Why you should hire expatriate workers



The initial stages of COVID-19 saw lockdowns and border closures restricting worker mobility and posing serious limitations for international hiring. However, one positive outcome of the pandemic – the remote working trend – eventually became a solution to this very problem. The ability to work online caused a surge in the availability of global talent and boosted international hiring.

One important category of workers impacted by these developments are expats, or employees on international assignment from their companies. Prior to the pandemic, working abroad usually meant leaving your old life behind and starting work in a new country from scratch. However, the increase in remote work is allowing companies to hire more expats in offshore locations with much more ease. Instead of having to uproot their entire lives, expats now increasingly have the opportunity to contribute to international assignments from the comfort of their homes. Therefore, it is worthwhile for companies to explore the distinct advantages of hiring expat workers.

How do expat workers contribute?

Commonly, expats can be leveraged when a company is looking to open an international office or relocating members of a team to a new office in a foreign country. Expats can effectively help with setting up shop or establishing a business presence in a foreign market. Since they are already familiar with the goals and workings of the company, they can thus provide more value compared to a local hire. 

Hiring expats can typically be expensive as a company has to account for immigration, tax equalizations, insurance, and benefits packages. Despite the costs however, and especially due to remote work, the long-term benefits of hiring a knowledgeable expat can outweigh the costs. 

International experience and skills

When a global perspective is required for problem solving or planning, the business insights expats possess can be especially beneficial. Their diverse skills, knowledge base, and fresh ideas can drive innovation and help address challenges better. Expats have typically worked in various geographies, which can help them develop valuable qualities such as resilience, problem-solving, independent decision making, and adaptability to change, which can drive better business impact.

A larger talent pool to choose from 

In many instances, a business may require human resource expertise that proves hard to source from the local market. It could be because your company is pioneering an entirely new product or service, or venturing into an offshore market. In such instances, hiring expatriates helps fill the gaps in knowledge and skills. With relevant experience, they may find it much easier to take your concept forward and bring in new ideas. Experienced expats can also train staff in the company’s home country on the required technical skills, and help build future teams. 

The dividends of diversity 

Expats add racial and cultural diversity to a company’s workforce, which can make it a more attractive employer over the long run. It can also add to the bottom line. According to research by McKinsey and Company, racial diversity can also help generate better financial returns. In 2015, it researched 366 public companies across the US, UK, and Canada, and concluded that companies with racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry median returns.

A network of global contacts 

When venturing into new markets, companies naturally run into a lot of uncertainty, including offshore regulations, market conditions, and business practices. It can also be challenging for a firm to initially prove its capabilities and gain trust in the new market. One positive externality of hiring expats, especially experienced ones, is that they usually bring with themselves a network of global contacts. This can naturally help companies in their expansion plans, and help achieve business objectives. 

Language capabilities 

Expats can help build multilingual capabilities within teams. This can be particularly useful when a company has a regionally or culturally diverse client base. Multilingual employees can help make interactions with foreign clients much smoother, something that was studied by the Harvard Business Review. In 2013, it found that when at least one team member shared an ethnicity with a client, the team was 152% more likely to understand client needs.

The bottom line 

Hiring expat workers can be one of the best ways of adding an international working standard and culture to your organization. There is all the more reason to do so in the post-Covid era, when the increasing trend of remote work often lets companies hire talented expats without having to bear the costs of re-location. As work becomes more international, so must your workforce.  

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