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The International Entrepreneur – 5 Tips to Motivate Global Telecommuting Workers

International Entrepreneur - Tips to Motivate Global Telecommuting Workers

 

Sam checked the time on his phone – 5:00am. As he sipped his coffee, Sam prepared for his phone call with Chloe in Ireland, his EMEA Regional Director. Since his software company had expanded globally last year, Sam was needing to manage new employees in new markets.

Sam?s problem was that he never felt like he could trust these new workers like he could his on-site staff. Sam had tried to solve this by implementing a detailed reporting process. That way, he would know exactly what Chloe and her counterpart in Hong Kong, Yang ?Oliver? Jun, were doing with their time. He also invited them to daily leadership conference calls, which they both regularly attended.

Sam wanted these foreign employees to feel included as part of the team, even though meetings were well outside of regular business hours. Sam felt the bristled tone as he and Chloe exchanged greetings. But how could Sam motivate his global remote-based workers to the productivity levels of his home office staff?

 

The Promise & Perils of Global Remote Employees

International employees in remote offices around the world present interesting opportunities and challenges. Companies are realizing that they can access a much larger talent pool when they offer telecommuting positions. And when expanding into new international markets, remote-based staff can be incrementally added based on a growing understanding of a new market?s potential for market access, supplier access, capital access, etc.

As Sam is discovering, managing from afar is not as simple as it appears. A leader does not have the same level of access to their staff. Throw in a half dozen time zones to cross and timing becomes an additional hurdle to online collaboration and supervision. The trick is to focus productivity and performance outcomes. With that in mind, here are:

 

5 Tips for motivating your global workers:

1. ?Set Clear Expectations and Stretch Goals. This is particularly critical for global employees because local business rules and culture are always different than at the home office. For instance, American companies have to set strongly worded company policies that comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), else American company offices could face harsh penalties and criminal charges in the United States.

Setting quantifiable goals for all staff takes the focus off of the ?how? things are done and instead focuses on ?what? needs to be accomplished. In other words, build whatever type of boat you want, but sail to Port A by Tuesday.

2. Hire employees overseas with a successful telecommuting track record. Add it to the job requirements and to the interview questions for candidates. Working remotely takes self discipline and independence. Not everyone is meant for this work environment.

3. Conference Calls and Complicated Reporting do not increase engagement, only resentment. Conference calls take away people?s ability to read non-verbal communication signals. When navigating between work cultures, these signals give international staff instantaneous feedback so that they can make real-time adjustments to communications. Without that, remote staff are flying in the blind and likely frustrated.

Reporting can be a helpful management tool. But more reporting rarely improves results. One EMEA Regional Director complained to me that he spent every Friday just creating the complex reports for his American home office. The extra reporting not only reduced his productivity, but his motivation as well.

4. Face-to-Face Video Conferencing builds trust and fosters problem solving. Time and again, a 1:1 video conversation with an employee is the best forum for asking and answering questions, setting expectations and reacting to updates – both positive and negative. To make the most of video time, send updates ahead of time for staff to read and digest the information. Regularly scheduled video calls?several times per week are best when it?s practical.

5. Don?t set your foreign employees up as independent contractors. Most countries do not allow employees to work separately as contractors because it circumvents local labor laws and employer taxation. Imagine what it would feel like when your company?s first request of you is to do something illegal on their behalf. Instead, either register an in-country subsidiary or hire them through Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO).

 

Back to Sam, our software company CEO and his new Asian and European Directors? he needs to call back Chloe as a video call to allow for face-to-face dialog. This will help him build greater rapport. Sam can ask questions about her progress on building her region for the company, as well as how it?s going working remotely. By asking the right questions, now much of the extra reporting can be eliminated, adding to Chloe and Oliver?s productivity. By receiving the review of yesterday?s management meeting, Chloe had time to think about how decisions would affect her region and was able to formulate better questions for Sam. Now both Sam and Chloe felt like their conversation had moved issues forward and improved their working relationship.

In time, a successful director will need to add local staff in an overseas market. But these first few employees are critical to long-term overseas growth. Their engagement needs to be a leadership priority.

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The International Entrepreneur – Improving Employee Engagement in Your Global Workforce

Improving Employee Engagement in your Global Workforce

I knew from the way that Pedro in the Mexico City office the phone that something had turned for the worst. Pedro?s voice sounded low and muttled – preoccupied and low energy compared with our recent interactions. Pedro and his colleagues had recently been missing key details in our shared projects. They just seemed? well? disengaged from their tasks. I picked up the phone to call someone I knew from the company?s leadership team.

 

A Pandemic of Disengaged Zombie Workers

Pedro and his colleagues are not the exception. They are unfortunately the norm. Studies by Gallop, Deloitte, Dale Carnegie and others all point to the staggering lack of employee engagement in the United States. These studies all show 70%+ of workers surveyed consider themselves unengaged at work.

As a company breaks through from startup to growth stage, its leaders often discuss how to preserve that ?entrepreneurial culture? – its key success factor.?Translated:

We don?t want to lose that sense of individual employee contribution and drive to beat the odds.

We?re talking about the essence of employee engagement. According to Dale Carnegie Training, U.S. companies with engaged employees outperform non-engaging companies by 202%.

 

Globally The Disengagement Issue Compounds

Most growth-stage companies eventually start taking global markets seriously, opening overseas offices and hiring local staff. Here is where the employee engagement challenges start to compound. A disappointing 13% of international employees feel engaged in their jobs according to Gallup?s State of the Global Workplace.

There are factors to consider to improve global worker engagement, productivity and accountability:

  1. Motivators Vary – Money is often a strong work motivator world wide. If paid what we feel is a fair, market rate for our efforts, then we are likely motivated. But most of us want more than that. We may want opportunities to learn new skills, job stability, and career advancement. Most of us want some work-life balance and a good work environment.
    But beyond that, motivators may be quite different. For instance, in group-oriented cultures where team projects are preferred to individual efforts (Japan). Some cultures expect a relaxed atmosphere (Jamaica) while others want intense work time and a shorter workweek (Germany).
  2. Management Styles Vary – For most Americans, the most energy-draining management style is being closely supervised while also verbally reprimanded in front of peers over seemingly minor mistakes. Yet this is common in India. Indian managers overseeing non-Indian staff learn to modify their style via coaching or negative results. ?Likewise, American managers are not always viewed in the same way as they would be in an American-only environment. Engaged employees normally trust their leaders. Building trust changes based on culture. Know what?s expected.
  3. Language and Communication Styles Vary – ?Are you sitting in your seat??, is a curious question at the onset of my colleague?s international team calls. While an interesting way to ask if everyone is ready, there are other linguistic challenges that cause breaches in trust and motivation. One of the bigger challenges in communications is between indirect and direct?communicators. Direct (ex. Dutch, Israeli) often say what they are thinking and value sincerity. They find indirect communicators annoying. Indirect (ex. Japan, Ghana) typically avoid saying anything embarrassing to themselves or the other party. They value courtesy and respecting others. They find the direct communicators often rude and untrustworthy. Working with those you can?t trust reduces engagement.

 

Who in the Organization Should Fix This Issue?

Disengagement is often a company-wide issue, affecting operations, financials, customer engagement and other key functions. It needs to be discussed at the executive level. The Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) has a key role to play in offering solutions in terms of hiring criteria, employee onboarding, cross-cultural communications training and conflict resolution. And finally, local office managers need to be coached on global management skills.

 

How to Increase Employee Engagement Worldwide

All is not lost to office zombies! Here are my ideas to re-engage:

  1. Hire the right people overseas. Even within an overseas market, there is always a wide candidate pool variance. If your company values high energy staff or a connection to your mission or customer focus, then search for that match in international hires too.
  2. Ask the right questions and then listen to the answers. When an office or staff member seems out of alignment with the rest of the company, it?s the time to ask: ?What do you think about…:?? ?Can you see a better way to do??? ?What would help you to feel more engaged in your job?? If it?s possible to fix the situation by conversation, then it saves the company the cost of replacing another employee.
  3. Learn the cultural basics of your global offices. Instead of assuming sameness, find out what the differences are to head off future conflict and energy drains. An easy Internet search will provide basic information on a country?s business culture.
  4. Take input from all locations for company goals and employee reward systems. Part of employee engagement is ownership in the company?s outcomes and processes. Solicit input and credit great ideas from outside of the HQ office.
  5. Explain why decisions are being made and how a decision fits into the long-term strategy. Since business rules change from country to country, it helps to explain that context in which your company leaders make their decisions. Decisions that don?t seem to make sense are a major demotivater.

 

Often executives of growing companies assume that global offices and employees are all from the same home culture. Few international employees will speak up when they feel that internal culture clash for fear of losing their jobs. Instead, disengagement sets in. Instead of accepting zombie employees as an inevitable byproduct of company growth and success, it?s time to use knowledge and communications to engage and inspire throughout your organization.

 

Onward and upward,

Becky DeStigter

 

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The International Entrepreneur ? Interview with Safeguard World International?s CEO, Bjorn Reynolds

Bjorn Reynolds, Safeguard World International, GEO, global HR, This week I have?the pleasure to interview company founder and international entrepreneur, Bjorn Reynolds. Bjorn started his international payroll and HR management company in the UK. Now the company has grown to serve 165 countries.

?

The International Entrepreneur (TIE)- Bjorn, since many may not know about Global Employment Outsourcing as a fast track to foreign market entry, can you describe how it works??

Bjorn Reynolds (BR)- GEO allows our clients to outsource their international employment responsibilities. From local employment contracts, to paying the actual employee and managing the statutory payroll deductions and managing and providing guidance on any HR issues ? all managed through our network of carefully vetted and in-house partners in over 165 countries. What this means for the end client is that they can outsource the entire employment responsibility and process to SafeGuard, all without having to register a local entity and navigate the bureaucratic headaches that such a process typically brings.

 

TIE – As the originator of the GEO employment model, can you tell us how you and your team at Safeguard World International found this market need and innovated the GEO solution?

BR – Our identification of the GEO market was primarily two fold:

1)??????We observed a demand from our clients for contingent labour that they could deploy on their medium and short term projects. Historically multinationals have turned to Independent Contractors, particularly in countries where they do not have an entity established, agreements of which frequently fell foul of employment law due to unfamiliarity with local rules and regulations. We devised the service to help our clients hire individuals on a temporary basis and in a compliant manner, removing them from any potential risks and fines associated with the utilization of IC?s.

2)??????Clients were encountering difficulties going global and expanding their business into new countries. Expansion into new territories if often a daunting and complex task ? setting up bank accounts, registering entities with the local authorities and navigating local rules, regulations and cultures is a considerable undertaking for any organisation, no matter their size and amount of available resource.

 

 

TIE – ?What is the biggest challenge you currently hear from companies expanding their global talent teams?

BR – The biggest challenges that we continually hear pertain around ?how to? and navigating the local rules and complexities that are frequently encountered when expanding into a new country for the first time ? even for large multinationals. From an appreciation and understanding of cultural, time zone and language barriers to understanding what needs to be provided to employees both from a statutory and customary perspective in order to attract and retain the best talent. Coupled with the daunting prospect of completing all the necessary registrations and tax remittances, companies are often deterred from following through on their intentions to expand into a new country.

 

TIE – As a leader in your field, can you give any advice to companies who are planning their first international expansion?

BR – Many organisations often feel like expanding internationally is out of reach ? they don?t have the resources or expertise in order to grow their business on the international stage. This simply isn?t true. While it?s certainly worth noting that international expansion should be a carefully considered and evaluated decision, especially when exploring the time it would take to expand and register your business in a new country, by partnering with the right expert, such as SafeGuard, SME?s and startups should no longer fear taking their business into new territories. With GEO the world becomes truly borderless and I love helping companies not only make their first foray into foreign markets, but also reap the benefits that international expansion can bring to an organisation.

 

About Bjorn Reynolds

Bjorn is the Founder and Chief Guardian of SafeGuard World International. A recognised industry leader and strategist for the global payroll markets, Bjorn?s passion for payroll is the driving force behind SGWI?s vision, strategy and culture, instilling his enthusiasm for Service Excellence and success throughout the organisation. His?entrepreneurship led SGWI to a prominent?position in the U.K. Sunday Times ?Virgin Fast Track 100? and he has been personally recognized in the ?Payroll Top 50? by?Payroll Magazine?and?as a ?Game Changer? by?WorkforceMagazine. During his early career, Bjorn worked for HFC Bank (part?of the Global HSBC Group) where he was quickly promoted to branch?manager after one year in post ? the youngest ever Branch manager at HFC?in its history.??He later?ran marketing and channel functions within the HR and payroll space for one of the top three global payroll and HR service providers.

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The International Entrepreneur ? Keeping Your Global Project Staff Locally Compliant

global HR, international compliance, international trade, GEO

Tim was a chemical engineer just starting his career. ?He was working for a beverage additive company in Milwaukee, USA. Having already studied abroad for a year at the Instituto Tecnol?gico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (M?xico), Tim was open to the idea of moving to east Germany when his company proposed it. He and his four engineer colleagues went to investigate setting up a production facility near Dresden. Why Dresden? The German government was providing incentives to foreign companies to invest in the former East Germany to build up the economy.

Tim was excited about this opportunity to help his company expand internationally, but one thing kept nagging in the back of his mind. The company hadn?t done any paperwork to get Tim and his colleagues work visas for Germany. Even as a novice to the work world, the lack of proper documentation was a clear risk to Tim as a project engineer. Tim brought it up to management and to the HR department. ?We?re working on it? ? was the response.

Tim stayed in Germany for six months helping the team to evaluate facility options. But the company still didn?t seem to care about the glaring compliance issue. Tim decided it was time to move on to another job at a company where he wouldn?t be put in this type of compromised position.

Later that year, the German authorities confronted the American team, asking to see work visas and other registration paperwork. The company was issued hefty fines. A few of the staff?had returned to the U.S., but the German government caught up with the last two engineers as they were leaving. They were initially detained and individually fined and required to leave Germany.

 

Why would a company not issue work visas to staff working overseas?

This beverage additive company was obviously negligent of their duties under local laws as well as to their employees. But up until a few years ago, companies had to form an in-country subsidiary to legally employ workers in Germany or any other country for that matter. That involves registration processes, a series of fees, legal work, and who-knows-what-else. It can be a time-consuming process that also locks a company in to doing business in that market until the entity is dissolved (which also costs time and money).

The Milwaukee company was not sure if the Dresden project was going to even be successful. It turns out that it wasn?t. ?So they took a chance with their employees to avoid registration. But it was a big risk not only for the company, but for those employees as well. This was in Germany ? a country of clear-cut rules. What if this had been Bolivia or Egypt where government application of rules is not so consistent?

 

GEO can keep your global project staff compliant

Now companies don?t have to register a foreign entity to send their project engineers and other staff to work overseas. They also don?t need to know the exact local employment laws either. A few years ago a new service was born ? GEO (Global Employment Outsourcing). In this service,?the GEO company hires your employees in the foreign country where they?ll be working and assigns them back to your company. The GEO company is the Employer of Record, providing payroll services. The employees are paid in the local currency and your company pays in one of the major world currencies like US dollars, British pounds or Euros. The GEO makes all the proper payments to local government for any social costs and stays fully compliant with local requirements.

The?cost of GEO is typically far less than country subsidiary registration and eventual country exit. It?s ideal for implementation projects and researching a new potential foreign market. GEO was pioneered by Safeguard World International, and has spawned a new industry.

 

Final word to internationally deployed project staff

If you don?t already know, be sure to check your employment compliance. All countries have rules related to how much time someone can stay in country working without applying and receiving the right work permits. Most companies do not yet know about the GEO compliance/payroll option, I encourage you to share that with your employer if you suspect a compliance issue.

Tim, the young chemical engineer, did the right thing. He told his superiors and HR department. In the long run, it?s not worth working for a company that would put you at financial and legal risk in a foreign country.

 

As a footnote, today Tim is a successful Vice President of Marketing and Sales for a growing US Midwest engineering firm. He travels extensively for work around the world.

 

Becky DeStigter, The International Entrepreneur

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