when to walk away as your credibility and respect depend on it. Not all candidates or positions are suitable for a foreign worker.  The reality might require resourcing to train up to take the long view instead of buying the talent.  Management must understand why they are choosing this route and its commitment as it costs more in time, resources and effort.

Little Things Make Big Difference
Even with the best efforts, failure may happen but it isn’t inevitable.  A planned strategy to minimize the risks is a must.  Every relocation, big or small, has different considerations for the people, organization and resources; having the practical things such as moving expenses and settlement needs taken care of makes a big difference.

However, it will always be the intangibles which clinch the job-offer decision. Companies that handle the recruitment experience with sensitivity and personal attention have the upper hand in this light.  Remember: it is the people—not just the company or job—that a new hire signs on to work with.

Amelia Chan, CHRP, RCIC is founder and principal consultant of Higher Options Consulting Services, providing a wide range of HR and immigration services for small to mid-sized businesses.

(PeopleTalk Summer 2016)

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