Companies often choose to outsource labour, tapping into skilled workforces abroad. These international employees can perform the same tasks at a fraction of the cost. This helps the company’s financial performance. Nevertheless, employing overseas workers can introduce complications, particularly for HR.

Nonetheless, it is possible to overcome these challenges and maintain smooth operations throughout the entire workforce. For instance, if the HR department is located in a different country from a segment of the organization’s workforce, the department personnel must familiarize themselves with local employment laws and cultural norms. Additionally, logistical concerns related to day-to-day administration can further burden the HR department.  Thus necessitating the hiring of additional staff. In other cases, companies like Tier One Outsourcing are used to manage international employees. There are still several strategies that should be implemented.  These strategies should be to integrate the work of overseas staff with the company as a whole.

Typically, an HR department oversees the entire employee life cycle, including hiring, training, payroll, disciplinary actions, and layoffs. But what about overseas workers? These are some key responsibilities that the HR department should fulfil for international employees..

Facilitate communication between individuals or departments

Even if some of its employees work overseas, a company’s workforce needs to function as a cohesive whole. Some international employees are hired on an individual basis and only make up a tiny percentage of the organization’s workforce. Other international workers make up entire departments of a company, such as sales or customer service. 

In either case, the HR department should make them feel like they’re part of the company just as much as on-location employees. One way for them to do this is by facilitating communication, such as with an online platform that helps with management, feedback, meetings, etc. This gives employees the opportunity for two-way participation in the company, no matter where they’re working from. 

Time zone differences should also be taken into account. A morning meeting in one country could be scheduled at 11 PM in another. With this in mind, HR should hire people who are flexible enough to take meetings at irregular hours. If not, then they should plan for asynchronous communication.

Bridge language barriers

This is one of the most basic obstacles that an international workforce could encounter – not being able to communicate in the same language. However, there are solutions to this, which an HR department can use to encourage a more cohesive workforce. For example, focusing on written communications over spoken communications makes translation easier; nobody gets put on the spot to respond in a language they’re unfamiliar with. There are also translation tools that work in real time, which could be used in video or voice calls.

Improve cultural awareness

Most people don’t even have to think about observing their cultural norms, and this is often the approach they take with other cultures as well. An HR department should provide training for all employees on important cultural norms to avoid accidentally offending. Even the most innocent gesture could be taken the wrong way by someone from another culture. For example, wishing someone a happy birthday before their actual birthday is thought to be a jinx in Russia and Germany. In China, giving someone a watch as a gift is an insult because the word for “clock” is similar to the word for “paying last respects”. Then there’s the issue of dress codes, which vary widely across cultures (especially for women). By making sure employees are aware of their co-workers’ cultural norms, there will be a much smaller chance of someone taking offence where none was meant.

Comply with international labour laws

Each country has set its own labour laws.  These laws apply to citizens of that country.  They apply whether or not they work for international companies. An HR department will have to get acquainted with an entirely new set of regulations for overseas workers.  From laws governing overtime compensation to the correct tax rates to calculate on each paycheck. Mistakes in this area could lead to dissatisfied employees. Mistakes can also lead to lawsuits or a tarnished brand image, so it’s important to get this right.

Be aware of employment expectations

In addition to “culture” in the typical sense, overseas workers will also be used to a certain type of work culture. For example, in Japan, it’s rare for office workers to leave when the workday is technically over; most of them stay for a while longer to show their dedication to their jobs. In some countries, salaries are calculated for 13 months instead of 12 – the law requires that employees get an additional month’s payment at the end of each year. Other examples include payroll reporting frequency, awarding of annual leave, mandatory pension contributions, and overtime compensation rates. Some of them are mandated by law, while others are just expectations. Whatever the case, the HR department must know the ins and outs of these expectations. This shows overseas workers that they’re valued and understood, rather than feeling taken for granted by a corporation that doesn’t care about their well-being.

Create a healthy work environment

Part of an HR department’s job is to ensure that employees are satisfied as well as productive. This can be a bit harder for international employees, but it can still be done. Virtual events can be held for different departments to meet and interact, or in-person events can be organized. There should also be ample opportunities for employees to submit feedback on policies, supervisors, workloads, and more. This encourages participation and gives everyone a voice on important issues. 

The takeaway

An effective HR department can help employees in any country; sometimes, it just might take some extra effort. With the right strategies and a commitment to employee satisfaction, an HR department can ensure that their company keeps working smoothly.