How to Build High-Performing International Teams

4 May · 6 min read

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Just over a year into the pandemic, have you found the sweet spot for how work is set up at your company? Are your teams fully remote? Back in the office? Odds are that your answer is somewhere in between. 

Hybrid workplaces are the new remote work. 

In addition to employee safety and productivity, hybrid models offer both employers and workers a whole new dimension of freedom and flexibility. Studies show that many people respond well to working arrangements that combine elements of both remote and onsite work. Over the course of the past year, employers have been learning as they go, experimenting with different approaches and ways to balance remote work with (safely) returning to the office. Teams' remote working capabilities have advanced so fast that people's physical location barely matters anymore.

As complex as they may seem, hybrid workplaces open up a world of opportunity for employers who have been set in their old hiring ways. Because it’s not just the day-to-day work that’s going hybrid. It’s the entire employee life cycle, and the way we approach hiring:

If you can successfully manage an international hybrid workforce, you can hire anyone—from anywhere. 

So how can you make the most of this global reimagining of what hiring looks like in the new world of work? What are your options when it comes to building the best team: Should you play it safe and hire local talent only? Can you hire international talent without relocating them? Is it still possible—or wise—to relocate international talent when travel is disrupted?

We take a look at some of the ways you can use this opportunity to hire the best fit for your team, regardless of where they live.

How to build your hybrid team: Choosing the right hiring approach

On the one hand, the pandemic has put businesses in a tricky hiring situation. On the other hand, it has opened many eyes to the endless possibilities of building teams in different combinations of onsite and remote. Broadly speaking, there are three approaches you can mix and match to find the best people for your company:

  • Hiring local talent;
  • Hiring remote international talent;
  • Hiring and relocating international talent.

Hiring local talent

Some companies have opted to hire local talent only, to eliminate the complexity of relocating new employees during a pandemic. It feels like a safe bet on the surface level: You can interview, hire, and onboard them online if needed, but when it’s time to bring them safely to the office, it’s just a matter of telling them the address.

Sure, it may seem counterintuitive to focus on relocating talent from abroad at a time like this. And by no means are we saying you shouldn’t hire from next door if you found the right match. There are, after all, many roles within any company that may require specific local expertise, whether it's language, law, or market knowledge. But by hiring only locally by design, you are missing out on the diversity of a truly borderless global talent pool.

Cons of hiring local talent:

  • Limits your talent pool and can lead to compromises on quality;
  • Deprives you of the many benefits of a diverse, international workforce;
  • Can be disproportionately time-consuming for harder-to-fill roles.

Pros of hiring local talent:

  • Relatively inexpensive;
  • Avoids the complexity of talent relocation.

Let’s say you’re ready to make the most of the situation, think beyond borders, and hire international talent. Isn’t that going to be an exorbitantly expensive nightmare of paperwork and planning?

Not necessarily.


Independent contractors

You can bring in international talent without relocating them physically. Hiring foreign talent as independent contractors is a popular and fairly simple approach. But since countries have—and may strictly enforce—their own guidelines on classification of workers, hiring a contractor may not be viable if you’re looking for a full-time employee. 

To bring someone on as an independent contractor, you should get very familiar with the legal definition of a contractor in the country they are in. Misclassification can be a costly mistake, leading to fines or other unexpected costs.

Cons of hiring independent contractors abroad:

  • Not suitable for full-time employees;
  • Limits your options if talent expects the full range of benefits that come with employment.

Pros of hiring independent contractors abroad:

  • Gives you access to an international talent pool while avoiding the cost of relocation;
  • Good for short-term projects;
  • Makes you an attractive employer for talent looking for freedom and flexibility.

Employer of record

If you’re hiring someone full-time in a country where you don’t have a legal entity, your other option is an employer of record (EOR): a third-party organization that hires and pays a person on your behalf. This lets you hire people based in a different country without having to set up a local entity there. An EOR will run a compliant payroll in the host country, arrange visas and work permits, advise you on local labor laws and everything else it would be impossible for you to cover yourself without a legal entity in the country. They’ll also be the interface between your remote employees and local authorities on the ground. 

In short, an EOR makes sure you’re compliant with local labor laws and regulations, allowing you to worry only about building a great working relationship with your remote talent. EOR solutions are also more cost-effective than setting up an entity in a foreign country.

Cons of EOR:

  • Adds a go-between to the employment relationship, blurring the lines of responsibility;
  • Takes away your control over payroll.

Pros of EOR:

  • Ensures compliance with local labor laws and takes care of legal, payroll, tax, and immigration concerns;
  • Allows you to hire full-time employees abroad without having to invest in setting up a legal entity.
  • Expands your talent pool by giving you access to international talent interested in working for you—but not in relocating.

Talent relocation

A hiring option that some employers are currently hesitating to use is physically relocating international talent.

But even though circumstances and outlooks on the international job market have been fluctuating strongly, it’s worth stressing that relocating employees from abroad is still very much an option. And a great option at that. In 2020, relocation cases at Jobbatical saw a spike of more than 300 percent. This indicates that employers realize: The value of new international team members still far outweighs the risk. More to the point: People, especially millennials, are as keen as ever to work abroad. Employers offering relocation right now stand out in the eyes of top talent ready to move somewhere new.

In the hands of a relocation and immigration expert, moving talent can be done safely even in a pandemic. Since rules and restrictions can still change overnight, consider working with a relocation service provider whose job it is to stay up to date on the latest developments and move your talent as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

Cons of talent relocation:

  • Can be complex if done in-house without expert relocation knowledge;
  • Can stretch out the hiring process.

Pros of talent relocation:

  • Expands your talent pool significantly;
  • Allows for easier in-person interaction compared to workers based abroad;
  • Makes you an attractive employer in the eyes of the globally mobile workforce.

The world has changed in countless ways since the start of the pandemic. But through the challenges, opportunities are born. Having been driven more and more online, businesses worldwide have been given the opportunity to rethink and reshape hiring. 

The secret to building a top-performing team isn’t using any particular one of the options above. It’s realizing that you can use any combination of them to hire the best people for your team.

To manage your hybrid team effectively, be sure to check out our list of 9 HR Tech Tools for Building & Empowering Your Teams in 2021, and take a look at how our relocation software and services make international hiring as smooth as hiring locally.

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