In today’s global world, companies are simultaneously adopting remote and hybrid working models and expanding beyond their borders. This combination of international expansion and the ability to hire people from anywhere creates a more diverse workforce.

To build and support their workforces, multi-national companies can scale their global HR operations from a central location or create localized systems and processes for each of their sites around the world.

Each approach introduces a wide range of challenges that HR professionals in global companies need to overcome, from adhering to local laws and regulations to building cohesive company cultures across different countries.

Let’s look at seven common challenges faced by HR professionals in companies that have gone global and how to overcome them.

1. Global hiring

Hiring people worldwide results in a more diverse workforce and a wider talent pool. However, many companies don’t have HR professionals working at each of their global sites and must recruit and onboard new hires remotely.

Not being able to meet a candidate face-to-face is a challenge in itself, and the international hiring process often takes much longer as HR needs to verify that all references, credentials, and educational qualifications are sound.

There is a very high cost associated with making the wrong hire. That’s why vetting all prospects carefully before hiring is crucial.

2. Multi-national and remote onboarding

Onboarding new joiners remotely also has its challenges. It’s up to HR to ensure that the onboarding process for international and remote employees is similar to the one used for local talent.

For example, every successful onboarding program welcomes new hires, whether local, international, or remote. It also introduces new team members to the company’s expectations and arranges meetings with relevant peers to help them settle in and get acquainted with the rest of the team, no matter where they might be.

However, when hiring people from different countries, additional topics may need to be addressed, such as company culture and unfamiliar technology protocols.

3. Retention 

The high costs associated with making the wrong hire in a multi-national company mean retaining talent and preventing employee turnover are both crucial to business success. 

To do this, companies need to understand what their people want and need. One of the most effective ways to retain talent is by being open with your people about their potential and future with the company. Providing your people with competitive compensation and benefits packages also goes a long way when it comes to successfully attracting and retaining top talent worldwide.

4. International compliance 

Global companies with offices worldwide must ensure they comply with local laws and regulations. While it’s up to HR to guarantee every site remains compliant, having an in-house lawyer or two specializing in international labor law is also good business practice.

One of the main areas to consider is employment law, which varies by country (and by state in the United States). These laws address employee rights, including employment agreements, notice and termination, immigration and work permits for relocating people, and tax and social security laws.

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5. Sharing knowledge across borders

Knowledge sharing refers to the process of sharing information. Sharing knowledge—whether between individuals, departments, or organizations—increases motivation and productivity, enabling people to work faster with access to the resources and insights they need.

For companies with multiple offices worldwide, knowledge sharing can be a challenge. To succeed, these companies need to prioritize knowledge sharing by embedding it within their culture and designating it as part of their company values. HR must also emphasize its importance to employees from their first day. 

Finally, HR needs to ensure that the company has an efficient, centralized platform for storing and sharing knowledge that all team members can access, no matter where they happen to be in the world. Choosing a platform that can integrate with the company’s other workplace apps will enable automated knowledge transfer and provide people with the knowledge they need within the tools they already use.

6. Building and maintaining a global company culture 

With people working worldwide, speaking different languages, and accustomed to sometimes contrasting work practices, building a cohesive company culture can be challenging. It’s the responsibility of the HR team to ensure that everyone, wherever they work, feels comfortable and included within the company. 

Frequently communicating with all employees and scheduling regular meetings for the entire organization, such as all-hands meetings, will help keep physically distant teams connected and create a sense of belonging.

It’s also a good idea to leverage a people management platform. This HR tech can provide a forum for HR, management, and individual contributors to share company updates. It allows HR professionals to recognize and celebrate people’s achievements more easily and create an open, inclusive, and collaborative company culture.

7. Implementing a modern HRIS that supports global teams

It can be challenging for multi-national companies to maintain a culture of cohesiveness among their global teams. An HRIS such as Bob provides one centralized platform to manage all core HR processes across the organization, such as compensation and performance management.

It also provides a single source of truth for all employees across sites, with all people data in one place. Bob is a fully customizable HR platform that supports multiple languages, including US, Australian, and UK English; French; German; Spanish; Chinese; Dutch; and Swedish. It can be localized per site to align with local time zones, date and clock formats, holiday calendars, and currencies. 

From a cultural perspective, a company’s HR platform can be the central source of communication within the company, including company updates, announcements, recognizing milestones, and engaging global teams wherever they work.

Strategies to take on global HR challenges

New, people-centric, and global HR strategies are the key to staying ahead of the competition and helping businesses thrive. Effective high-level strategies designed to take on global HR challenges include:

1. Developing a global communication plan

Developing a global communication plan helps you determine what you want to say to people across your organization, clarifies when you’ll communicate with them, and defines what technology you’ll use. It helps you be consistent and coordinated with your communications to achieve your goals.

Arranging one-on-one meetings and providing people with frequent feedback about your global communications plan helps HR professionals create and support a solid and cohesive company culture across all sites.

2. Creating a versatile workforce

You may already have a wealth of untapped skills in your existing workforce. Talk to them to discover talents and experiences your business may need but hasn’t put to use. Also, consider bringing contractors and freelancers on board to help carry the workload, shift quickly to new projects, and adjust to today’s fast-evolving business landscape.

3. Using an agile HR tech stack.

Putting an agile HR tech stack in place ensures business continuity and that your people can communicate and collaborate effectively across time zones and distances. Your stack can include communications tech like Zoom, Teams, Slack, email, a project management system, payroll solutions—and an HR platform to save time, automate repetitive HR processes, and drive retention with tailored experiences for your people worldwide.

4. Offering professional development training

Investing in the upskilling and reskilling of talented team members is an efficient and effective way to add even more value to your global workforce.

5. Investing in the best leadership

Effective company leadership on a global scale requires training in management and prioritization skills so international teams can function smoothly across time zones and distances.

Leaders who can help their team members work through cultural differences and expectations, time zone issues, and conflict resolution can help your organization stay ahead of the competition. 

Ensuring your company leadership knows how to communicate effectively with their international teams, from C-levels to line managers, puts your company in a solid position to take on any global HR challenges that arise.

6. Emphasizing compliance

When companies expand internationally, they need to navigate the politics, policies, and laws that exist in the places where they operate. Hiring in-house legal advisors ensures local and worldwide compliance as the organization grows. 

Companies undergoing global expansion must tailor their HR programs to address their multi-national organization’s ever-growing, ever-changing legal and cultural requirements.

Any effective global HR management strategy requires companies to take a comprehensive approach. This includes developing and implementing a global communication plan, building a versatile workforce, and ensuring compliance with international and local laws. It can also include upskilling and reskilling talented team members and investing in leadership training.

Think global, act local 

It can be challenging for global companies with multiple sites to hire and onboard people worldwide, comply with international law, share knowledge across borders, and build a unified company culture. HR managers must address these challenges and create an HR strategy that prioritizes global collaboration and unity.

A modern HR platform that supports international and remote teams will help HR managers manage their processes and people more efficiently, put their people front and center and create a culture where everyone feels like they belong.

Ruth Stern

From Ruth Stern

Ruth is a content manager at HiBob. When she isn’t working, she spends her free time planting flowers in her garden and playing the piano.