Globalization has had a huge impact on almost all aspects of life, even business and employment. Today, a majority of organizations function on a universal platform and are required to deal with clients, partners, investors and suppliers from around the world on a day to day basis. Uniformity in universal operations has become the key to the success of any product or service. It has therefore become quite beneficial for multinational establishments to hire executives and managers from different countries.Studies and trends indicate that foreigners in leadership positions generally bring out the best in multicultural teams. The change in market dynamics has also made recruiters look out for employees who have an international perspective. It gives them an insight into how people of other nationalities think, feel and work.
There was a time when professionals from the western world, especially the US, UK, Canada and Australia, were in high demand among Asian nations like Hong Kong, China, Japan, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Singapore, Malaysia and India. However, the tables seem to have turned in the last decade or so. Today, many of the multinational conglomerates across all continents have Asian CEOs and managing directors.
Companies often take two types of approach when it comes to hiring an expat manager. In the first approach an organization decides to move someone who is already working with them, like a well-experienced senior staff member, to a foreign location to manage operations. In the second, they hire someone externally as they require specific expertise, skills, or qualifications that are hard to find in the local population. Both have their own advantages and drawbacks.
If you are interested in having your company grow on a global scale you may want to consider employing someone with international education and work experience. Read on to find out why hiring an expat manager is the best idea for your business.
Recruiting someone who has exposure to cultures other than your own is bound to be beneficial in several ways. People with diverse work experience have the tendency to apply best practices that are followed across the globe. They usually consider stakeholders of varied mindsets, attitudes, beliefs and preferences before making any business decision. This can enable your organization to amalgamate itself with different values and systems from all over the world.
Experienced expat managers are also usually used to thinking differently as they adapt to their new environment. This helps them pick up novel and creative techniques for solving problems. Their global, out-of-the-box thinking capacity gives them the capability to approach adversity with a positive attitude.
If possible, look for an expat who has worked in a number of countries and has the ability to interact with people from other backgrounds. Professionals with several years of international experience in various nations are likely to come at a much higher cost because they are high in demand with multinational corporations.
Coming from a different culture, a foreigner is likely to bring new approaches as well as fresh ideas to your setup. After working overseas for a while, these professionals become more adept at operating outside their comfort zone. You should be able to improve the existing processes and refine your current systems using their insights. Their novel way of doing things could be all the more beneficial when your establishment takes steps towards expansion in terms of products or services.
However, do bear in mind that an expat manager’s ideas will only be an advantage if he or she has in-depth knowledge about the country in which your business is based. If the person you recruit is not familiar with the target audience, their innovative ideas may actually affect your business adversely. Hiring the right person could help you stay a step ahead of your competition.
Moving to a foreign location for career prospects is a bold move, regardless of the duration of the assignment. A manager who chooses to live overseas is often eager to gain some valuable experience. Such people tend to be highly motivated and have the ability to work as individual contributors or in a team.
Professionals who take up assignments successfully in foreign countries are usually prepared and willing to make a number of adjustments not just in their everyday lifestyle but also at the workplace. They are aware that they need to work with people whose ideas, beliefs, and thoughts are not necessarily the same as theirs. Such professionals are therefore often more flexible than others.
Experienced professionals from non-English speaking countries are usually fluent in more than one language. They should have the ability to communicate more effectively with stakeholders from their home countries. As your team interacts with a senior professional from a different culture on a daily basis, they are likely to enhance their own communication and interpersonal skills.
At the same time, it is essential for you to determine whether language is going to be a barrier for your expat manager. If knowledge of a specific language is important for them to perform their role more effectively, check their level of expertise before you hire them. Not knowing the language of the host country can have a major adverse impact on an expat manager’s performance.
Rewarding work environment
Some employers claim to have broadened their staff members’ horizons and introduced them to new ways of thinking and working, just by getting on board a manager from a different country.
People who take up professional assignments overseas are usually team players, which in turn results in a positive work environment. People that belong to a dynamic workforce enjoy learning from their peers and seniors. Having an expat in the same workplace can help your local staff gain an insider’s perspective on a different culture. They may be able to deal with clients and partners from that country more effectively. This is beneficial for them not just professionally but personally too. The entire work environment can become more interesting as your local employees learn from their foreign counterpart.
Access to an international audience
A manager that has worked in a different country should have sound knowledge of the trends and the audience, which will give you the competitive edge in that market. To make things even better, try to get someone who is well-versed with international trade and the legislation abroad.
As an employer you could take advantage of the ties that your foreign staff members have in your location as well as in their home countries. Several employers hire a manager of a specific nationality when their target audience belongs to that country, either locally or internationally.
If you have a multicultural team, it is best to have an expat manager lead it. This is because foreigners are better equipped to build bridges in diverse teams and can increase everyone’s overall performance. Over a period of time, locals can also acquire the necessary leadership and communication skills, which in turn will improve their career prospects and motivate the rest of the workforce.
Things to consider
At the same time, it is essential for you to bear in mind that there are both pros and cons to hiring an expat manager. Some of the challenges you may face include the following.
– Everyone is aware of the fact that expatriate managers mostly come at a higher cost than their local counterparts. This step may create some amount of ill-will among the existing employees.
– In most countries, there is a lot of paperwork involved for hiring an expat on a permanent basis. In fact, many countries discourage local business from recruiting a foreigner unless the job cannot be performed by a local. This is one of the main reasons why a lot of firms prefer sticking to employees from within the country.
– Amalgamating the knowledge and experience of employees from different backgrounds can be a very powerful tool in terms of problem solving and service delivery. On the other hand, if your team believes that there is a ceiling on their own potential growth because of foreign influence, they aren’t going to give their best. Any bias or negative feeling towards a team member from another culture is bound to decrease team spirit and hamper performance.
– Even if expat managers do very well professionally, there is no guarantee that they and their families will be able to adjust to their host country. There are numerous instances of foreigners returning home prematurely because they do not like certain aspects of life in the nation they just moved to. Some organizations reduce the risk of this happening by getting the employee to sign a bond. This may keep your manager from leaving but doesn’t guarantee that he or she will be happy about working with you.
In spite of the drawbacks of hiring an expat manager mentioned above, several companies have taken this step and have seen tremendous success in their businesses. Here are some tips for a successful hire.
Setting expectations on both sides effectively: To achieve the full potential of expatriate management, you need to ensure that the people you hire are fully aware of your organization’s objectives, values and work culture. At the same time, spend some time understanding what drives them and see if you can offer them long-term goals. This should be done right at the beginning, during the hiring stage.
Coaching: No matter how much someone reads up on your country and company, there will still be gaps in the initial weeks and months. It is important for you to create the right learning environment, using empathy, dialogue and collaboration. Make sure that you set aside a fair amount of time for a two-way discussion, where you share and receive feedback. Also, don’t forget to organize some amount of cross-cultural coaching for the expat and local staff members so that they find it easier to understand each other.
Managing the local workforce’s expectations: Before asking your existing team to accept a new manager, make sure that all the members understand your reasons for hiring an outsider. Get them on board with your decision and alleviate any concerns that they may have about their own growth so that you don’t lose out on their full potential.
Have you worked abroad as a manager? Share your experiences in the comments.