In today’s dynamic work landscape, multi-national HR teams face a seemingly ever-growing list of complexities.
From return-to-office (RTO) strategies to the adoption or continuation of remote and hybrid work models, there has been a true reshaping of business operations and workforce management.
While this also brings about a wide range of benefits, such as a cultured workforce, international expansion, and the ability to hire from diverse global talent pools, it also brings about a spectrum of constantly changing HR issues and challenges.
Organizations today must comply with local laws and regulations, foster cohesive company cultures across borders, and meet evolved workforce expectations.
All of this while dealing with mounting global challenges such as widespread inflation, recessions, and geopolitical conflicts.
It would be fair to say that HR teams across the world have quite a bit on their plate.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at eight common challenges HR professionals at global companies handle on a daily basis and what you can do to help overcome them.
The top 8 common international HR management issues and challenges
1. Global and remote hiring and onboarding
Hiring people worldwide results in a more diverse workforce and a wider talent pool to choose from.
However, many companies don’t have human resources management professionals working at each of their global sites. This means they have to recruit and onboard new hires remotely.
Not being able to meet a candidate face-to-face is a challenge in itself. Hiring and onboarding processes across borders often take much longer than local processes because HR needs to verify that all references, credentials, and educational qualifications are sound.
It’s also equally important to ensure that every new joiner—whether they’re onsite, hybrid, or remote—gets the same great onboarding experience and that the onboarding program they receive is tailored to their specific location.
And of course, there’s a high cost associated with making the wrong hire or not onboarding a team member properly. That’s why vetting all prospects carefully before hiring them and making sure they are properly onboarded is crucial.
2. Internationally dispersed teams
Navigating the complexities of an internationally dispersed team can be tricky. From mixing cultures to balancing time zones, it’s certainly no easy task to get everything right.
Here are some of the most common challenges facing globally dispersed teams and how you can fix them:
- Scheduling across time zones. When one part of your team’s morning is another part of your team’s night, scheduling can be a headache. The main challenge is finding common working hours that are convenient for team members in different parts of the world. Utilizing tools such as shared calendars and time zone converters can help you schedule meetings at times that align respectfully and conveniently with people’s working hours.
- Communication and coordination. With different working hours, communication can be an issue. That’s why embracing asynchronous communication is crucial for global teams. It allows people in different time zones to contribute to important issues without feeling pressured to respond immediately. For it to work, it’s important to set up robust communication platforms and set clear expectations (and boundaries) around response times.
- Building trust. Trust is the foundation of any effective and successful team. But in a virtual, international environment, it becomes even more critical. Foster trust with regular check-ins, transparent communication, and clear accountability measures.
- Fostering team bonding. It can be difficult to create a sense of unity when people have never met face-to-face, but it’s still an essential part of creating an effective team. Virtual team-building exercises, ice-breaking sessions, and group celebrations for shared holidays or team achievements can be great bridge-builders for dispersed teams.
- Respecting cultural nuances. Understanding and respecting cultural differences is a vital part of successful team dynamics. This includes everything from being mindful of language barriers to recognizing differences in communication styles or cultural sensitivities. A good way to encourage team members to be mindful of these differences is to offer cultural awareness training. It’s also good practice to have culture meetings where people can share insights into their cultures to boost mutual respect and understanding.
3. Multi-national compliance
Global companies with offices worldwide need to ensure they comply with local laws and regulations. While it’s up to HR to guarantee every site remains compliant while also ensuring they’re taking a people-forward approach, having an in-house lawyer or legal team 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.
In the current economically challenging and low-budget climate, retaining talent is more vital than ever.
In order to do this, it’s crucial for companies to understand what their people want and what they need.
One of the most effective ways to retain talent is by committing to a culture of honesty and trust. Being open with your people about the state of the business itself and their individual potential and future with the company is critical. 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.
Additionally, including flexible working arrangements, career development programs, and a people-focused company culture in your offering can help boost retention.
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, this process can be a challenge. Succeeding depends on a company’s commitment to prioritizing knowledge sharing. Embed it into your culture and weave it into your company values. Consider emphasizing its importance to team members from their first day to help it become a daily habit.
Finally, it’s up to HR 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.
Communications tech is essential for quality knowledge sharing. Choosing a platform that integrates with the company’s existing tech stack is a must for enabling automated knowledge transfer and providing your people with the information they need while leveraging the tools your company already uses.
6. Supporting a healthy, 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 team members and scheduling regular meetings for the entire organization, such as all-hands meetings, team meetings, and one-on-ones, will help keep physically distant teams connected and create a sense of belonging.
It’s important to recognize the value of learning remote work etiquette, as well as embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) in the workplace—which, of course, goes hand in hand with respecting other cultures.
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. Geopolitical conflicts
With the sad reality of multiple wars around the globe, communications, supply chains, and even workplace harmony have been disrupted and destabilized.
As HR leaders, it’s important to understand how to handle delicate situations and avoid heated arguments in the workplace. In order to be as prepared as possible, it’s important to have an HR strategy in place that can address how to handle sociopolitics in a work setting.
With this in hand, you can help find a balance between respectful discourse and overly heated discussions that are inappropriate for a place of work.
8. Implementing modern HR tech that supports global teams
It can be challenging for multi-national companies to maintain a culture of cohesiveness among their global teams. An HCM 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 your team members 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; French Canadian; German; Swedish; Italian; Norwegian; Danish; Spanish (LATAM); Chinese (Mandarin); Dutch (NL); Portuguese (Brazil); Polish, Turkish, and Finnish. 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 and 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—especially in the face of the changing expectations of the global workforce.
Effective high-level strategies designed to take on issues in international HRMs include:
1. Develop 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 communication plan helps HR professionals create and support a solid and cohesive company culture across all sites.
2. Create a versatile workforce
You may already have a wealth of untapped skills in your existing workforce. Simple communication with your people can be the key to discovering talents and experiences your business may need but hasn’t put to use, allowing you to integrate them into your workforce planning.
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.
This flexibility is a vital part of modern workforce planning, allowing your company to scale up or shift focus without the need for long-term commitments.
3. Use an agile HR tech stack
Putting an agile HR tech stack in place ensures business continuity and your people being able to 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 HCM, HRIS, or similar HR platform to save time, automate repetitive HR processes, and drive retention with tailored experiences for your people worldwide.
4. Offer professional development training and upward mobility
Investing in the upskilling and reskilling of talented team members is not only an efficient and effective way to add even more value to your global workforce but also fosters upward mobility—providing your teams with the confidence of long-term job stability and further opportunities for growth.
This forward-thinking approach helps showcase that you’re committed to their professional development, which in turn leads to more engaged and future-ready teams.
5. Invest 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, and is fully trained in multi-cultural communication and etiquette, puts your company in a solid position to take on any global HR challenges that arise.
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6. Emphasize compliance
When companies expand globally, it’s important to navigate the politics, policies, and laws that exist in the places where they operate. A good way to go about this is by hiring in-house legal advisors to ensure local and worldwide compliance as your organization grows.
When your organization is undergoing global expansion, you can tailor your HR programs to address your now 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 your talented team members and investing in leadership training—showcasing your commitment to their professional development.
Think global, act local
There are a number of HR issues in multi-national companies that need to be faced head-on.
Whether that’s hiring and onboarding people worldwide effectively, complying with international law, sharing knowledge across borders, or building a unified company culture.
But at the end of the day, it’s down to HR managers to address these international human resources management (IHRM) challenges and create an effective HR strategy. A strategy that prioritizes global collaboration and unity and focuses on maintaining and supporting coherent global company cultures and seamless communication between multiple sites.
A modern HR platform that supports international and remote teams is the perfect tool to help HR managers manage their processes and people more efficiently.
With a helping hand from HR tech, HR leaders can better focus on putting their people front and center, and creating a culture where everyone feels like they truly belong.