Recruiting internationally: Considerations for businesses

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Katherine Ellis, COO, WOLF (The World’s Online Festival) shares the lessons learned after the London based startup looked overseas for its talent.

One of the biggest challenges that businesses are experiencing today is recruitment. Described as The Great Resignation, the UK has seen higher-than-usual numbers of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs since the pandemic, which is having a huge impact on businesses finding and retaining talent.

There is much speculation around how the economic trend started, with many experts believing it has been fuelled by the rise of flexible working expectations, cost of living and Brexit – factors which aren’t going to disappear anytime soon.

While The Great Resignation has affected industries across the board, it has hit some businesses more than others. My role is in the tech sector which has been hit particularly hard. The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of many businesses which rapidly increased the demand for skilled people who have the capability to develop and create online products and services. This has resulted in an increase in talent commanding higher salaries, more benefits and greater flexibility than some are willing to offer. I’ve seen how difficult this is for smaller companies in particular to compete – and survive. 

At WOLF, we experienced those challenges firsthand when we looked to recruit software engineers, where demand in the UK has rocketed. Brexit had already made it difficult for development resource to move across borders into the UK, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a further loss of resource as Ukrainian talent had to leave the industry and go to war. 

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So, we turned our attention to the Middle East. We already operated there so it made sense for us to recruit our talent there. In doing so we have learned valuable lessons for international recruitment. The process will depend on the region you look to operate in, but here are five considerations for businesses to acknowledge:

1. Setting up tax entities

Hiring talent that live and work outside of the UK can present some payroll complexities. The tax requirements will depend on the tax rules of the country the employee lives in – not yours.  It sounds complicated but, if the foreign employee has never worked or lived in the UK, then they are not liable for UK taxes. In this instance, the UK company may be required to set up a legal entity in the employee’s country. The process varies depending on where the employees are located and can include registering with local authorities, opening a local bank account, appointing a local director and then setting up the relevant processes such as payroll, contracts etc.

2. Understand the local talent pool

Understanding local cultures, values and priorities is key when looking abroad for your hires.  Cultural nuances can be a crucial factor in how you approach a prospective employee, how you communicate with them and in the longer term, how you work with them. A lack of cultural consideration could cause a misunderstanding that could inadvertently detract a strong candidate away from your company.

3. Talk the talk

Localising the application process to the first languages of your international recruiting targets is a must. It means job posts will be written correctly and investment in a credible translation service will help you to understand the applications and candidates will be able to communicate with your personnel teams based in the UK.

4. Research the country’s training opportunities

When looking at where you place your international recruitment efforts, research the training opportunities that are on offer in that market. Your new recruit may need additional training to bring them up to speed with certain systems and processes so it’s worth looking at what requirements you’ll have and whether they are available in the country your employee resides in.

5. Approach markets where help can be two-way

On the flip side of the recruitment coin, the US tech sector is currently enforcing hiring freezes and a pool of American tech talent is unfortunately facing layoffs. UK businesses that are struggling to find talent at home could look to the States and help those workers remain in the sector. It could also help businesses from a productivity perspective if time differences mean work is being carried out around the clock.

While the UK economy faces continued challenges, the switch to recruiting internationally can open a wealth of opportunity for businesses over here. It may seem daunting, but businesses must look to the ‘why’ – it can open up the company to new markets, offer greater diversity and provide access to a worldwide pool of talent. The world is open so go for it.

About the author

Katherine Ellis is Chief Operating Officer for WOLF (The World’s Online Festival), overseeing the operational structure of the business and running the app’s user group operations. Her career in tech spans over two decades which began after graduating from Leeds University with a first-class honours degree in Mathematics.

Katherine Ellis

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